Catwalk Confessional p.II: The Fitting

Cory Newbiggin

Is modeling work? I'm not getting paid to show off the designs of Anne Selden, George Moskal, and Labrador during "Voltage: Fashion Amplified," Minneapolis's annual running-of-the-fashionistas. And looking good is supposed to be 100 percent genetic inspiration and 0 percent perspiration, anyway, right?

Still, a lot of preparation goes into making sure my walk down the runway isn't marred by a torn seam, a loose thread, or an accidental crotch shot. The only way to prevent such catastrophe is through a fitting. This typically entails visiting a designer's studio, trying on a muslin mock-up or an actual outfit, and getting poked and prodded until it fits just right. Sometimes it takes two or three fittings, and by the time we're finished I feel like a human pincushion. But hey, what are a couple of pricks and jabs if it means 90 seconds of catwalk glory?

For my first fitting, I visit Anne Selden, a recent 26-year-old transplant to the Minneapolis fashion scene. She's originally from Michigan, but just moved here in October from Paris, where she was studying the works of Cristobal Balenciaga and Madeleine Vionnet (two heavy hitters in the clothing world) on a Fulbright grant.

I ask Selden if she felt inspired by all the brilliance in that fashion Mecca, and she replies that being inspired by something is not the same as learning from it. She prefers the latter.

Selden works in a cheese shop in Edina and rents a two-bedroom apartment in St. Paul. Like several designers I've come across, she has turned one of the rooms into a studio. Her place is clean, with concrete floors, large windows, and a modern kitchen stocked with black appliances. She gives me a brief tour and I notice that the wall behind her sewing machine is decorated with sketches and photos of outfits ripped from magazines.

Selden, who says she enjoys working with "bold, strong, solid colors," often produces one garment and then recreates it several times, varying the shape, color, and movement. "I can honestly say that every single piece I make is one-of-a-kind," she explains. "Making clothing, for me, is comparable to sculpting, painting, and drawing."

Making clothing is also, of course, a business. And to this end, Selden has items for sale at Design Collective—an Uptown boutique that specializes in locally made work—which range in price from $25 cuff sets to $1,200 wool coats.

At the same time as Selden is dolling me up, she's dressed casually in straight-leg corduroys and a comfy black hoodie (neither her own creation), with a colorful belt around her waist. She isn't too thrilled about the possibility of appearing in a photo—but then maybe she just lacks the blinding narcissism of a future supermodel like me.

Trying on someone else's clothes in someone else's home always feels kind of funny. Selden loads me up with a chocolate brown strapless dress and a pressed red overcoat, and I tiptoe into her bedroom to strip down. Having just moved in, Selden hasn't finished furnishing the place. I try to be delicate with the clothes, but there's nowhere to hang them, so I drape them across a mattress on the floor.

I pull on the brown dress, twirl around, and feel like I'm on my way to a dinner party. The dress is made of a soft, stretchy jersey material and has a loose, low waist that falls just beneath my hips—it would be perfect for a woman who wants to hide some extra pounds. (This is not a confession.) The lower half of the dress consists of intricate layers of fabric bunched together like an accordion, and it bounces up and down when I walk.

"I'd never seen it done before," Selden says of the bunched layers. I ask her how she made it, but she opts not to say, calling it a "trade secret." She circles me, fluffing the loose waist, pulling it down on my hips, and declares that it fits perfectly, but does not flatter my rear. Rather than letting my ego seep out my pores and form a puddle on the concrete, I take her remark as artistic criticism, and hear my mother's words echoing in my head. Everyone comes in different shapes and sizes.

I pull on the fitted red overcoat and cover up my butt. The coat also fits perfectly, and I ask Selden if I can keep it. She laughs and I assure her that I'm kidding. But I'm not. It's an eye-catching number, with a stiff-upturned collar, cropped sleeves, and a matching wide belt. The bottom half has large pleats in the sides to allow for poofy skirts, which the brown dress fills out easily. It's a blend of nylon and cotton, which, Selden tells me, makes it water resistant. I feel like I should be strolling the streets of SoHo with a tiny dog in my arms.

I hold out my arms as Selden tightens the belt around my waist and describes designing the coat during her time in Paris. At $248 for an unlined version and $278 lined, it has already sold in blue; Selden has custom orders for two more.

I'll be pairing the brown dress with the red overcoat for the LookBook, a catalog of Voltage looks and profiles that comes free with a ticket to the show. Selden will be in New York during my photo shoot, so it's up to me to remember her instructions: collar up, coat closed, layers folded neatly at the seams.

She hasn't decided yet which outfit I'll be wearing for the April 11 show. A rack in her living room reveals many options, but she admits that her collection has shrunk. People keep buying her designs, which isn't the worst problem an up-and-coming designer can have.

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