If "Project Runway" could do it, why couldn't Louisiana's Old State Capitol?

Designers in the reality fashion competition have sometimes been tasked with using architecture for inspiration. And curator Lauren Davis knew the Old State Capitol's magnificent stained glass, turrets and neo-Gothic design could provide that same challenge for local designers.

The result is "Architecturally Inspired: Fashion Celebrating the Old State Capitol," an exhibit of a dozen party dresses all with hallmarks of the structure.

Davis partnered with the LSU Department of Textiles, Apparel Design and Merchandising, School of Theatre and School of Art and Design in creating the exhibit, which runs through Sept. 14.

Designers focused on party wear in keeping with the yearlong 25th celebration of the old capitol's renovation.

"I knew we didn't need a history exhibit, because we'd already installed the exhibit downstairs documenting the building's history," Davis said. "We needed something fun to celebrate our anniversary."

Something like a party.

Davis teamed with Casey Stannard, an assistant professor in the LSU Department of Textiles, Apparel Design and Merchandising. Stannard contacted LSU Textile and Apparel Design alumni, local professional designers, students in the department's master's program and professors.

Davis took the designers on a tour of the structure, and each found inspiration from different parts of the building. They were given six months to complete the project.

The capitol's stained glass dome is its most popular feature and is represented in several of the dresses.

"But some of the designers also found inspiration in our spiral staircase," Davis said.

Stannard also joined in by creating a cocktail dress inspired by the windows over the Old State Capitol's entry.

"I thought about how the building looked at night and how the windows glowed against the night sky," she said. "This is reflected in the design."

Each dress is different in style and time period. Grace Chetta's cocktail dress looks like something straight out of the "Mad Men" era of the late 1950s and early '60s. Both her design and color were inspired by the fence surrounding the building.

Dawn Sapp stepped back a few years to the 1940s for her design inspired by the intense colors of the Old State Capitol's stained glass with pockets and neckline detailing inspired by the building's crenelated towers and ramparts.

But the true showstopper is LeAnne Zambito's ballgown designed to resemble the stained glass dome topping the capitol's rotunda.

"My intentions were to design and create a garment that reflects women attending a party at the capitol at the time of its inception," the LSU design alumna explained in her artist's statement. "With this in mind, I wanted it to be the focal point of the party, just as the ceiling is to the building."

In some cases, designers used digital textile printers to reproduce the building's interior decor on the dresses. Step outside the second floor gallery, look up and see those same swirls and four-sided, clover-like quatrefoil just below the stained glass rotunda.

"Some of the designers are planning to market their designs after the show," Stannard said. "This building is so unique and provided so many sources of inspiration. It was a fun project."

Architecturally Inspired: Fashion Celebrating the Old State Capitol

An exhibit of dress designs inspired by Louisiana's Old State Capitol

WHEN: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays; 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. Through Sept. 14.

WHERE: Louisiana's Old State Capitol, 100 North Blvd.


INFORMATION: (225) 342-0500 or louisianaoldstatecapitol.org.

Email Robin Miller at romiller@theadvocate.com