Summers in Asheville, NC are nothing short of alive. From the street performers to the purple comedy bus to the PubCycle, Downtown Asheville has a thriving energetic ambience, defined by the Artistic Community. Asheville Community Theater is but a part of the growing Fashion Scene in Asheville, having contributed by creating and hosting its signature annual fundraiser for the last 4 years: Costume Drama: A Fashion Affair.

It’s a fundraiser, a fashion show, and a fun competition with audience participation. This year, the event was expanded and sold out. A pre-party, a silent auction, four categories of runway, voting, a post-party, and silent auction on the very costumes from the runway.

“[This event] shows Asheville talent. The designer is a pastry chef. No matter the day job, people have hidden talents,” says model Gessi Boyd in the green room backstage.

The four categories of competition were Christmas in July, Nature, Tape, and Inflatables. 

 The Christmas in July category was full of breathtaking, angelic, and magical constructs, from Olivia Mears modeling her own red and gold wrapping-paper Tree Topper with mobile white angel wings to McKinney Gough’s blue, silver, and white Nutcracker, to Susan Vonceil’s candy-cane striped poolside pinup.

Susan Vonceil's creation Model: Sarah Merrell Photo: Hannah Silberman
Susan Vonceil’s creation, modeled by Sarah Merrell photo by Hannah Silberman
The Nature category was definitely a crowd favorite, featuring woodland warrior fairies, dragonflies, garden wardens, and an ocean goddess.

Caroline Williams entry, modeled by Gessi Boyd
Caroline Williams entry, modeled by Gessi Boyd, photo from model’s FB page
The gown is a gorgeous blue and white goddess dress, with cascading ruffles at the mermaid hemline remniscent of waves cresting on the beach.  The bodice is constructed of pearls on one side, bringing to life Caroline Williams’ vision of “surf and elegance.”

Despite Gessi’s nerves of her first runway (ever), she felt “empowering, exposed, and freeing” in the gown.

The Tape category was interesting, to say the least. Designers were challenged to use tape to construct their designs. (If you’re anything like me, your mind goes to duct tape or scotch tape.) The creativity presented here is nothing short of inspiring, from VHS and Casette tape flapper dresses to painted painter’s tape fairies to caution tape tulle ballgowns.

The papparazzi dress, by Stephen Lange,  constructed of light reflection tape materials, looked like something Lady Gaga would wear (if she hasn’t already).

The most whimsical category, inflatables, presented the most memorable creations and characters. From Charles Josef’s balloon bridesmaid to Sheila Thibodeaux‘s lionfish to Marla Looper‘s jellyfish, ensemble after ensemble left the audience excited and craving more.

The house was packed, warm, and filled with applause and laughter as the Category winners were annouonced: Danielle Chaboudy & Sue Ellen Black with their golden tree-topper (a month in the making) took Christmas in July, Olivia Mears with her woodland fairy took Nature, Sally Garner took Tape with a VHS film party dress, and Carina Lopez with her doctor’s glove cocktail dress took Inflatables.

Applause, laughter, and nervous indecision filled the air as the audience took one final vote for best in show. Christmas in July, modeled by Jessica Robin Riley took home the victory.

All four of the winning designs are currently on display through Saturday, July 18 at Bellagio Everyday in Downtown Asheville.

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