A styling night at the museum (inspired by Oscar de la Renta)

It's almost certain that when you go to an exhibition of a fashion designer you wish you could try on the exhibited pieces. It happened to me at the De Young Museum when I saw the shows of Jean Paul Gauthier and Oscar de la Renta. And it's certain (not the slightest room for almost) that you aren't allowed. So, trying them on in your imagination, you walk in your best posture, with confidence, and lift your chin and turn, and dance, and look deeply into the horizon as if in a runway.

Why should it be this way? Designer Cari Borja, invited by host and curator Brad Rosenstein, envisioned an event where you could try on exhibited pieces, dare to wear new colors and styles, bring out your playful and whimsical self, and experience for a moment the transformative power of clothes. Cari created a mini-collection inspired by Oscar de la Renta, and invited Racheal Elizabeth (who is about to launch a kids' line - "R.E.D") and me to co-style the event that took place last Friday May 6th, at the De Young Museum. I am grateful to Cari for this opportunity and to Racheal for being the best co-equipper! 

                                      Racheal, Cari and me

                                      Racheal, Cari and me

The event took place in the Piazzoni Murals Room (they were covered!) next to the Wilsey Court, where spontaneity and magic would later happen.


Mannequins and racks displayed pieces that visitors could actually wear. Women were incredulous, they either thought it was a prank or that the clothes were for sale. Once convinced about this unique opportunity to travel in style and time and colors and poses, they were ecstatic. 


I invited women to try on pieces, I offered them colors and cuts that they thought would never fit or look good, I encouraged them to play and go beyond their style rut/comfort zone, Some jumped on the most daring pieces, others started cautiously with (safer) dark colors. I helped them dress, undress, redress. I took pictures of them and captured their bigger than life smiles. The kind of smile kids have in a candy store.  

The energy that all the women (and I have to add, accompanying men, who felt left out of the fun) brought to the Murals Room and to the pieces is difficult to describe. They were lively, laughing, moving in big moves (sic), turning, taking pictures, calling their friends to do the same. It was infectious, the kind of infection you want to spread as far as possible against the set ways to dress. 

One particular woman was hesitant when walking in. I saw her expression and offered her a purple dress.

"Oh no, that is not my color," she said absolutely convinced.

"Well, why don't you try it on? This is just to have fun."  

Her husband shrugged or nodded (I couldn't decide what that gesture was, but it was certainly approving and supportive). She was ecstatic. She was jumping (I swear) and shouting at me that she never thought she could wear that color but now she knew she could... I suggested that she try another dress, this time a pink one, with tulle in the bottom, and a beautiful flower. She said no (way), and they left to honor their timed tickets for the exhibit. Over an hour later, I turned around and I saw her. Wearing the pink dress. Her smile filled the Murals Room. She was ready to have fun!

The Woman in the Pink Dress (after the purple one), luckily captured by Cari.

The Woman in the Pink Dress (after the purple one), luckily captured by Cari.

There was still so much more for this interactive fashion event. Renee Baldocchi, Director of Public Programs at the De Young Museum, encouraged and made possible an impromptu fashion show, weaved into the programming of the night (which also included LiveImage photo booth and ACT Costume Shop, Alafia Dance Ensemble, and Fat Chance Belly Dance, all of which I couldn't see, as I was styling guests... We can't do everything in life!). Guests in their dresses gathered to walk out to the Wilsey Court... and lined up while Cari presented them. There were women of all ages, and they all embraced the feeling of the night beyond imagination (me included!).

It was rewarding, energizing, and empowering...

... a sample of what we can be when we let ourselves be what we imagine

... a sample of how having the opportunity to go beyond our comfort zone is comforting in intense ways

... a sample of fun, of how important it is, and how simple it can be

... a sample of the transformative power of clothes

... for all ages and all personalities, for the friends who visited, and the guest who came.


Then it was about putting away dresses and mannequins, and carrying them with Cari and Brad to the car.

The event was over.

But the magic still lingers.