The Crowd: Raising a French toast to fashion

April 17, 2014|By B.W. Cook
  • Fashion historian Maxwell Barr with Women of Chapman member Mona Nesseth, who was responsible for his appearance.
Fashion historian Maxwell Barr with Women of Chapman… (John Saade )

He worked on wardrobe design for stars Loretta Young and Marilyn Monroe through his association with the house of Jean Louis. His film and television credits for costume design run the gamut from the classics to the comics.

He is Maxwell Barr, originally from Sydney, Australia, a man who has dedicated life and career to the world of fashion design. Today, he teaches and lectures worldwide, predominantly on his own particular passion: the 18th-century French royal court. Among his favorite subjects: the style and fashion sense of Madame de Pompadour, Louis XV's notorious mistress.

Recently, Barr appeared on the runway at Elizabeth An's chic AnQi dining room at South Coast Plaza. The invited guest host for the Women of Chapman University's spring luncheon confab, Barr presented a unique program based on "Fashion in the Age of Louis XV."

Using an elegant, very slim, very pale-faced model with powdered platinum blonde hair pulled back and fashioned in 18th century style, Barr, with assistance from two female wardrobe dressers attired in all-black tunics over trousers, proceeded to dress her and narrate in detail the fashion trends of women of means more than two centuries ago.


From petticoat to ball gown, the model was attired in authentic period costume, each garment created with painstaking detail at great expense by hand over weeks. Barr based the design of the clothing on his extensive historical research as well as drawings and paintings from the period, again focused in particular on Madame de Pompadour and Marie Antoinette.

The AnQi dining room was a sellout, filled with the O.C.'s very well-dressed philanthropic crowd seated at long, rectangular tables placed at 90-degree angles off of the fashion runway. Event co-chairs Donna Bunce and Donna Calvert led the glamour charge, which included Chapman donors Patricia Cranford, Nancy Burnett, Adrienne Brandes, Donna Anderson, Bette Aitken and Women of Chapman President Donna Bianchi.

Also in the crowd were Pat Allen, Zee Allred, Tricia Bailey, Laura Baratta, Kathy Hamilton, Sue Hook, Joan Riach Gayner, Eve Ruffatto, Grace Thelen and Susan Van Cleve, to name only a few. The ladies celebrated with a pre-event champagne reception before sitting down to a wonderful three-course luncheon prepared in the signature AnQi Asian fusion style, offering unusual and memorable flavorful delicacies.

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