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Rachel Mara Spring 2009

All photos by Minh Tran

All photos by Minh Tran

The drinks and chitchat flowed contentedly at the downtown Portland Moulé store last Thursday evening, April 30, where Portland designer Rachel Gorenstein presented the latest from her Rachel Mara womenswear line. Originating in Canada, the Moulé stores (there are four) are owned by Gorenstein's family, many of whom were in attendance. The place is something of a superstore—a browsers' paradise of clothing for men and women, as well as gobs of accessories and clever, esoteric household goods from ashtrays to soaps to coffee table books.

Peppered throughout the racks are Rachel Mara pieces, holding their own alongside savvy selections from VPL, Rogan, and Velvet. One of Gorenstein's strengths is her ability to appeal to women of widely varying ages with pieces that manage sexy without sacrificing dignity, the raciest of which were an open-front tunic and a cropped, torso-revealing tuxedo jacket that courted but (barely) avoided tawdriness.

A technical issue that stopped the music early in the show did nothing to dispel the cheerful mood of the proceedings, which kicked off with assistant store manager Annapurna Rogers' rendition of "I Put a Spell on You." The outfits were paraded out from behind a splatter-painted drape, and were primarily sharp, easy-to-wear dresses; blouses in floating, subtly psychedelic prints; and stovepipe khakis and denim. A belted romper (everybody's doing them) elicited quite a bit of interest from the approving throng, as did an effortless drop-waist tunic in a purple and orange silk that was the best pattern of the collection.

The most inventive piece by far was a pair of pants that improbably married a genie shape with petite cargo pockets. Successful in black and silver, they made much less sense in a white that was sheer enough to see the outline of the pocket lining—don't even consider underwear. It was a necessary risk that injected novelty into a collection that aims—and more often succeeds—to please.

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