Swanning Around

Not-so-extreme makeovers that'll put you far ahead of the fashion pack

Spending the spring flat on your back, transfixed by Extreme Makeover? Supine on the sofa, staring at The Swan? Good news! You don't need a tummy tuck, liposuction, jaw realignment, breast enhancement, chin implant, brow lift, or any other invasive surgical procedure to look better and feel better. Follow our helpful guide and you too can become, at least briefly, a whole different person—and the best part is, our way is totally reversible. If you're not absolutely thrilled by your big "reveal," just take off that quirky outfit, scrub your face, and start all over again.

Why not try these scalpel-free transformations on for size?

Avenue B Brunette to Bergdorf Blonde: Trade those Filthmart jeans in for a shrunken seersucker blazer ($179) and a jaunty pleated skirt ($89) from CLUB MONACO, the place for ersatz designer goods that are guaranteed to give you that I-work-in-an-art-gallery-but-don't-really-need-the-money look. Though a pair of genuine Choos and one of those infernal Birkins will boost the verisimilitude of your ensemble, all is not lost if you're reduced to Nine Wests and a jelly Kelly. Or maybe you should just dump the purse and go barefoot: Pretend you're one of those women who buy their St. Barts-bound duds at Calypso on Mott Street, where tiered cotton skirts and sparkly Indian tunics are in the $200-to-$250 range. Only you don't go to Calypso; you go around the corner to DÖ KHAM(51 Prince Street), where similar skirts are $65 and those Indian shirts, albeit absent the sprinkle of sequins and relying merely on traditional embroidery for embellishment, are currently $30 in thin cotton, $40 in tissue silk.

Williamsburg Waif to Museum Moll: The spectacular "Dangerous Liaisons: Fashion and Furniture in the 18th Century" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute may make you wish you were a femme du mondewith a mile-high coiffure, but where are you going to get a robe à la polonaise? Nowhere, that's where. Evoke the naughty, bawdy spirit of the 18th century instead with a visit to VICTORIA'S SECRET, where a corset that consists mostly of spidery crisscross lacings in front and nothing but a thong and a few paltry strings in back is $58. Or head for the Brooklyn Museum and take in the retrospective of the late, great Patrick Kelly, whose cheerful, rambunctious clothes and outsize personality caused such a stir in the '80s. Get the Kelly look by fishing a plain black dress out of your closet and decorating it with multicolored plastic buttons the way Kelly used to do. At the ancient K TRIMMING (519 Broadway), a retail holdout from long before Soho was Soho, the prices are as antediluvian as the setting: Along with all manner of bargain braid, rickrack, patches, studs, beads, and practically anything else you can stick or sew on fabric is a selection of buttons, so vast as to be uncountable, priced from 25 cents to $1.25.

Gap Galumpher to Galliano Gal: Why settle for chain store duds when you can look like you just stepped off a Paris runway? At FREAKS LOUNGE (18 West 8th Street), the stock is so cheerfully nutty it could have come from the fevered dreams of the mad John Galliano, only here everything is less than $100 rather than more than $1,000. An ankle-length, skintight cotton-knit dress features three faces of someone who looks like Alex in A Clockwork Orange but turns out, we surmise, to be a member of the Adicts, since that is what's inscribed over his trio of heads ($99); short as it is, a minuscule Chinese silk skirt sports black tulle ruff at its frisky hem ($54). Galliano too tame for you? Then go to style.com and take a look at Rei Kawakubo's Comme des Garçons collections: For spring 2004 she features virtually topless models clad in humongous skirts; for fall 2004 the mannequins' lipstick covers only half their mouths, an innovative—and inexpensive!—way to stay ahead of the fashion pack. This special makeup will take practice, so hightail it over to SEPHORA, where $45 will buy a kit by Lola that contains 12 little lipsticks and is called the Gloss Menagerie (Tennessee is rolling). Now just take off your shirt, make up half your face, put on the weirdest skirt you can find, and get ready for your big reveal.


lyaeger@villagevoice.com

 
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