by MIKE CHAIKEN
Connecticut residents can follow in the glittering footsteps of Hollywood’s biggest stars as they celebrate the Academy Awards at the Red Carpet Experience on Feb. 24.
The guests who turn out for the AIDS Connecticut fundraiser are being encouraged by organizers and the hosts – Carolyn Paine and Alex Zarlengo – to come dressed to the nines in the grand Hollywood tradition.
“Hollywood and fashion go hand in hand because so many iconic looks and styles come from films …,'” said Paine, the founder of CONNectic Dance and a regular guest on WNPR.
Zarlengo, a professional dancer and model as well as a fashion and lifestyle guru, said, “Clothing designers have clamored for celebrity clients for hundreds of years, and it’s only fitting that such a location would become an epicenter for designers to display their latest creations on a film celebrity in order to reach the maximum number of people.”
“Hollywood is also all about statement red carpet moments where you get glamour, or jaw-dropping drama,” said Paine. “It’s the fantasy of being able to wear the grandest most dramatic look that only has a spot on a red carpet because a Hollywood red carpet is like a living art gallery for fashion.”
To add to the fashion flavor of the Red Carpet Experience, Paine said, “We are again inviting local designers [to showcase their creations]… but we are asking that their fashion designs they prepare are gender non-conforming.”
“Great strides have been made, particularly within the queer community on pushing and breaking the boundaries of gender-fluid fashion,” said Zarlengo. “In deconstructing more of the traditional limits of fashion along a gendered basis [by seeking gender non-conforming fashion] we hope to further continued acceptance and understanding of a more liberated sense of gender in general.”
“We are looking at fashion in a world where equality matters and where what was traditionally considered women’s fashion could be worn by men and vice versa,” said Paine.
“We are looking into more and more design concepts that break more traditional notions of gendered fashion,” said Zarlengo. “This means more ambiguous silhouettes, less stringent rules as it applies to use of fabric, and absolutely allowing for a lot of cross over between what is traditionally considered ‘male’ and ‘female’ fashions.”
Last year, Zarlengo went a step further than most by creating a dress for his partner-in-crime, Paine. Expect more fashion exploration from him this year.
“[N]ecessity is the mother of invention,” said Zarlengo. “So many times I go out into the world looking for a specific item of clothing or decor and it doesn’t exist. So it becomes necessary to create it.”
“By that same logic,” said Zarlengo, “I made myself a train for my tuxedo [to wear at the Red Carpet Experience]. I was tired of the same old suits time after time, and I envied all the beautiful options that women traditionally have to choose from at these events. The get everything from color, to silhouette, to shoes and accessories, and hairstyle. Men get a tux.”
“So in keeping with this year’s gender-nonconforming theme, and my constant need to swirl around in fabric, I attached a full ball gown skirt to my cummerbund… I can tell it’s going to be somewhat of a trend,” said Zarlengo.
After awards shows like the Oscars, the media often dissects the red carpet fashions and reports on the “wow” moments.
“A wow fashion moment to me is something I’ve never seen before or something that is just perfectly executed and worn with great confidence,” said Paine. “No matter what you are wearing, if you own it and you rock it and make it you, it will be a stand out.”
“A ‘wow’ fashion moment is any garment that makes people stop and talk ‑ even if it’s ‘ugly,'” Said Zarlengo.
As for what guests should wear for the red carpet, Wendy Shea Graveley, the director of development for AIDS Connecticut, said Maryellen Fillo and WTNH News 8’s Teresa Dufour will be interviewing the guests on the red carpet. “They are most impressed with creative or outrageous attire.”
“The invitation states ‘Creative black tie’ and although many dress in tuxedos, guests are encouraged to dress outrageously or in costumes from an Oscar nominated movie from past or present,” said Graveley. “It’s always fun to guess what movies will attract the most costumes and to see the creative and elaborate interpretations.”
“[Take] risks and own that look,” said Paine of the proper approach to the red carpet. “This event is fun because it is really an opportunity to wear anything.”
“Make a statement, be different, be extra,” said Zarlengo.
The Red Carpet Experience will be held on Sunday, Feb. 24 at 7 p.m. at Spotlight Theatres, 39 Front St., Hartford. Guests will watch the Academy Awards telecast courtesy of WTNH, which broadcasts the Academy Awards presentation.
Tickets are $50 for general admission and $100 for VIP, which includes a reception from 6 to 7 p.m. After Feb. 10, tickets are $55 for general admission and $110 for VIP.
For Red Carpet Experience information, visit aids-ct.org