Art that struts and looks that kill

Shiree Houf makes art come alive—literally—on the 80-foot runway of the HighBall Halloween Costume Couture Fashion Show. Last year, the theater-trained costume designer's collection traveled through history, with outfits representing cave paintings, the Renaissance, rococo and post-impressionism. Each look featured a two-person act on the runway—a painter and a model-as-painting—culminating with a costume replicating Van Gogh's “Starry Night.”

“In theater, you're sort of thinking about the reaction you want from the audience, the story you want to tell,” Houf explains of her approach. She won the Short North contest in 2016 and 2014, and finished third in 2015.

“Starry Night” will return this year as HighBall celebrates its 10th anniversary on Oct. 20–21 by exhibiting the past nine winning costumes on Saturday before the couture show begins. This year's competition has expanded to 10 designers, who each get a budget of $1,000 to create three ready-to-wear looks and one larger-than-life costume. They're paired with S2 Models and hair and makeup teams from Phia Concepts, which begin brainstorming with the designers more than a month in advance, says Phia founder Elizabeth Bella. Hair and makeup can each take several hours of planning and application, and last year Houf even held rehearsals for her models' painterly routines. This year she's recreating her favorite childhood movie with costumes of upcycled material.

“We are looking for the most creative ideas that sort of transform the medium,” says Betsy Pandora, the executive director of the Short North Alliance, which organizes HighBall. “You're creating a theatrical performance of how the public experiences that costume on the stage.”

The 10th anniversary festivities also will include 10 local acts honoring musical legends on Friday night, with sets from MojoFlo as Beyoncé, The Floorwalkers as Bob Dylan, KaTanya Ingram as Stevie Wonder and Joey Hebdo as Queen.