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Times reporter gives her account of being a model for a day

POSTED: September 20, 2011 1:30 a.m.
SCOTT ROGERS/The Times

The Times reporter Brandee Thomas stops to turn on the runway at the Chattahoochee Country Club while participating in last week's WomenSource Power of the Purse fashion show.

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I was never a "Barbie" girl. They were too small, and trying to put on their tiny clothes only frustrated me and my clumsy fingers.

But if you had a box filled with dress-up clothes, oh it was on. I could amuse myself for hours and hours with the dress-up trifecta — hats, high heels and dresses.

I remember one incident in kindergarten where I was a bit overzealous in knotting a halter-style dress and had to wear my imaginative gear to lunch because my teacher couldn’t get it undone in time.

Embarrassed? Not even a little bit. I was actually excited to show off my outfit coordinating skills since my mom was still dictating my day-to-day wear.

So imagine my girlish delight when Robyn Lynch, WomenSource Power of the Purse co-chairwoman, asked me to be in the event’s fashion show.

She told me that I would get to pick out a few outfits to showcase from one of the participating shops and also have my hair and makeup done.

As an adult, I’ve mastered the art of being reserved in a professional setting. I kept my poker face in place and replied with a, "Oh, that should be fun," but on the inside 7-year-old Brandee was turning cartwheels — which is really amazing considering real-life me never learned how to do one.

My assigned boutique was Elizabeth’s Clothing Co. on Washington Street near the square in downtown Gainesville. I had no idea what I would be wearing, but I knew I was supposed to be modeling two outfits.

I fully expected the ladies at Elizabeth’s to assign me a couple of outfits, but I received a happy surprise when they told me to, "Take a look around. See what you like."

It was better than being a kid in a candy shop because I could indulge all I wanted with no fears of a tummy-ache. Confession: Anytime I feel like I’m getting dressed for a "special" occasion, I’m automatically drawn to a skirt or dress when selecting my wardrobe.

Think I’m exaggerating? I wore a dress or skirt every first day of school from kindergarten through senior year in college. I’ve never worn pants to a job interview, and I feel underdressed for a night on the town if my legs are hidden underneath a pair of jeans.

I don’t know where this idea came from, but it’s a childhood quirk that has stuck with me.

I was trying to step outside of my box for the fashion show while browsing Elizabeth’s finery, but then I saw it. Nestled between a few egg-plant colored cocktail dresses and their navy blue counterparts, was this splash of platinum iridescence.

My heart beat a little faster as I got closer to it, and my breath caught in my chest when I took in the jeweled neckline and waist.

I knew without a shadow of a doubt that we would be together. It was shopping destiny my friends. I put it in a dressing room to try on a bit later and scouted for a second outfit.

After trying on several different combinations of tops and bottoms, we finally settled on black jeans and an animal-print cape coat that the ladies decided would be a "show-stopper."

The day of the show, Robyn and Dixie Truelove — the other co-chairwoman — had all the models meet at Chattahoochee Country Club for lunch and a run through. In my mind, I was picturing a straight runway. Easy breezy.

I was a bit shocked when we walked into the ballroom and saw that the stage had been set up in a big X. My nerves got kicked up a notch when I got up on the runway and noticed that it was placed dangerously close to one of the chandeliers.

For most folks, it probably wouldn’t have been a problem, but I’m 6 feet tall in my bare feet, so tack on a couple of extra inches with heels and, Houston, we may have a problem.

My reporter-by-day, model-by-night work schedule wouldn’t allow me to take the rest of the afternoon off for a proper day of pampering. I did my own nails the night before and planned to style my hair myself when I arrived at the country club since I knew I would be short on time.

One thing that I wasn’t willing to skimp on was getting my makeup done by the professionals. Don’t get me wrong, that could’ve been another do-it-yourself project, but I didn’t want it to be. If I had, it would’ve felt like every other day when I decide to wear makeup. With someone else doing it, I felt like a total glam goddess.

Although we were modeling clothes for real-life designers and had our own team of dressers, thanks to a group of uber-helpful fashion and design students from Brenau University, I doubt that my backstage experience was rooted too firmly in model reality. First of all, there was lots of yummy food for us to enjoy backstage before the show started. What professional model do you know eats a plate of pasta in alfredo sauce moments before she hits the runway?

And all of the ladies were so nice. I think we were as excited to see each other’s clothes as the audience. Once the show got started, the butterflies in my stomach took flight. Luckily for me, my cape coat seemed to strike a strong chord with the ladies in the audience.

Amid a chorus of "oohhhs" and "ahhhs" the butterflies turned into a warm, rush of excitement. Those feelings turned into sheer elation after I successfully maneuvered the runway without hitting my head on the chandelier. Score one for the tall girl.

Unfortunately for me, it was over all too soon. I felt a bit like Cinderella after the ball, returning the borrowed fashions and wiping my face clean of makeup. With a birthday coming up soon, it’s proof that I’m not getting younger, but somehow, a good game of dress-up never gets old.



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