Ever the showman, Thom Browne invites fashion fans to worship at his wacky church

The Associated Press

A model walks the runway during the presentation of the Thom Browne Fall 2014 collection in New York, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

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By JOCELYN NOVECK, Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — After the crowd had been waiting more than a half-hour for Thom Browne's runway show to start on Monday, listening to extremely loud, church-type music, there was finally a sign that things were about to begin. The lights dimmed, and the music stopped.

"Thank God!" a male voice yelled out, and the place broke out in titters. Everyone was feeling the same impatience.

But that line was funny for another reason: Browne, whose fashion shows are actually elaborate theatrical productions, had transformed the Chelsea gallery space into a giant church. Wooden pews filled the room. There were huge crosses on the walls. Candles burned, and the smell of incense wafted through. Everyone was simply waiting for the priest — or someone — to get things started.

Once it did get going, the show was a lot of fun, although like most of Browne's shows, the clothes on display bore little resemblance to what he would actually put in stores.

Models with white-haired wigs walked slowly — very slowly — and stiffly down the runway, wearing garments that were beautifully made but frankly looked like the entire costume collection from a Tim Burton movie. The clothes — long skirts and jackets, mostly — had a vaguely Victorian feel, but also hyper-exaggerated elements like absurdly long sleeves or crazy puffed-out shoulders.

They were gorgeous, though. So if Browne wants to put on a theater presentation rather than a practical runway show, why not? Let's remember that Michelle Obama wore Thom Browne during last year's inauguration, and she didn't look anything like these wacky characters. Thom Browne the actual designer is a wholly different creature than Thom Browne the showman.

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