You Go, Girls!

Suppose you're the mother of the bride. You have a role to play and you want to dress the part, but you just can't surrender to the Barbara Bush mold from which the typical Mother-of-the-Bride dress is cast. Well, how about slipping into this stretch-lace number with panels of petticoating, a sort of Dolly-Parton-of-the-Bride look? Or this micro-mini black-velvet sheath dripping pearls as big as golf balls? Madonna-of-the-Bride! Underneath, a pair of sequined boxer shorts...and--go ahead--top it all off with a jeweled cowboy hat the size of Texas. That's it! You're dressed!

Relax. Time for some friendly gossip. A perennial topic of conversation here at the Glitzy Glitz Girls Boutique is this: Why is the fashion world of Dallas, Texas, so far ahead of Denver's? Just look at this denim vest obtained at the latest Dallas fashion show. It has entire stuffed rag dolls sewn right onto it. No, not your style.

"We will tell you if you don't look good in something," says Josie Fetters, proprietor of Glitzy Glitz. "We will drag you outside into the natural light to see if the color is right. We know all the figure types and all the colors. If it's wrong, well..."

Well, forget it.
"But we'll also cheer you up, if that's what you need," Josie continues. "We have chairs. You can come in and sit down and be cheered up."

The cheering-up duties most often fall to 56-year-old Josie's 77-year-old business partner and mother, Gunhild Dransfeldt. "My friends often ask me how I can be so cheerful," Gunhild says, "and my response is, why not be so cheerful? I can cry when no one's around to hear me. I've always been full of heck. I'm old enough now that if it's not fun, I don't do it."

Five years ago, when Josie and Gunhild started Glitzy Glitz, they were in a position to do whatever fun thing they wanted. Residents of the last 200 acres of what had started out as a 1,600-acre farm just north of Lincoln Avenue on Parker Road, they'd made a reasonable profit over the years--and were now rich with land in booming Parker. They certainly had the resources to open their shop in a truly glitzy location: Cherry Creek, perhaps, or the soon-to-be developed Park Meadows.

Instead, Josie and Gunhild elected to set up shop on the farm that various members of their family have occupied since the late Thirties. There was that frame house from pioneer days just sitting empty--so what if its only source of heat was a woodstove? That sort of obstacle means very little to a Dransfeldt woman bent on glamour.

Just this morning, Josie went out in her black stretch pants, big black sweater emblazoned with gold and silver tigers, and a gold lame baseball cap, and split enough wood to last a week. It was an incongruous, if stirring, sight. But so is the entire Dransfeldt complex. As a passing motorist, you might notice its sweeping, Norman Rockwell-ish vista dotted with houses, barns and outbuildings, all in a state of benign, historic disrepair--but you probably wouldn't see the hand-lettered sign announcing the "Glitzy Glitz Girls Boutique." You'd have to slow down to read the understated ads for several other Dransfeldt home-based businesses. There is Alternative Autos, a used- and vintage-car dealership, and KD&F Farms, purveyors of alfalfa and hay; assorted Dransfeldt relatives also run thirteen head of cattle. At the end of a quarter-mile dirt driveway, a small neon sign advises visitors that at least one of these businesses is OPEN. From there, follow the trail of shaggy, overweight dogs to a small white frame house and open the door.

Welcome to the glamorous world of glitz.
In creating this rural oasis of taffeta and spaghetti straps, Gunhild and Josie are carrying on a family legacy. Gunhild's mother and father, who came to the Cherry Creek Valley from Denmark in 1924, may have been hardworking farmers, but they always believed in proper--which is to say formal--dress.

"My grandmother's name was Jansine Kragelund," Josie says. "After my grandfather died young, she ran this place all by herself."

"She had some moxie," remembers Gunhild.
"And she always said, 'Ve vill dress up ven ve go downtown! Ve don't have to look like farmers,'" Josie recalls. "We would go to downtown Denver in gloves and hats, with perfect little bags. Grandma loved that."

"As for my father," Gunhild adds, "I will never forget his first farm sale in the United States. He went in a nice suit. He came back from it saying, 'Why, those men came in overalls! With manure up to their knees!' He was shocked."

Like her grandmother and her mother, Josie grew up in a world composed of equal parts of hard physical labor and intense personal style. An only child, she was doted on by two generations. "Some people think I'm spoiled, but I have a strong constitution," she says. "I've loaded my share of bales, and during college I worked this farm in the summer. My dad knew I'd always take care of the machinery."

After getting her degree in applied chemistry, Josie worked in medical research for a few years, then married Bob Fetters in 1963. They came home to the family farm, where they raised two children, now in their twenties. Both of Josie's kids have since returned with their families to live on the Dransfeldt place.

Glitzy Glitz is not Gunhild and Josie's first joint business venture. Their partnership actually began with a mother/daughter weight-loss plan. "We'd been in and out of Weight Watchers for years," Gunhild recalls. "Food was such a huge part of our lives."

"The Christian religion is based on bread and wine," Josie points out.
"My mother had always set out food," Gunhild continues. "Even if it was cheese sandwiches, she made her own bread."

Weight Watchers was no match for that kind of family tradition. After investigating the wilderness of diet-oriented businesses, Gunhild and Josie decided to buy into the Thin Living Academy, an emotion- and behavior-based plan that said "no to diets and yes to life."

"I learned to leave food on my plate," Gunhild recalls. "And lightning didn't strike."

"I learned all the different kinds of hunger there are," Josie adds. "I have thyroid problems, so I have throat hunger--I gravitate toward foods like ice cream."

"I started giving myself what I wanted," Gunhild says. "And you know, you can get so sick of candy..."

Eventually, Josie says, their Thin Living Academy became more of a diet-recovery movement than a weight-loss plan, and after nine months, both mother and daughter were ready to move on. (The Thin Living Academy, now known as The Academy, may have fallen on hard times since the Dransfeldts pulled out. It is listed in the phone book, but no one--not even a machine--answers calls.)

Neither mother nor daughter had gotten skinny, a situation that inspired their next mission.

"Food--it's just fuel. Why obsess?" Josie remembers thinking. "I decided if I have to cover myself up, I'll cover myself up with something scrumptious. Being thin will not make your life perfect. And we went on to spread the gospel of glitz."

"We tried to make our boutique an extension of our home," Gunhild says.
"We're never high-pressure," Josie adds. "But no holds are barred. Our philosophy is: Go for it. We can do lame from head to toe--but we don't have to. Those fashion models are an anomaly, and you, no matter who you are, can look terrific."

What this means is that you will look terrific--you will not look like you're wearing a terrific dress. If you want a beaded gown, you can get one at Glitzy Glitz, but the gown will not be allowed to intimidate you.

"Beaded gowns run two sizes too small in the first place," Josie says. "And we'll always ask you: 'Can you sit down in it? Are you afraid to eat in it?' People don't think of that, believe me.

"What we are here," she explains, "is a true boutique. As Coco Chanel always said, 'When fashion is gone, style remains.' And what we do is assist people in adopting a personal style."

Glitzy Glitz clients are outfitted in everything from cruise collections--"that you can cram into a bag and accessorize like crazy," says Josie--to prom dresses. "With the whole prom thing, I was shocked," she confesses. "One woman told me that only three girls showed up in the same dress as her daughter. She thought she had done well! This tore me to the soul."

To make amends for less thoughtful stores, Glitzy Glitz tries not to sell more than one incarnation of an outfit. And if you're a celebrity client--a certain high-profile mortician and the wife of a well-known broadcaster are rumored to go nowhere else for their evening wear--the Dransfeldts will shut down their five-room store while you shop.

As might be expected, larger customers are treated with particular deference. Sometimes they stop feeling large altogether. "Because look, this particular outfit can stretch from a size ten to an eighteen," Josie offers, giving the skirt in question a vigorous yank at the waistband. "A lot of occasions, like weddings--well, you'll gain or lose five pounds after you buy the outfit, just from stress. We can handle it. This outfit can handle it. As a matter of fact, smalls and petites are hard to get in glitzy. We have to keep a list and call our tiny customers when the tiny stuff comes in."

When it does, one of the first numbers they dial is that of Terri Pepe, last year's Mrs. Arapahoe County. One of the great ironies of Terri's four-foot-eleven, size two, 46-year-old life is that she didn't find Glitzy Glitz Girls until months after she won her crown. "Because you won't find their clothes anywhere else, and that's important if you want to be a trendsetter," Terri says. "They need a much bigger, much glitzier sign. But inside, oh, their clothes are to die for."

Terri discovered the Dransfeldt line of glitz at a fashion show titled "Working Woman's Night Out." After taking to the stage as Mrs. Arapahoe County in the 1996 Mrs. Colorado pageant, she'd tapped into a previously hidden showbiz streak and was working the fashion show as a model. "They had me wear a quite short, black little sleeveless dress with a deep V almost below the...well...between the belly button and the bustline. It was covered somewhat with little bits of lace, and gold beads dangled from the V. After five minutes in that dress, I was saying, 'I'm sorry, but this dress is not for sale. This dress is mine.'"

A personal layaway plan and three fancy dresses later, Terri confronted the fact that her husband, at least in the first 23 years of their marriage, had never been the out-on-the-town type. "But I just said, 'Look, you're going to have to figure out where to take me,'" she recalls. He did, and Terri's next purchase was a denim cowgirl dress encrusted with pearls.

"Basically, I don't shop anywhere else. Their clothes come from Dallas and Las Vegas, and those places are further ahead than Denver. Ahead," Terri concludes, "is where I want to be."

Most Glitzy Glitz clients, like Terri, are described as family--whether or not there is any genetic connection. Bob Fetters, who has dropped by the store for a chat, seems to know the regulars as well as his wife and mother-in-law do. He greets by name Sarah Bjornsen, a twenty-year-old veterinary assistant who models for the store on occasion. She is here to renew her fascination with a crisp white evening gown, but first she sits down for a brief discussion of the Internet. Bob's been researching several of his pet interests, among them obscure Irish genealogy and Viking longboats. If he doesn't get a flat-rate server, he says, he'll go broke paying the phone bill. Mid-reply, Sarah spots a leopard-print chiffon scarf. She immediately goes to the phone and calls her mother.

"Mom will be right down," she tells Josie and Gunhild. "She needs this scarf."

"Hmm," Josie says noncommittally. Even if fate brought the chiffon scarf to this place, true glitz rates more than an impulse purchase.

"Well, this will be fun," Gunhild says, settling herself in a chair among the rhinestone cowboy shirts. "Life is short. None of us come out of it alive."

Josie raises an eyebrow at her mother, as if to say, from a chiffon scarf to Life? In the space of one short sentence?

"Yes," Gunhild says aloud. "Life is exciting, and life is short. Meanwhile, let's have fun.

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Robin Chotzinoff
Contact: Robin Chotzinoff