Catwalk Confessional, p.V: I want to look like Jackie O's Crazy Cousin

Cory Newbiggin

For most designers in Minnesota, fashion in not a lucrative business. Many promising artists trudge through day jobs and can only dream of paying the bills with boutique sales. Even if a garment sells, the number of hours that went into it can mean the designer is collecting less than minimum wage. Money for fabric, thread, and mannequins often comes straight from a designer's savings. It takes a truly dedicated soul to keep plugging away.

George Moskal, by contrast, is hardly a starving artist. At 30 years old, he works in the textile department for Target Corporation and lives in an upscale warehouse-turned-condominium in downtown St. Paul. I stop by his modern dwelling to try on outfits for Voltage, the April 11 fashion extravaganza, and find myself oohing and ahhing over his furniture as much as his clothes.

The walls are mostly windows, and even on a gray afternoon, the room is full of light. Moskal leads me through his kitchen and I gaze at his stainless steel appliances and a basket of bright green apples on his dining room table. I can practically see my reflection in his polished countertop. Behind a brown sectional sofa, a plastic wall bearing Moskal's logo divides his living area from his workspace.

Moskal's studio mirrors the tidiness of his kitchen. There's a shelf along one wall with a plethora of design books and boxes labeled "Pins," "Bobbins," and "Pom poms." Five mannequins stand guard around a long metal table in the middle of the room. Moskal talks about how happy he is to finally have a full-sized dress form. Testing the limits of shape and toying with gravity are big parts of his work and it's hard to see the whole picture on half a mannequin.

Moskal has certainly been waiting long enough: His preoccupation with fashion began when he started sketching outfits "like crazy" as a 13-year-old. He landed his first internship three years later, working for a hair stylist who made clothing on the side. Like several other Voltage designers, Moskal went to the University of Wisconsin-Stout and majored in apparel design. He spent time in London studying under Zandra Rhodes, a prominent textile designer. Back in the states, Moskal got a gig at Marshall Field's before scoring his current position as an assistant designer for Target's intimates department.

When he's not at his day job, Moskal creates fashion for his own label, aptly titled George Moskal. He's sold a few pieces at Design Collective, the prime Minneapolis boutique for buying and selling locally-made duds, and participated in Twin Cities Fashion Weekend 2005. Currently, all his creative energy is going into his Voltage line, which was inspired by the 1975 documentary Grey Gardens. The film (which is now a musical) profiles a pair of Jackie O's barefoot cousins—fallen aristocrats who live in a crumbling East Hampton mansion. Moskal drew on their unkempt style—extravagant rags in neutral colors—to create nine looks for the show. Afterward, the garments will be for sale at Design Collective.

I try on a few different looks from his Voltage line. First is a gray, backless cocktail gown with a top half that wraps around my neck and down across my breasts... and that's about all there is to it. My chest and stomach are exposed to the world. The bottom half features a wide belt that pours into a flirty skirt—part Lorca, part Katarina Witt.

Moskal crouches down and plays with the hem, apologizing for the stray pins jabbing my thighs. "Where are your knees?" he asks.

I direct him upward and, as he hovers it occurs to me that he might be discovering something that could be a serious problem. But more on that later.

My next ensemble covers slightly more leg. The bronze cowl skirt sits high on my waist, rippling down my hips like drapery before tapering off around my calves. Instead of hiding a fuller bottom, it creates one, embellishing a woman's natural curves. The look is silky and Arabian, like I'm two seconds from a magic carpet ride.

I pair the skirt with a heather gray jersey top pleated around the braline. It reminds me of a t-shirt that I bought at Forever 21 and wore to an office party. Moskal tugs on the folds around my waist and deems the shirt baggy in the right spots, but ultimately too long. He scribbles notes on a pad of paper and I trot off to change into another outfit.

Despite sporting a bevy of bloodthirsty needles, the next, still-unfinished, dress instantly becomes my favorite. Moskal admits that it's the most popular garment among his stable of Voltage models. With dainty polka dots, a babydoll bust, and billowy sleeves, it exudes childlike innocence and playfulness. I long to pair it with skinny jeans and bangle bracelets like a chain-smoking Olsen twin, or at the very least wear it in the show.

For all the hustle and bustle I've seen in the designers' apartments, the next week will be when the real work gets done. There's nothing like a showcase in front of a couple of thousand people to force you to make those creative decisions you've been putting off. Either that, or I'll still be getting jabbed by pins during my walk down the runway.

Whatever happens, I'll be posting about it on the City Pages website until the last minute. And unless I fall off the catwalk—and then walk straight out of the country in shame—I'll post some more pictures after Voltage is over.

In the meanwhile, there's not much for me to do now except wait and worry—and pray to the Acne Gods who reward our virtue by giving us clear skin. Actually, that's not quite true. There is one decision about the show that I've been putting off myself—a painful concession I'll have to make to become a model.

And so to George Moskal, Anne Selden, and Troubador, I make this pledge: On the Tuesday night before Voltage, for the first time in five years, I'll break out a razor and shave my legs.

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