If you think the models were retired ladies in forgiving attire, think again. We’re talking about East Sacramento Preservation’s first sponsored fashion show and champagne brunch, held at Katia’s Collections on H Street. This sold-out event is about achievable elegance, casual and dressy. You’re there five minutes and you know it’s a hit.
First the brunch. Guests cluster around a long table, fill their plates with quiche, fresh fruit, miniature cinnamon roles and mysterious small cookie things with addictive properties. “I didn’t think the food would be so good,” someone says, and her friend answers, “Well, Katia’s French.”
Ginger Barr, of the East Sacramento Preservation fundraising committee, is pleased with the turnout. She’s an organizer. “This is a good crowd,” she notes. She mentions the cheerful, expectant vibe in the room. My sister tells Ginger and me that Katia’s shop seems very like one of the charming boutiques on the Rue St. Honore` in Paris.
After brunch we head with our champagne to a large semi-circle of chairs. This show will be intimate, the models strolling right before us. First Katia introduces herself. She’s tallish, poised and kindly. The melodic French accent adds indisputable authority to her remarks. “You’ve told me things,” she says. “I’ve listened. You say you don’t want to show your arms. I show you this.” She holds up a lightweight chartreuse cropped cardigan that will hide those loose and dimpling upper arms, and at the same time lift the classic simple black dress into the world of color. Katia likes color, says she once returned a jacket to the maker because it was “too white.”
The models come and advance Katia’s determination to “bring back the dress. The pants-suit is over.” Somebody better let Hillary know, I think, as Sidney Norris strides forth in a black and white spaghetti strap sheath, with a shear black long-sleeved cardigan. Sidney is a member of East Sacramento Preservation and always looks good, but today, in Katia’s garb, her hair pulled back, she’s stepped up her game to chic.
Kit Dillon Givas appears in a gorgeous cobalt blue tank dress. She takes off the jacket and scarf as she moves around the circle. “This still works for the Walk of Shame the morning after,” she says. Kit is droll and approachable and her slightly outré comments are much appreciated. “The morning after what?” somebody says, and I think, through the laughter, I hear the words, “George Clooney.” She also exhibits the unusual but workable combination of pale yellow pants and top with a striking black and white jacket. This look is pretty cool. Black and white, by the way, is In.
Tall, sleek and seriously young, as in not yet 30, Rachael Sprague, looks like she stepped off a real runway. Everything she wears fits and falls perfectly. This model’s mother is in the audience and as Rachael parades by in her various outfits she observes pointedly, “This would be good for the Fourth of July,” or “You know, my birthday’s coming up.” Rachael’s birthday is May 29th, and maybe she’ll get a little something from Katia’s.
While models change Katia gives us the up-to-date on everything. Hose is Out this spring and summer. Let those toes show. Better paint them too. Costume jewelry is In, the bold necklace a big plus. So now we have to lock our delicate, ten-thousand dollar gold and silver pieces back in the safe. Fine with me. It was nerve-wracking wearing that much loot. Katia introduces Cynthia Burdick, the artist who makes a unique line of jewelry featured exclusively in this shop. Cynthia says she is doing the work she loves. The work shows it. She does custom orders too, and has a Facebook page, Cynthia’s Signature Design Jewelry.
More fashion tips. “Pants are narrow,” Katia says. “Except when they’re not.” But always, we are to let the ankles show. The models emerge and display extremely attractive everyday outfits. Katia says, “Do you ever have this experience? You go to Trader Joe’s in sweat pants and an old top, and you see somebody you know, and you hide in the next aisle?” Many wince and nod as she speaks. “Well now,” Katia says, “with the right clothes you can go anywhere. You don’t have to be embarrassed.”
Later she approaches Jan Lee who sits in the audience. Jan just happens to be a Katia devotee and is wearing a Katia dress, a black, knit, knee-length A-line with cap sleeves. Some of us fret and struggle with outfits and hope generally to blend in with an appropriate look. But Jan is stylish, which means she always looks better than appropriate. Jan rises and Katia explains how this dress works on so many levels.
Ellen Cochrane says, “Jan gets advice from a person who has actually been to Fashion Week.” Someone says she would love to go to Fashion Week. Someone else says, “I’d love to be a model in Fashion Week.” We consider these matters. Maybe it would be best to be Anna Wintour sitting in the front row during Fashion Week, wearing a stony look, and having everybody cling to your every utterance.
When the show is over the applause is tremendous. The chairs are removed, clothes racks wheeled into place, and the polite frenzy begins. Joan Cochrane tries on one billowy dress. “It’s not me,” she says. She eyes another. It’s amazing. Its black and white embroidered center pane works perfectly. Someone says, “Joan would be crazy not to get that.” Joan gets it.
Barbara Ruona can’t decide. She has independently and early on arrived at Katia’s appreciation for color but doesn’t know if her selection looks right. Katia arrives, hands a bra into the dressing room, and Barbara emerges. Now she too has transcended the appropriate.
Katia and her able assistant, Joanna Fedyicki, seem to be everywhere. I stare at an array of lovely scarves. I must have color, but which one? What goes well with whatever heretofore unidentified skin tone I have? Katia passes by. She points with a smile at a deep turquoise and I scoop it up. She’s right. It’s the best choice. “I was drawn to this one all along,” I tell my sister, but she raises her eyebrow. I buy some Cynthia Burdick earrings too.
ESP Vice President Janet Maira, counseled in her purchases by Susan Norris, goes to the counter. “Have you shopped here before?” Joanna asks. Janet says no, but adds, “I’ll do all of it here from now on.”
We’re lucky to have this corner of Paris right here in East Sacramento. It’s like stepping into a salon on the Left Bank. I see Jan Lee and ask how she liked the show, and she says she enjoyed seeing “Katia’s clothes on the different models. Each woman looked spectacular. We American women are so critical of our bodies. Katia showed that every woman can look beautiful. It’s just a matter of choosing the right clothes, the right accessories, and the right attitude.” That, she adds, is “a very powerful message.”
Bien dit, madam.