NEW YORK -- To say it was larger than life is, well, putting it mildly.
In a clearly unintentional ode to Fellini, Lane Bryant's spring lingerie show entitled "The Big Kiss," featured that iconic Seventies glam band of mythic proportions, Kiss. Unlike many alumni of the show "Behind the Music," Kiss is actually intact with all four original members: Paul Stanley, Peter Criss, Ace Frehley and, of course, Mr. Big Licks himself, Gene Simmons, who repeatedly wagged his python-length tongue at practically every female editor in the audience.
Showing they weren't afraid of a little overexposure either, the group performed in full-face Satanic makeup, black and silver spandex that surprisingly revealed still-buff bodies, platform boots and a full display of pyrotechnics including fireworks and ear-deafening, bomb-like sound effects.
The mixed bag of an audience included the mandatory fashion editors and men in suits, as well as the Bay Ridge sort -- apparently longtime Kiss fans -- and Roseanne Barr, a fan of large-size lingerie. The band performed four of their classic hits, spicing things up when Stanley removed his shirt and Simmons let loose with his trademark tongue flicking.
Asked why Lane Bryant had selected Kiss to represent the desire -- and in some cases, unrequited love -- of its consumers, Dorrit J. Bern, president, chairman, and chief executive officer of Lane Bryant's parent company Charming Shoppes Inc., replied: "Our customer loves excitement and fun. She's very adventurous."
Another company executive was more blunt: "All women love Kiss -- young or old. It's a tongue thing."
"It's so great to see all of these healthy, all-American women," said Stanley as he did a bump and grind.
Speaking of mythic proportions, tons of applause was showered on the scantily clad models who paraded down the runway unabashed and unflinching, proudly flaunting their Rubenesque figures, of which most were in the size 14 and over range. In addition to the usual roster of professional models, celebrity models such as Carre Otis (a plus at size 10) Joanie Laurer, formerly known as Chyna from the WWF, Mia Tyler and Kate Dillon walked the runway flanked by the ultimate pretty boys, Marcus Schenkenberg and Tyson Beckford.Schenkenberg often looked blase and bored, while Beckford -- with a devilish gleam in his eye -- apparently was enjoying the spectacle.
The biggest curiosity, though, was former Playmate of the Year and infamous widow Anna Nicole Smith -- perhaps one of the unrequited loved ones. A comfy size 12 no longer, Smith appeared to still be reeling from all of her legal troubles as she sashayed, or more accurately stumbled, down the runway preening her long blonde locks and caressing her torso. But this was, after all, Lane Bryant, the company that built its empire with the credo that size does not dictate style.
The lingerie offers all that and more. Postage-size G-strings and dental-floss sized thongs, push-up demi-bras, and dominatrix-inspired corsets and garters with the latest in embroidery, sequins and lace are now available in sizes 14-28 -- or in lingerie lingo -- L, XL, XXL and XXXL. To mix things up, Lane Bryant paired lingerie looks with sportswear pieces such as sexy lace-up, low-rise jeans, chiffon mini tunic dresses, peasant blouses, rawhide fringed bralets, leopard vests and allover stretch lace gowns that left little to the imagination. The accessory de nuit: black leather stiletto-heeled boots.
The finale ended with what one bystander called a "Viagra moment," as Simmons incessantly licked his lips and ground his hips as he and his crew followed the plus-size harem off stage.
Lane Bryant clearly doesn't have the cachet of the equally risque Victoria's Secret -- although 55 percent of women are considered plus size in the U.S. and the category is the fastest-growing one at even a Frederick's of Hollywood. Yet while they haven't yet reached the prime-time TV scene, Lane Bryant started broadcasting the show on the Web yesterday. The company hoped the show, now in its third edition, would make for an exciting start to New York show week. And clearly it was a big success.
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