Every young girl has a defining fashion moment that determines the direction of her personal style. For me, it was my friend Debbie Chase’s “Cabaret Barbie” evening gown, its little black sequined mermaid curves and hemline-sprouting black tulle nothing short of mesmerizing. Although my grade-school mind was too naïve to understand, the doll dress’s plunging décolleté and second-skin fit was a testament to pure sex appeal. It was exactly what I wanted to look like.
Not that I trotted around Allen Park Elementary in risqué evening gowns, but, at home, I did indulge in some rather over-the-top dress-up, which today might be classified as drag. My eccentric maternal grandmother, Rose, was to thank/blame for my alter-ego wardrobe, which was comprised of frothy 1950s prom dresses in soft pastels and pointy-toed stilettos, along with my own garish ballet recital get-ups with names such as “Yellow Bird” and “Irish Miss.”
As I matured, vintage kitsch gave way to film goddess glamour as I became transfixed by Hollywood stars and their wardrobes. Why couldn’t my life be as perfectly accessorized as Elizabeth Taylor’s in A Place in the Sun with her full-skirted debutante dresses and pristine gloves? Why, oh why, couldn’t my life be as fanciful as Marilyn Monroe’s in The Prince and the Showgirl? I wanted to be Liz, Marilyn, Hedy, Audrey, Lauren, Esther and Jayne, all rolled into one. But didn’t every retro girl growing up in the ’60s and ’70s?
Today’s most viral fashion icons—the It Girls from the film, television and music industries—are helping to create a new breed of pint-sized divas who crank up their iTunes and prance around in outfits inspired by their idols. And just as the screen sirens of old had their fashion gurus in Edith Head, Givenchy and Christian Dior, today’s femme fatales have go-to designers who understand the essence of glamour.
One of Hollywood’s most valuable leading ladies is New York City-based couturier Randi Rahm, she of country artist Miranda Lambert’s liquid gold, hand-beaded sequin “Silvia” gown with crystal diamante detailing, worn to the recent Country Music Awards where she won both “Top Female Vocalist” and “Album of the Year.”
“Glamour itself is the way a woman should always feel,” says Rahm, who has an atelier on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan and a showroom in Los Angeles. Rahm, who admits she’s always in a pair of high heels, has helped many of Hollywood’s A-list ladies feel their most glamorous, including Halle Berry, Beyoncé, Catherine Zeta Jones, Eva Mendes, Katherine Heigl, Eva Longoria, Mariah Carey, Edie Falco, Fergie and Carrie Underwood.
The Help actress Ahna O’Reilly wore Rahm’s tea-length, black tulle and gold micro-bead “Jill” cocktail dress to the must-go-to Vanity Fair Oscar Party and the Elton John AIDS Foundation Oscars party. American Idol fans will remember Jennifer López’s metallic mini-dress of hand-beaded copper sequins. Cut like an extra-large T-shirt, the dress looked just as comfy, without sacrificing the dazzle.
Granddaughter of the editor of the New York Daily Mirror, Rahm has NYC in her DNA. But fashion was not this Long Island native’s first love. Art, history and music—she has degrees in them all—were her passions. A classically trained conductor and concert pianist, Rahm considers her design prowess an extension of her creativity, fashion another medium of artistic expression. Her love of music is reflected in “the movement, the color and even certain fabric choices” of her silhouettes, says the sought-after designer.
Fashion as an avocation surfaced only after Rahm fortuitously created for her son a quilt, which she sold to a local boutique, which in turn commissioned more, and turned into a request that she design a line of dresses for little girls. And those little girls, as we well know, need their fashion. And how.