Fashion sense

When soprano Allyn Van Dusen walked into the Hochstein Performance Hall, I half-expected she’d be wearing a full-length antique wrap that had belonged to her grandmother. (She’d mentioned it when we'd talked about her appearance on WXXI's weekly live radio show, "Live from Hochstein.") Instead, she appeared in a metallic sleeveless top, a casual, fringed broomstick skirt, and jeweled sandals. Her appearance hinted at the exotic influences in the music: Ravel’s “Sheherazade,” for example, unfolds in tri-tones to evoke the sight of a bejeweled Persian queen.

Women performers have been making fashion statements for centuries, and the statements aren’t always artistic.

In his wonderful book, “The Glorious Ones,” Harold C. Schonberg describes costumes that singer Adelina Patti had encrusted with 3,700 jewels for a single performance at Covent Garden in 1903.

“Guards were in the wings when she came on stage, in a blaze of jeweled light. After the performance the guards conveyed her costumes back to the castle, the jeweler restored the stones to their settings, and the costumes went back into one or two of the five hundred trunks of costumes that Mme. Patti had in an air-conditioned room.”

Young Korean pianist Soyeon Lee made an altogether different kind of fashion statement during a February recital at Zankel Hall in New York. She wore a dress made of 6,000 used, soft-pouch grape juice containers. The dress was introduced at the concert by actor and environmental activist Darryl Hannah.

In his review in The New York Times, Anthony Tommasini wrote, “Several long trains in the back and on the sides looked a little stiff and made a crinkly sound as Ms. Lee settled onto the bench with some difficulty, offering self-effacing apologies to her audience.”
I wish you could see Danni Burnatowski’s fashion statement on view at the Tower Fine Arts Center Rainbow Gallery at SUNY Brockport. (The exhibit is on view until May 9th.) I stopped in the other day.

Burnatowski, a student and printmaker, set up a mock thrift store in the gallery, complete with mirrors, clothing racks, and a cash register. Mannequins wrapped in light cotton dresses circle the gallery, and each dress is stamped with bold, block-print images of female organs.

Art professor Alisia Grace Chase, who unlocked the gallery for me, said that women students and faculty members seemed particularly drawn to the show.

“It must be a primal thing,” Chase said. “Women just keep stopping and peering in through the glass walls.”