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Pulp Pam Dons Gaga-esque Dress, Ode to McQueen

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The media flacks and the city fathers want us to focus on the time (eight years) and the money ($170 million) and the achievement (10th largest nationally) that the reopening of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts occasions. 

But the really big deal? The museum board's fashion-tastic chair, Pamela Reynolds, wearing a dress made entirely of paper at the opening gala Friday, cinching her reputation as Richmond's Lady Gaga.

Although Gaga has become known for clothes made out of stuff — cigarette butt sunglasses, a dress of clear plastic bubbles — the pop star is crashing Reynolds' party. For the opening of the museum's collection of FabergAc eggs in 1996, Reynolds wore a dress fashioned from 50 commemorative scarves. Napkins, paper towels, wrapping paper from the museum gift shop and even pages from a book on flower arranging composed the latest fashion statement.

“I don't want to disappoint people,” Reynolds says. “If I didn't make an effort to wear something for the opening, I would feel that I let people down.”

She settled on the concept before tracking down the creator, Melody Gulick, a local installation artist. Her degree from the Art Institute of Chicago brings a strong artistic pedigree, but Reynolds was particularly impressed that Gulick had designed window displays for Anthropologie, the women's fashion retailer known for its inventiveness.

During the design process, beloved fashion designer Alexander McQueen committed suicide, a blow to the international fashion committee of which Reynolds is a proud citizen. It was particularly devastating to those who knew that McQueen's untimely death followed on the heels of his mentor, the exotic stylist and editor Isabella Blow, who drank a fatal cup of weed killer a few years prior. The many layers, voluminous proportion and explosive color in Reynolds' dress celebrate his work.

Gulick started off by making a bodicelike form out of masking tape that would be sturdy enough to hold the pounds of paper piled on top. A liftable panel in the back concealed a fabric heinie that allowed the wearer to sit. At the gala, former Gov. Tim Kaine sat at Reynolds' table and gamely helped.

The dress is on display at Quirk Gallery on Broad Street.


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