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Designer's costumes helpful and high fashion, too

| Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2012, 8:59 p.m.
Jasmine Goldband
Michele Garris of Moon Township makes hand made costumes including these 'black swan,' 'white swan' and 'red bird' real feather corsets with sequin trim detail. Tuesday, September 4, 2012. Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Jasmine Goldband
Michele Garris of Moon Township is a costume designer. Tuesday, September 4, 2012. Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Jasmine Goldband
Costume tights sold by Michele Garris of Moon Township, a costume designer. Tuesday, September 4, 2012. Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Black Swan feather corset costume ($169.95) by Glamour House, available at www.chelseasofnewyork.com. Photo credit: Mark Brosius of Pittsburgh

Michele Garris likes to be someone she's not, and she enables other females to take on a new — sometimes edgy — identity, too, if just for one night.

Garris founded the website www.chelseasofnewyork.com. It's an online shop where women can purchase sexy costumes, fun accessories and shoes. Choices include everything from a sailor girl to a French maid to a naughty nurse.

“Halloween is my favorite time of year,” says the Moon resident, who is originally from Uniontown. “I love costumes because they give you a chance to maybe be someone you would never be in real life.”

You can see the outfits Garris is talking about Friday at a cocktail party and fashion show called “Costumes for a Cause,” which benefits the American Heart Association's Pittsburgh chapter of Go Red for Women Campaign. The event is presented by Chelsea's of New York and Diana Rua Media.

Garris and Rua teamed after discovering a connection — both lost their fathers to a heart disease. So, Rua was more than willing to help with the show, she says. Garris says all of the fashion shows she does for the heart association are in memory of her dad.

More than 35 models will preview unique and upscale costumes for Halloween 2012 by Glamour House, Roma Costume, J. Valentine and Starline. The celebrity host is Katarina Van Derham, a cover girl and actress who is the St. Pauli Girl Beer spokesmodel.

“I love doing this event, because I want to help get the word out to young people that heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women,” Garris says.

Garris website offers more than 500 costumes and 1,500 products. Garris says trending this year are corset and faux-fur animal costumes. Two popular choices are the black swan and sexy peacock.

Garris recently began designing her own costume line, where she embellishes pre-made corset with feathers, sequins, rhinestones, etc. She plans to start selling her designs online next month.

She began selling gowns online because she needed one for a modeling gig and wasn't able to purchase just one that she liked. So, she bought six and sold five. She started her website in 2004 with dresses and added costumes on a whim. They sold right away.

Prices for costumes start at $50.

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at jharrop@tribweb.com or 412-320-7889.

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