Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

3... 2... 1... Dress up!

Last-minute tips to ring in 2014 in style

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New Year's Eve parties will be popping and fizzing all over Winnipeg Tuesday night -- and it's way more fun if you're dressed up for the occasion. This is a big theme-party year, with a raft of Great Gatsby-inspired 1920s parties all over the city, such as the big gangster-and-dolls event called The Untouchables at Danny's BBQ & Smokehouse. Then there's One Hot Cuban Night at the RBC Convention Centre, a James Bond party at Fame and an elegant Tokyo Nights Asian evening at Club 200. For Winnipeg singles, there's a big Ritz and Glitz party at the Viscount Gort. And there are many more shindigs filling this city with fun -- some with fireworks.

So where do you go for fancy party glad rags and costumes, with only two days to get it all together? No need to stress. Luckily, all it takes is one trip downtown, and you're all set. Here are some spots to check out within five minutes of each other:



389 Graham Ave.


SPARKLING mermaid-style dresses greet you at the entrance to this store. You have to take your footwear off to go exploring in the softly-carpeted fancy dress area. It's a girlfriends' adventure for sure, with end-to-end racks of rainbow-coloured formal gowns and flirty sequin-decorated cocktail dresses. "The dresses come from everywhere -- New York, L.A., China, Hong Kong, and some from Europe," says Kelly Ly, the mom in this family business. Ly says the dresses range from $100-$200 for the short cocktail numbers and the formals can go as high as $600 -- especially those with sequins and sparkles.

You can find everything from the glittering Academy Awards look to the sexy New York club-style mini-dress for New Year's fun. Granted, the other half of the store is bridal fashion, but the glam evening dresses occupy a big section, with sparkling jewellery at the front counter to finish your red-carpet look. Sales associate Tammy Le playfully holds a red and white micro-mini formal to her body. "This is an empire waist, short, with a little flounce around the bottom. Great for dancing."



375 Hargrave St.


FLAPPER and gangster parties are huge this year, and Harlequin costume rentals shows a variety of fringed dress from the late '20s and '30s along with cloche and feather hats and colourful boas. Cigarette holders are on sale downstairs along with gloves, short and long.

Depending on the type of man the flapper arrives with -- a wealthy Mr. Gatsby or a tough gangster -- the rentals department is ready. They have tux and/or tails for Gatsby or the pinstripe suits with wide-brimmed fedoras to hide your gangster's eyes. Scott Malabar, who has been in the costume rental business for more than 50 years, advises, "Costume trends follow the movies. This year it was The Great Gatsby."

Skyball 007, the movie-themed party at Fame Nightclub (mostly gay clientele, plus straight folks who love the great dance music) will be a hot spot. Many will wear James Bond's famous tuxedo look, which Malabar describes as "white or black jacket with shawl lapels, string bow tie and black pants." Then there's the stable of sexy women associated with Bond over the years -- a blast for drag queens, who spend hours getting dressed and made up for these parties.

Showgirl outfits are available for rent at Harlequin and their cerulean blue and fire-engine red glittery costumes are just waiting for a sexy, outgoing personality to slip them on and make a big entrance at the One Hot Cuban Night at the RBC Winnipeg Convention Centre. Tokyo Nights is this year's theme at rival gay nightspot Club 200. Folks will be wearing formal kimonos, Jackie Chan outfits, martial arts gear or full geisha outfits with wigs and special white face makeup -- also available from the makeup department at Harlequin.



380 Donald St.


FANCY dress New Year's parties such as the Ritz and Glitz party at the Viscount Gort for Winnipeg singles encourage everyone to dress up and bring the bling. Unless you have real diamonds coming out of your very own safe, rhinestones are just as sparkly, and who knows the difference? Vintage Glory retro store owner Doug Shand, also half owner at Rhymes with Orange retro shop on McDermot Avenue, says this new shop is his "hand-picked collection" of very special clothing items, footwear and jewellery.

"I spent four months renovating this store. And I found the original hardwood flooring under two layers." His shop boasts one-of-a-kind dresses, furs, sparkling evening bags, Cuban-style purses and multicoloured rhinestone pieces.

"Look at these!" he says pulling out a tray of baubles dating back to the '50s. He also has a white fur/feathery stole for the Marilyn Monroe types in the crowd. Hot Tip: Ask to see the basement store, which holds a cache of naughty and nice frillies for midnight celebrations and a whole room of retro footwear, plus original '40s suits and amazing period-piece hats.

Of course party stores and dollar stores are fun and inexpensive places to add special touches to costumes --things like strands of long pearls for flappers and giant "diamond" dinner rings to dazzle. Whatever you do, don't shy away from a New Year's party that requires a little costuming. Great conversation is guaranteed and the photos are delightful for years to come. In fact, many big parties hire photo companies to come in and provide background, expert lighting and suggestions for great poses.

So that's your party duds primer. If you want to greet 2014 undressed, you're on your own, but I wish you good luck!


Maureen Scurfield is a freelance writer who loves the chance to dress up and trip the light fantastic. Or maybe just trip!

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 29, 2013 A1

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