Sunday, January 20, 2008

Brenda Clellon goes Universal

***WARNING EXTRA LONG BLOG POST*** but worth it :)

So, I was Miss Canada in the much publicized Miss SL Universe competition yesterday.

Along with 11 other girls, each representing 12 countries, we worked for three weeks perfecting our looks, our style, and our posing and sharpening our minds in anticipation of the big day and facing the judges with questions unknown.

Each girl approached the task with a different perspective on style and fashion. We all had to come up with and develop a "national costume" representing the country for which we stood. Three weeks of planning a costume for an opening act that was expected to be spectacular, exciting, and thrilling with a high "wow" factor was a great deal of work. Each girl did a bang up job. All of the costumes were extremely inventive, creative and artistic eye candy. I feel certain the audience got their money's worth from this show.

In addition, we had the usual beauty pageant swimsuit competition, in which we all wore the same design created by the very talented Nicky Ree. The shoes were provided by the ever popular, always funny, super sharp and witty Melanie Zhao. All we had to do was accessorize with jewelry and hair and we were ready to walk the runway.

The next part was the formal evening gown competition. Each girl had to either find an off-the-rack dress or find a designer willing to work with them to create a unique dress specifically for the Miss SL Universe competition. Now, granted, some girls had more money to throw at this than others, and then some were creative, and found sponsors to pay for their dresses, hair, etc. but not all.

Originally I contacted Neferia Able from Ivalde to make my formal gown. I begged, pleaded and whined sufficiently and finally, she agreed to the take on the task and make my gown. She is very kind, very sweet but she's also a very busy lady. During this same time she had a fashion show in which she had to make 12 new designs. My original concept for the gown was the dress from the movie, Ever After. I loved that long, flowing, beaded look that just captivated your attention and felt it would be perfect for the formal part of the competition.

The first attempt she made was lovely, but not exactly what I was looking for. I asked if she could go back and remake the skirt (God knows, I hated to even ask) and she agreed. I made the mistake of showing her some pictures of how I thought the skirt should look and I think I must have confused her, so her next attempt was way off the mark. I didn't hear from her for awhile as was starting to get worried. With time growing short, and no gown in the inventory for the show, I started looking elsewhere. Finally, I heard from Neferia the day before the show. She had designed a very pretty gown which she is now marketing as "Serenity" that I thought was lovely, but not what I was looking for as far as the competition goes. Because she was rushing off to Spain the next morning, there was no way to do further alterations, nor did I even ask. I thanked her profusely, wished her a wonderful trip, and went off in search of something off the rack that would work for the last part of the competition I clearly wasn't ready for.

Two days before the competition, a couple of us girls were sitting around talking about the gowns, all of them were, of course, ready and I was the last hold-out. It became a joke as we discussed what I might wear in place of a formal… a barrel? A sandwich sign? Nothing but a maple leaf? Enough of that… I told the girls I had to go search for something that might work and left them laughing in the distance.

At first, I was completely lost. I didn't want to wear something that had been seen a million times before. Don't get me wrong. Nicky Ree, Nonna Hedges, Leezu Baxter and the likes there of are all talented designers and without question have an abundance of gowns from which to choose. Yet all of them have been seen many times before, and, for me, I really wanted something original, different and … unknown. I started my search on the Japanese sims, just pulling up the map, picking an island, going there and flying around to different shops to see what was available. Nothing caught my eye. Then I remembered the Brazilian sims. Yes, yes. I know they've had a lot of bad press, but popular opinion has never stopped me before, and it wasn't going to stop me now.

The first sim had nothing I was looking for. Nor the second. So I decided to try an Italian sim. Again, the first nothing. Nor the second. But the third is where I hit pay dirt. There, on this little resort sim, in the middle of a small shopping area sits a very tiny store with only three or four designs in the entire store, all gowns. I was flying and camming-in to save time, but this one brought me down to the ground where I could closely inspect the wares. Preciosity of Style is so small you might overlook it if you're just flying by. The fact that there are only three designs might also deter someone because they're used to a larger selection of items.

But, of the three designs, all beautiful, one caught my eye immediately. A silver and gold bodice designed with a decidedly art deco feel flowing down the body, the hips and over the legs made up the shirt and glitch pants -- very old Hollywood -- with a low flexy skirt that hugged the hips and flowed out around the wearer in a circle of liquid silver and gold.

In an instant, I fell in love with the dress pictured in this design. I have always had a love affair with old Hollywood-type design -- noir outfits and the combination of gold and silver. But I admit I was hesitant to buy it with all those questions going through my mind: Will it be like the picture? Has this been Photoshopped? But, being in dire straits for a gown, I thought, "Lets take a chance."

At only L$800 for a gown that I thought looked spectacular in the picture, I figured that if I get lucky and it looks only HALF as good, I'll be happy.

So, click! Buy it I did. And then… nothing.

Oh, the payment went through but the gown didn't arrive. Sigh. I was devastated. I thought "Great, what else could go wrong?"

I'm always the one to take a chance on the little guy, the underdog, the unknown. I like finding that designer, that person whose name is unknown, that diamond in the rough. But this time I thought "Wonderful. Fantastic. I'll never get this gown or my money back!"

Right away, I sent the designer, Brenda Clellon, a message. I explained that I had bought the dress, and the funds went through, but no dress arrived. Then I waited. I didn't have to wait long and Brenda responded. Brenda is Italian, and English is not her first language, but she quickly understood what I was telling her. Amidst all of the SL problems at the time, she immediately sent me the dress. She was very kind, extremely helpful and truly concerned I not only received the dress but was happy with it.

I ran home, unpacked it, placed it in a folder in my inventory and started putting the pieces together. Here is where I run out of words. The picture of this dress in her store does no justice to this design. It's absolutely remarkable. The textures design is nothing short of stunning. The way she designed the skirts -- two separate skirts to flow around you -- is like watching a melody of silver and gold taffeta slowly drape around your body. It's simply magnificent. This texturing is the best I've seen. I loved the design of the texture, how it flowed down the body, hugging and accentuating all the right parts and places. A beautiful prim bow on the back with a flowing scarf, lovely opera-length gloves with open fingers, accessorize the outfit along with the two flowing skirts.

I was in heaven. But -- and yes, I am picky -- I wanted the skirt to be slightly different. More poof to it. More... umpf. This being the Miss SL Universe contest, I really wanted it to be special. But, I was willing to live with it, as I really didn't have a choice -- time being as short as it was. Shortly after unpacking the dress, Brenda sent me an IM and asked if I was happy with it. Of course, I gushed over how much I loved this dress! I gave her the proper kudos she deserved because, lets face it (see pictures), this dress is spectacular. I explained my situation to her -- all about the competition, the gown I wanted, how it didn't work out with the first designer and how I thought her dress was perfect, with the exception of the skirt.

There was a short pause, and she asked, "Cherie, what are you looking for?"

So I explained as much as I could between Google translating English to Italian and English, what it was I had in mind for that dress.

Another short pause, and Brenda said, "I can do this for you."

I said, "Brenda, there is one day until the competition. How can you get this done? I can't ask you to do this! It's just too much."

She said, "Cherie, you tell me what you need and I will make it for you." Then she added, "But, Cherie, I have to tell you, I am a new designer."

What a wonderful person! How sweet, kind and unbelievably generous. She doesn't know me from Adam, but she's willing to work -- and work quickly -- on a dress that will require a great deal of prim work. And she's worried because she is unknown. Such a humble woman.

I know this has been a long blog entry, but I really felt that you needed to hear how I came upon my new friend, Brenda, and her wonderful shop, Preciosity of Style. How talented this woman is.

I said, "Brenda, your work is just unbelievably beautiful! If you had not told me you were a new designer, I would have never known. This dress is so stunning, any one of the big name designers would be green with envy over this!"

She was thrilled at how happy I was with her design. After a really nice discussion about the competition and what I was looking for, she excused herself and immediately started working on it. She asked that I just give her a little time and she would contact me when ready. I was nervous -- afraid that I had not explained myself sufficiently to describe what I was looking for. Worried that she might not be able to do it, being so new. And, of course, there was the clock. It kept ticking towards the day of the Miss SL Universe competition.

The next day -- the day before the competition -- Brenda contacts me and wants to show me her progress. My palms were sweating as I tp'ed her into my home. She arrived in the dress, skirt attached. My mouth hit the floor. It was one hundred percent exactly what I was looking for. I was so excited! I couldn't stop babbling about how much I loved it. Brenda kept trying to say something, but I was too busy gushing about that dress to listen. Finally, I let her have a word in edgewise, and she said, "No, no, it's not finished yet. I still make it more perfect. I can make it MORE beautiful!"

And with that, I thought, "OMG, I'm not sure how that is possible!"

But she was insistent that this was just a work-in-progress. She only wanted to make sure it was close to what I wanted. Not only was it close but EXACTLY what I wanted!

Off she goes to make a perfect dress even more perfect. I was in shock. I couldn't believe my luck. Not only had I found the dress of my dreams, I had met this wonderful person, with whom I have quickly formed a strong friendship. Maybe my luck was changing and there was hope for the competition after all!

Later that day, Brenda tp'ed me to her to inspect the final design. I don't know how she did it, but she was right. She made it even more beautiful than it had been before. Unbelievably, incredibly, beautiful! By far -- and in total honesty -- of all of the 32,000 or so items I have in my inventory, this is my favorite design, my favorite dress. I love this dress with a passion. I told Brenda just how thankful I was to have met her, to know her and now to be her friend. I invited her to see her design on the runway of the Miss SL Universe competition and she was so excited.

Being a new designer, this must have been thrilling for her. I tried to pay Brenda for her custom work -- which she deserved -- but she wouldn't take a Linden. As hard as I tried, she wouldn't hear of it. She was just thrilled to be involved in helping me. What a great gal. I just love this girl.

Well, in an attempt to shorten an already novel-sized blog post, I will skip right to the end.

In the end, I didn't win Miss SL Universe. BabyHoney Baily, representing Greece, was crowned Miss SL Universe. Congratulations BabyHoney! But, when I put on that dress, and stood on that stage, I truly felt like a winner already. I knew in my heart, I had the most spectacular dress on the runway last night. Not that the other dresses weren't good -- they certainly were -- but without sounding too bold, I know mine was the best. Because of that, I proudly stood on stage, wearing a Brenda Clellon original, and could hold my head high, even though I didn't win the competition.

It was a great experience and I'm glad I did it. I met some wonderful people, made some great friends and had a blast working with Frolic Mills, the owner of The Best of SL and the Miss SL Universe competition. I'm not sure I'll do another one of these anytime soon though -- it's a lot of work. Not only time-wise, but an emotional investment as well. Maybe after some time, one never knows.

In the end, BabyHoney won the crown, but I won a great new friendship, a beautiful gown that I will treasure forever, and memories that can't be bought.

You can find Brenda's shop here: ITALY ISLAND RESORT, italia, ita, ITALY ISLAND RESORT (153, 127, 25)

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