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Un-basic Black

Local entertainers add drama to classic black holiday fashions.

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PHOTO #1 (red boa purse & other/ FEET FIRST)

In the bag. Wine-colored silk brocade with gold flowers is the base for a lovely square handbag made even more special with a black boa around the top by KurtMen Design, $110. For an equally contemporary but more classic look, choose a handbag with hand-painted flowers on the front and square sequins around the top for just a touch of holiday sparkle by SXS Collections, $48.99. Both from Feet First (4119 Magazine St., 899-6800; 518 Chartres St., 566-7525).

PHOTO #2 (Peacock & black circle purse/ FEET FIRST)

Feathers and fringe. Deep purple silk creates a lovely handbag, especially when it is decorated with seed beads and peacock feathers, $80.99. A well-rounded handbag is centered with acid-cut velvet bordered in beaded fringe and completed with small beaded-circle handles, $38.99. Both by SXS Collection, from Feet First (4119 Magazine St., 899-6800; 518 Chartres St., 566-7525).

PHOTO #3 (beaded crescent and ball purse/ Feet First)

Shapes of the season. Green, copper and gold beads are stitched into an intriguing and twinkling pattern on this crescent-shaped evening bag, $39.99. For a totally different look, six panels of beaded satin are formed into a ball purse with beaded wrist straps and a hidden-zipper closure, $44.99. Both by Carlo Fellini, from Feet First (4119 Magazine St., 899-6800; 518 Chartres St., 566-7525).

PHOTO #4 (Red "Hot" purse/ Azby's)

Devilishly playful. A perfect size for party "essentials," this small red beaded handbag has beaded fringe, a silver chain and "HOT" woven into the front with silver and black beads, $88, from Azby's (5531 Magazine St., 895-1311).

PHOTO #5 (ties or single tie/ Perlis)

Tie-ing up men's fashion. Finish your classic look with a pure silk tie in classic black with Oxford weave texture by the Hickey-Freeman Collection, $85; or add some panache with a background of black silk made more interesting with gold teardrop shapes cascading askew in the forefront by Robert Talbott Studio, $65; both from Perlis (6070 Magazine St., 895-8661).

PHOTO #6 (three brooches/ Mignon Faget)

In perfect shape. Whether you prefer classic clean lines or the whimsy of a cluster of semi-precious stone-studded circles, Mignon Faget has the brooch to fit your taste, prices start at $450, from Mignon Faget Ltd. (197 Westbank Expwy., Oakwood Centre, Gretna, 227-0302; 710 Dublin St., 865-7361; 333 Canal Street, Canal Place, 524-2973; 3801 Magazine St., 891-2005; 3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Lakeside Shopping Center, Metairie, 835-2244).

PHOTO #7 (brooches in face shape/ Mignon Faget)

Face of fashion. Your favorite girl will put on a happy face when she adds one or more of these brooches from designer Mignon Faget's new line to her wardrobe. Minerals and gemstones such as smoky quartz, aquamarine and chalcedon are placed in silver brooches with shapes such as rectangles and ovals and some with textured borders, prices range from $450 for platinum-clad silver to $1,350 for rutilated quartz in a 14-karat gold setting, from Mignon Faget Ltd. (197 Westbank Expwy., Oakwood Centre, Gretna, 227-0302; 710 Dublin St., 865-7361; 333 Canal Street, Canal Place, 524-2973; 3801 Magazine St., 891-2005; 3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Lakeside Shopping Center, Metairie, 835-2244).

PHOTO #8 (black knee boots or closeup of the cupid image/ Azby's)

Love those boots. Clusters of roses and winged cherubs are engraved into this shiny black leather knee-high boot with a side zipper for easy pull-on by Via Spiga, $345, from Azby's (5531 Magazine St., 895-1311).

PHOTO #9 (martini glasses/ Metairie Photo & Gifts)

Dressy drinks. High fashion glassware that's perfect for holiday entertaining (it's plastic) features martini glasses with a pimento-stuffed olive sculpted on the stem, $6.95 each; and clear acrylic cocktail picks with tiny olives on the ends, $12.95 for set of six; all from Metairie Photo & Gifts (246 Metairie Road, Metairie, 834-8693).

PHOTO #10 (black ankle boots with back lace-up/ Feet First)

Lacing up fancy footwork. The tasseled lace-up in the back is just for design, this mid-calf spike heel boot features a side zipper for ease by Nine West, $118.99, from Feet First (4119 Magazine St., 899-6800; 518 Chartres St., 566-7525).

PHOTO #11 (Fur-topped boots/ )

Fur-pect for your feet. What could be better than a black suede, low-heel ankle boot? How about one with a fur trim around the top and a side zipper by Art Effects, $64.99, from Feet First (4119 Magazine St., 899-6800; 518 Chartres St., 566-7525).

PHOTO #12 (crystal buckle shoe/ Feet First)

Crystal palace peds. A minimalist shoe that makes a big statement, Pierre Dumas combined a narrow strap around the toes and a wider strap with a crystal-encrusted buckle around the top of the foot in a high-heel slide, $29.99, from Feet First (4119 Magazine St., 899-6800; 518 Chartres St., 566-7525).

PHOTO #13 (Raphaelle in black boa sweater with black metal chair)

A love for originality and drama are what draw actress Raphaelle to the stage. Currently appearing in the play Trust Fund Babies and with a one-woman show in the works, Raphaelle is a licensed massage therapist by day to support her penchant for acting, which ranges in style from comedy to classic (she was nominated for a best actress award for her portrayal of Lady MacBeth in mikko's production of the Shakespeare classic.

"I started out doing political satire and cabaret, but I've been very fortunate to sample a little of everything," she says. "I consider myself more of a dramatic actress." She doesn't limit herself however, and has even performed a part in the puppet show Amadeus. "I like exploring -- improvisation, free-form, dancing."

Her wardrobe is equally multi-faceted, accommodating the need for comfortable clothes that are easy to move in for her massage work as well as spunky elegance for nights on the town.

"My closet is very versatile," Raphaelle says. "I like to wear hats and have a wardrobe that can go anywhere -- with as many hats as I can wear."

Here Raphaelle's playful side comes to life in a black angora sweater with a plunging front neckline and a feather boa around the front opening and a tie belt by Betsey Johnson, $185; and a hand-carved medallion with a black flower set against a red background and dangling from a black bead necklace, $89.95. Those are paired with pressed tooling on soft leather contoured, fully lined pants by Poleci, $475.95, all three from Hemline (3025 Magazine St., 269-4005; 7916 Maple St., 862-0420; 609 Chartres St., 529-3566; www.hemlinenola.com). The look is finished with the ultimate classic black shoe: a slip-on with a sharp squared toe, grosgrain fabric and a spike heel by Anne Klein, $84.99, from Feet First (4119 Magazine St., 899-6800; 518 Chartres St., 566-7525).

PHOTO #14 (Raphaelle and Stacy on love seat)

Anything but basic. Actresses Raphaelle and Stacy Taliancich add a chic edge to basic black. Raphaelle makes a lasting impression in a super-sheer gauzy knit V-neck slipover blouse with long, exaggerated bell sleeves by Veneccia, $37, from Dress To Kill (207 Dauphine St., 558-9111). On the bottom she's wearing leather pants by Poleci, $475.95; and soft black leather pull-on boots with a sexy spike heel and sharp toe by Rebels, $115.95, both from Hemline (3025 Magazine St., 269-4005; 7916 Maple St., 862-0420; 609 Chartres St., 529-3566; www.hemlinenola.com).

Black netting over a solid black underslip sets an intriguing tone for Stacy, made more dynamic with an off-center front snap closure on a close-fitting, long-sleeve memory-maker by Poleci, $220. To increase the romance, she's added leather knee-high boots embossed with a design of cherubs and by Via Spiga, $345; both from Azby's (5531 Magazine St., 895-1311).

PHOTO #15 (Stacy in lace robe on love seat)

Multi-dimensional performance artist Stacy Taliancich says her preferences in stage acting take many forms -- drama, comedy, musicals -- and her artistic talents also include costume designing and making three-dimensional masks.

A member of the cast for Last of the Red Hot Lovers and The Rhymers of Eldridge among other plays, Taliancich says she likes the diversity available in the performing arts.

"I like doing, drama, comedy, musicals," she says. "I was probably singing before I was acting. I just like entertaining."

When it comes to fashion, the actress also exercises a multi-dimensional approach that firmly grounded in great looking footwear.

"I have a really different style," Taliancich says. "Ever since I was little, I used to wear different things than other people. I used to want to be a fashion designer, so now I do costumes."

Here she's raised the drama a couple of notches with a long black floral-lace, contoured-fit rob jacket with a ruffled collar by Casadei, $205, from Azby's (5531 Magazine St., 895-1311).

For her footwear, leather ribbons are knotted together in a spunky but dainty high-heel mule by Charles David, $145, from Hemline (3025 Magazine St., 269-4005; 7916 Maple St., 862-0420; 609 Chartres St., 529-3566; www.hemlinenola.com).

PHOTO #16 (Fredy Omar/ tuxedo)

For Latin crooner Fredy Omar, entertaining crowds is a way of life and dressing for occasions just adds to the drama of the romantic Latin rhythms that emanate from his multiple award-winning group, Fredy Omar con su Banda. Born in Honduras, Omar came to New Orleans for a Jazz Festival and decided there was a place here for a music group that explored all the aspects of Latin music -- merengue, salsa, cumbia, Latin jazz, mambo, cha cha cha, bolero and tango -- which the group does every Friday at the Blue Nile. He also plays for special events, such as the Hispanic Apostolate Gala Fundraiser in Kenner Nov. 9, and has a gig at Café Brasil on Nov. 16. He also is working on a new CD.

"I think there is a need in New Orleans to have a band that covers much of the Latin dance styles," he says. "Other Latin bands cover merengue and salsa or Latin jazz. We cover practically everything."

When it comes to fashion, Omar believes there's room for a little spice along with classic elegance. "When I'm on stage, I usually have a shiny shirt. Usually the pants, jacket and shoes are black, but not the shirt," he says. "I'm practically addicted to shirts -- shiny ones, usually red. The shirt is my signature."

He looks quite elegant and comfortable in a black tuxedo with a shawl-lapel jacket and pleated front slacks. It's paired with a houndstooth-plaid vest, pleated-front tuxedo shirt, black suspenders and bow tie, and black enamel cufflinks and button studs as well as black patent leather, tie-front shoes. Call for rental prices, from Perlis (6070 Magazine St., 895-8661).

PHOTO# 17 (group shot of three: Veronica, Diana, Fredy)

Dancer Veronica Oliver (lounging) is wearing a black leather strapless camisole with a lacey cut-out pattern on the front that allows a seductive red lining to peek through, $228; and black satin brocade fitted pants, $200; both by Laundry, from Azby's (5531 Magazine St., 895-1311). She's well heeled in a mid-calf boot with a spike heel and ornamental back lace-up by Nine West, $118.99, from Feet First (4119 Magazine St., 899-6800; 518 Chartres St., 566-7525).

Actress and educator Diana Shortes gets in character with a black velvet open-sleeve cape lined in green satin by Thangs Designs, $135, from Feet First (4119 Magazine St., 899-6800; 518 Chartres St., 566-7525) over a black velvet A-line, elastic-waist skirt with a diagonal hemline decorated with long shawl fringe by Laundry, $148, from Azby's (5531 Magazine St., 895-1311). She ends the dramatic portrait with strappy high-heel mules with knotted leather ribbons by Charles David, $145, from Hemline (3025 Magazine St., 269-4005; 7916 Maple St., 862-0420; 609 Chartres St., 529-3566; www.hemlinenola.com).

Musician Fredy Omar dons a contemporary take on classic with a pure wool, three-button black suit with a boutonniere hole and front flap pockets on the jacket and pleated-front slacks, $350; matched with an impeccably tailored white shirt by Ike Behar, $89.50; and a black silk tie by the Hickey-Freeman Collection, $85; all from Perlis (6070 Magazine St., 895-8661).

PHOTO #18 (Veronica in leather skirt and circle shirt)

Former Shim Shamette Veronica Oliver likes beauty with an edge and diversity both in her performances and in her fashion. Her performance venues include go-go dancing at the Shim Sham Club, acting, modeling and guitar playing. The latter, she admits, is mostly in her French Quarter living room, but she has had passersby stop and ask to come in to listen to the rock-n-roll/garage/indie music that pours from her instrument.

As in her performance arts, Oliver says she also likes to move among different styles in clothing. "I like simple but with something interesting," she says. "I dress anywhere from funky eclectic to dressed-up chic."

Because of her go-go dancing and a general affinity for the styles of the '50s and '60s, she has a lot of mini skirts and go-go boots in her closet alongside contemporary boutique items.

"I go in any direction," Oliver says. "Growing up in New Orleans, I learned from an early age to go from thrift stores to Saks to find outfits. I do kind of go for simple, hand-sewn stuff, but I also love high fashion and the dramatic."

She plays up the dramatic in a drop-waist circular black leather skirt with an invisible side zipper by ABS, $215.95. It's topped with a sheer silk tunic that has a quilted stand-up collar and front opening as well as leather circles on the front and shoulders by Vivienne Tam, $198.95; both from Hemline (3025 Magazine St., 269-4005; 7916 Maple St., 862-0420; 609 Chartres St., 529-3566; www.hemlinenola.com). The effect is intensified with black and lace and smoky beads adorning a high-heel sandal made more spectacular with a ribbon ankle tie by Nine West, $69.99, from Feet First (4119 Magazine St., 899-6800; 518 Chartres St., 566-7525).

PHOTO #19 (Diana Shortes in ruffle dress)

As an actress, Diana Shortes has played many characters and assumed many looks, but the one part she couldn't quite nail was that of waitress, a failing that helped immerse her more deeply in a career in the arts.

"I was a waitress as well as an actress when I was fired for the third time in six months for being in the theater," she recalls. "I decided it was a sign that I either wasn't meant to be in the arts or wasn't meant to be a waitress." Luckily, the arts won.

Currently acting in the stage play, Trust Fund Babies, Shortes says she also is working with friend and producer Tristan Codrescu to mount a production of Oscar Wilde's Salome. She also teaches acting for opera to students at UNO and works with the House of Blues Foundation to teach children about the history of the blues. "Both of the things that I'm doing now utilize my creativity," she says, and Shortes has lots of that.

For the actress, changing costumes -- whether for the stage or a night on the town -- provides an opportunity to play a new part whether it's edgy or ultra feminine.

"People are often surprised when they see me dressed up," Shortes says. "I make no bones about the fact that I'm a pretty staunch feminist, but I like to dress up." Last time she visited her mother, she admits, she found her childhood dress-up trunk and was struck by her disappointment that all the best costumes and jeweled shoes are made for young tykes.

"They don't make those great dress-up things for adults," she says. "I like the drama of fashion. For me, it's not about making an impression for myself so much as making a statement with the clothes."

Shortes let her feminine side fly here in a V-neck dress with sheer ruffles cascading at an angle to enhance a romantic ambience and playful grace, $389. She dressed it up with a choker that boasts a half-dozen strands of pearls united by an art deco center medallion with crystal embellishments, $359, both from Yvonne LaFleur (8131 Hampson St., 866-9666; www.yvonnelafleur.com). To finish the vision, three strands of seed-bead adorned straps are united with a beaded center square on low-heel party slides by Unisa, $54.99, from Feet First (4119 Magazine St., 899-6800; 518 Chartres St., 566-7525).

PHOTO #20 (necklace on jpeg/ Katy Beh)

A truly unique one-of-a-kind 18-karat gold coil necklace by Sydney Lynch is embellished with drusy onyx, tourmaline, melanite, diamonds and a South Sea pearl, $3,115, from Katy Beh (3701 Magazine St., 896-9600; www.katybeh.com).

PHOTO #21 (stacks of rings/ Katy Beh)

Pick up a jewel of a ring in this selection of titanium and 24-karat yellow gold with a variety of embellishments by Wes and Gold, prices range from $325 to $1,350, from Katy Beh (3701 Magazine St., 896-9600; www.katybeh.com).

THE ARTISTS:

Hair styling: Craig Orr and Salvador Marciante for Salvador Joseph's Salon

Makeup: Glenn Moseley

Models: Veronica Oliver, Fredy Omar, Raphaelle, Diana Shortes and Stacy Taliancich

Photography: Romney Photography

FASHION RESOURCES:

Azby's 5531 Magazine St., 895-1311

Dress To Kill 207 Dauphine St., 558-9111

Feet First 4119 Magazine St., 899-6800; 518 Chartres St., 566-7525

Glenn Moseley (makeup artist) By appointment, 400-0018

Hemline 3025 Magazine St., 269-4005; 7916 Maple St., 862-0420; 609 Chartres St., 529-3566; www.hemlinenola.com

Katy Beh 3701 Magazine St., 896-9600; www.katybeh.com

Metairie Photos & Gifts 246 Metairie Road, Metairie, 834-8693

Mignon Faget Ltd. 197 Westbank Expwy., Oakwood Centre, Gretna, 227-0302; 710 Dublin St., 865-7361; 333 Canal Street, Canal Place, 524-2973; 3801 Magazine St., 891-2005; 3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Lakeside Shopping Center, Metairie, 835-2244

Perlis 6070 Magazine St., 895-8661

Romney Photography By appointment, 366-1808

Salvador Joseph's Salon 5918 Magazine St., 895-5505

Yvonne LaFleur 8131 Hampson St., 866-9666; www.yvonnelafleur.com

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