Kimonos, Kurtis, and Kaftans, Oh My

This Year's Houston Vintage Festival Pays Homage to Fashion Near and Far

The ninth annual event was a celebration of Asian and Middle Eastern style.

By Julia Davila November 15, 2018

Outgoing Ms. Houston Vintage Ava Howard with pilot Bloke Maurer.

There were kimonos, kurtis, and kaftans galore at the ninth annual Houston Vintage Market and Festival, the retro celebration held last weekend at the decidedly apropos venue of the 1940 Air Terminal Museum. This year's event honored Asian and Middle Eastern fashion and style with proceeds benefiting RAICES, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services.

"With the political climate of the world, we wanted to do something that celebrated diversity and reflected our city and how diverse we are," said festival co-founder Dawn Ohlsson Bell. "We thought, what great fun it would be to celebrate the Far East and Middle East, to see what things were like in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s in those countries."

Ms. Houston Vintage 2018 contestants in vintage kimonos courtesy of Kimono Zulu.

Various international groups were invited, like the American Turkish Association of Houston. "We think people actually learned a little bit about these cultures," Bell said.

The annual event, founded in 2010, relocated to Hobby's 1940 Air Terminal Museum in 2014, a move that "elevated the festival to a whole new experience," Bell told Houstonia. "The building is so inspiring, because it's a vintage building and it fits in with what we do."

STRUT co-founders Dick Clarke and Omar Lisandro kicked off the weekend by producing a runway show at last Friday's preview party, a tradition the local fashion org has carried on for three years. While models prepared to walk, vintage lovers were entertained by hula hoopers, ribbon and belly dancers, plus energy and tarot readings and henna body art.

This year's departure from past festival themes of decades—the last two were the 1970s and 1940s—required Lisandro to really think outside the box. "I decided to create an explosion of textiles, colors, and references in all shapes and forms," he said. "I did that through America's first major exposure to and cultural influence of Asia and India after the first double-row airplane [arrived] in 1970, which made flying around the world more accessible for the middle class."

Lisandro said he was also inspired by the hippie counter-culture of the '60s and the 1967 British spy film You Only Live Once in which James Bond is uprooted to Japan after a mysterious spacecraft disappearance.

"There was a heavy push for Asian culture, influence, and imports," Lisandro said. "I referenced a lot of pieces to be around the late '60s, early '70s."

Cropped bomber jackets, highwaisted trousers, kaftans, and elegant gowns were sent down the runway, all paired with handcrafted jewelry from My Flaming Heart. Lisandro, who's also a stylist, curated his looks from participating festival vendors including Vida Antigua, EaDo Vintage, My Flaming Heart, and Retropolis, to name just a few. Every vendor "came through," Lisandro said, providing him with any pieces required to "make it work."

Natalee Light, the newly crowned Ms. Houston Vintage 2018.

"Houston has one of the largest vintage scenes in the United States," said Clarke. "More money is spent on vintage clothing in Houston than anywhere else. In an attempt to reach the fashion scene in Houston—regardless of what demographic or race, creed, or religion you come from—[STRUT's partnership] with the festival helps us to be a part of the vintage world."

Festival co-founders Bell, Diana Candida, Mitch Cohen, and Maria Martinez invited last Saturday's guests to show off their most beloved vintage looks from all decades. The all-day affair officially began with the entrance of Ava Howard, Ms. Houston Vintage 2017, and Holly Thompson, a judge at this year's pageant, in vintage T-18 Tiger fighter planes.

Lisa Powers and Staci Henderson joined Thompson in judging this year's Ms. Houston Vintage Pageant, where contestants are evaluated based on their outfits and knowledge of vintage subject matter. Natalee Light took home this year's crown, and Karla Madesto was named the 2018 Tiger Flight Vintage Kitty.

Past and present Vintage Queens awarded Jerry Sherman and David Perez the "Queen's Choice" vintage car trophy for the pair's 1960 Lincoln Continental Mark V.

All told, the event was a celebration of vintage, of course, but also of culture. "It's a way to bring the community together in one place, at one time, in a festival atmosphere," Bell said.

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