Thursday, April 2, 2009

Red Alert: Portland's Biggest Bash Heats Up Once Again


By Hollyanna McCollom

If you are new to Portland (or have perhaps been living under a rock) you may not know about the annual Red Dress Party, an event that is arguably one of the most fun (and well-attended) fundraisers in town. Call it a rave (it’s not); call it a block party (that’s closer), or call it “My Big Fat Gay Prom,” Red Dress is the event where Portlanders of all walks kick up their pretty red heels and party all night long in support of local charities.
Last year’s bash saw nearly 2,000 revelers and raised $35,000 for Esther's Pantry, SHARE and Outside In. Partygoers sipped hosted cocktails in the “Red Sea” themed warehouse while dancing and listening to a performance by Storm and the Balls. Midway through the evening, whispers skittered up through the crowd. “Chelsea Clinton is here,” screamed a pretty boy in a bright red Mad Men-style skirt suit, “Omigod! I just saw her!” “Really, darling?” sighed a sequin-speckled drag queen languishing on the couches, “Was she wearing a red dress?” Sadly, she was not.
While Red Dress is a party not to be missed, there is one very simple, but very strict rule. Everyone (and they mean everyone except Chelsea Clinton) must wear a red dress to gain admittance. Manly men who felt threatened by the idea of donning a red frock have tried in vain to wear kilts, culottes and shorts only to be turned away by the divas at the door (usually the perfectly turned out Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence).
This year, they are hoping to raise even more for charitable organizations that support gay youth and those that support the many folks living with HIV/AIDS and other serious diseases. The theme, “Red Eye,” will feature “in-flight entertainment” from Poison Waters, VJ Dantronix, DJ Harmonix, DJ Tronic, and Peach the Fire Spinner, as well as Storm and the Balls. Those lucky enough to snap up some First-Class tickets have the advantage of early admittance, premium cocktails and a performance by Tahoe Jackson.
Tickets get snapped up quickly for this event, but those red dresses go even quicker. At thrift stores, vintage shops and Goodwills across the city, shopping for a dress in the last two weeks before the party is a bit like trying to find a date at your grandmother’s church (i.e. all the good ones are taken and the ones that are left reek of cabbage and baby powder).
Fortunately, there are still a few viable options. On Wednesday, April 8, Zaytoon Bar (2235 NE Alberta Street, 284-1168) will host a Red Dress Exchange party wherein guests can bring an old frock and exchange it for something new and fabulous. On the 16th, there will be a fashion show and fundraiser entitled “Red Threads for Model Citizens” featuring many local celebs (like Sam Adams, Marc Acito and Byron Beck) strutting their stuff in red dresses from local boutiques. Tickets for the event are $75 and include drinks at the New Deal Vodka Bar, food and swag bags.
If you miss those events, you won’t want to miss bingo with the aforementioned Sisters. Every second Sunday of the month, the sisters are pulling balls for cash at the Portland Police Athletic Association Hall (618 SE Alder, portlandsisters.net). But on Sunday, April 19, they will also host a dress exchange in anticipation of the big affair. Doors open at 4pm.
If all that fails you, get creative. Embrace your inner ballerina and make a no-sew tutu. Head to Office Depot for supplies and then whip together a fabulous paper dress. Grab an old t-shirt and make a rocker-chic halter. Or, if nothing else, find a fun cotton dress or lightweight slip and discover the wonders of Rit Dye #5.
That being said, with almost a month until the event, there is still time to hit up those second hand stores. Red Light Clothing Exchange (3590 SE Hawthorne Blvd) has an entire rack of dresses pulled aside just for this shindig. Goodwill (1943 SE Sixth Avenue) and Buffalo Exchange (1036 SW Burnside) both offer a great opportunity to find that one-of-a-kind treasure; and Lord knows Portland has a plethora of great vintage stores to choose from like Magpie (520 SW 9th), Hattie’s (729 E Burnside St # 101).
One last tip: If you decide to shop vintage, do yourself a favor and measure your waist, chest and hips before going in. Those frocks are older than you, baby and chances are, the girls were built just a little bit different back then.
For more information on the Red Dress Party, go to www.reddresspdx.com.

UPDATE:
Red Threads for Model Citizens has been canceled due to low ticket sales. Boo! Make sure you don't miss the big event!

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