Shapes at the movies 

What better place to while away midwinter afternoons than here in the dark, the curtain drawn? Poised for the dramatic, imagination straining toward spring with its bursting colors, quickening senses and the sensual brush of the first warm night's breeze along bare shoulders. Think the elegance of Veronica Lake or Sophia Loren's sultriness, with a bit of Winona Ryder's girlish, down-to-earth chic. In any case, the theater is your own and the setting as lavish or spare as you like.

Minimalism is not the first word here, or in many designers' vocabularies this spring. A return to lighthearted opulence, with a healthy dose of humor, seems imminent this year. Eighties retro? Well, a little, but not quite. Let's just say the abominations of excess (shoulder pads, garish patterns and heavy-on-the-glue-gun adornments) have been left to rest in peace.

Instead, a little sparkle, even for day, and a reacquaintance with bright colors and shimmer-in-the-light fabrics are welcome shifts away from years of sensible somberness. It's the stuff of fairy tales. Well-placed sequins are showing up on the ordinary likes of miniskirts, T-shirts and sandals, while rhinestones, Austrian crystal and beads are lighting up everything from dark denim to frothy tulle. Daring and imaginative, but feminine to the core.

Utterly in sync with this new sensibility is Shapes boutique in Royal Oak, the 6-year-old creation of local designer Treas Charow. Charow was last featured in the Metro Times in the late '80s for her clothing line called Cat's Meow. These days, she doubles as Shapes shop owner and bridal gown-clothing designer extraordinaire. Bridal customers flock to her for both one-of-a-kind gown designs and couture reproductions. Although she operates from her shop, Shapes is not a bridal boutique.

Entering the store's well-lit and artfully adorned interior, the eye immediately darts in every direction. Against one wall is a collection of sexy black items, including a sequined dress - near the front is a leopard print jacket - in the back are racks of long, movie-star-quality evening gowns and a table set with an array of glittering hand-designed necklaces fit for a modern-day Marilyn.

Charow provides an eclectic selection of women's clothing, some of her own creation and others by a few favorite brands, such as ABS. She also carries pieces from fellow local designer Pamela Fisher, select items from a designer in Latvia, as well as clothing from others. "We're a small store, but we carry a lot of different styles," she says.

Although she has an eye for future-forward designs, Charow claims, "You'll always get a hint of period dressing in here. I've always loved corseted (clothing), lace, the Romantics." She favors non-minimalistic designs, but "with clean lines, and not many prints or stripes. I like fitted, sexy, feminine, color and sparkle."

Charow draws inspiration from couture designers such as Christian Lacroix. "I aspire to haute couture because it's hand-made. They manipulate textures, fabrics, colors and I like doing that."

Accordingly, many of her creations and alterations combine unique elements. She often hand-dyes fabrics for a particular result, such as color gradation, or attaches pieces of jewelry or other adornments to clothing.

For spring, Shapes will feature more sparkle, intensity and fresh color combinations. Like some of the best new fashion ideas, the effect is subtly startling, alluring and perhaps even a little mysterious. And what could be more feminine?

Shapes is at 208 W. Eleven Mile Rd., Royal Oak. Call 248-547-4990.

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