Frock Out 2010: It's a circus out there!

Oh, that Chris Loffelmacher. He promised a spectacle and, by god, he delivered. Last night's Frock Out 2010 fashion showdown at the Denver Central Library rocked it hard, baby, interspersing a drop-dead battalion of strutting models with sideshow curiosities both real and imagined on the runway that stretched through the library's three-story, balconied Schlessman Hall. But the real draw lay in the hard work of the twelve aspiring Denver designers competing: Stephanie Ohnmacht, Francis Roces, Tricia Hoke, Tina Berger-Everroad, Fallene Wells, Enuma Duhu, Jose Duran, Melissa May, Kotomi Yoshida, James Silvrants and Katie Wells, who were judged by their designs for the four seasons, as well as more over-the-top entries in Designers' Vision and Sideshow categories. And it was -- Project Runway, my rear end -- a very strong showing from them all. Chris and fashion diva Tran Wills played the audience like a circus calliope, even before the doors opened: For people standing in line waiting to get in, there were food trucks, a circus barker in an orange suit and bowler hat and a fire eater who took the chill off the library plaza with his breathy pyrotechnics, all offering a sensual hint of what we'd find inside. And once everyone was inside, it didn't take long for the excitement to build. Once the lights went down, and introductions were made by hosts Cora Vette, the burlesque belter, and CW2's man about town Chris Parente, competitor James Silvrants was announced as the winner of the people's vote and we were treated Cora's rendition of West Side Story's "Something's Coming." Oh, yes. Wasn't it, though? See full slideshow from Frock Out 2010 The circus music came up and the Denver Roller Dolls skated through an eerie Roller Doll dance up and down the runway. Then, the bass pounded and the spots pulsed and out pranced the models, wearing a kaleidoscope of Denver-made styles: from retro cheesecake swimsuits to folkloric toppers, swishing gowns to perfect little suits. Out came drag queen Lucy Ricardo. Out came Lady Godiva and Chicken Man and the Fat "Sexiest Man Alive" Guy. Out came Lucha Libre Guy and the Siamese Twins and the Cave Couple. Out came an elegant Vivienne VaVoom, brandishing her red feather fans like a vision from the past. Out came the Calypso Drag Queen, writhing down the runway in a poofy black gown studded with fabric roses.

See full slideshow from Frock Out 2010

See full slideshow from Frock Out 2010 OMG. I can only feel for the judges (designer Mona Lucero, Sew News editor Beth Bradley, 5280's Georgia Alexia Benjou, Sandy Wilson of Allyn's Fabric and Bridal Supplies and local fashion superstar Mondo Guerra) who must have had a heck of a time keeping track of their work at hand, considering everything that came down the runway. Even Ugly Betty couldn't have come up with a show more spectacular. But when all was said and done, the deliberators settled on Frock Out winner Francis Roces. From Mona Lucero's point of view, here's why: Lucero knew enough about most of the designers to be able to recognize their work most of the time, so already had a rudimentary knowledge of how Roces puts a dress together. And because of that, she was especially impressed with the leaps he took in his newer work. See full slideshow from Frock Out 2010 "He changed the shapes, and they were shapes I'd never seen before," she notes. "There were some really pretty dresses that had a lot of elements like ruffles and asymmetry and combinations of colors and fabrics, including different weights of fabrics all in one dress. I thought they were sophisticated and really exciting to watch. And that's hard to pull off -- to have all of that come together in pleasant way that doesn't clash. Some of the other judges agreed that his stuff was the most complex in certain ways, which isn't always a good thing. But it came together beautifully." Beautifully, indeed. Bravo, Francis!

For a complete look at the sights, see Aaron Thackeray's slide show.

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Susan Froyd started writing for Westword as the "Thrills" editor in 1992 and never quite left the fold. These days she still freelances for the paper in addition to walking her dogs, enjoying cheap ethnic food and reading voraciously. Sometimes she writes poetry.
Contact: Susan Froyd