When Ohio State alumna Shiree Houf created intricate art-inspired garments for the competitive 2016 HighBall Halloween Costume Couture Fashion Show, she proudly took home first place.
This year, Houf returns for her sixth time and brings her new runway designs to the 10th anniversary of this two-day celebration of Halloween couture.
“This is an opportunity like no other because they give you a lot of creative freedom… to create whatever the heart desires,” said Houf, who is also an adjunct professor at Columbus College of Art and Design, a full-time mother and currently nine months pregnant.
HighBall, which also features live music and costume contests for the general public, is hosted by the Short North Alliance, located between Goodale Street and Nationwide Boulevard, and is dedicated to raising money for the Short North Arts District.
Betsy Pandora, executive director of SNA and head of HighBall, said this event allows for original designs and is great for the sustainability of the Short North.
“[Local Designers] may not be able to spend all their day creating a couture-style Halloween costume, but this gives them that creative outlet,” she said. “Having an event like this allows for us to continue to support that very diverse, special, small-business community.”
This year, alongside nine other designers and their collections, Houf plans to capture a couture look by showcasing five original garments.
Not wanting to give too much away, the overarching theme for her designs, created from recycled neckties, is inspired by her favorite Disney animated film. Houf’s only hint: Each model holds a bubble-blowing accessory.
Houf said her intricate, head-to-toe designs stem from her background in theater at Miami University, where she found a passion for creating highly accessorized and over-the-top costumes for characters.
“I love to create my own story, and I get to create my own characters,” Houf said. “It’s still encouraging that I can still use my background and education to create something that is impactful.”
But since HighBall is the “nation’s most elaborate costume party,” according to its website, it makes sense why such intricate designs strut down a runway. Pandora said the crowds always love the fashion presentations due to innovation.
“It is truly unlike anything anywhere,” she said. “Watching someone wearing something that is amazingly complicated … you would never anticipate someone to be able to wear it.”
In the past, other designers have created garments that light up or have wings with a span of approximately 14 feet. Houf said seeing the competition during the fashion show makes her nervous, but the talent is impressive.
“The other artists that participate every year are making beautiful, beautiful things,” Houf said. “And I’m nervous every year because the talent represented is amazing, but it’s inspiring.”
Apart from the main fashion show, a second fashion show for the 10th anniversary will honor the past 10 winners by displaying their original or recreated first-place designs.
So even if Houf does not place this year, her new works and some past creations will be available for all HighBall guests to observe and appreciate.
Highball takes place from Oct. 20 to 22 at the Short North Alliance. Tickets start at $10 plus fees via Eventbrite.