Tt’s not hard to spot Carri Schwab in a crowd. She might be wearing a tutu with sky-high stilettos or bright red eyeshadow or a bustier with a handmade headpiece. Whether she’s gallery directing at Robert Lange Studios or on the stage at PURE Theatre, Schwab brings the drama.
THE EARLY DAYS. Schwab’s penchant for wild outfits goes way back. Here’s her take on her first day of first grade: “Got up early and put my outfit together — headpiece lovingly crafted from my mother’s bra and a jaunty ’70s visor with colored grommets worn in a vertical, bonnet-esque fashion. Multiple layers of slips, ribbons, the occasional arm cover from our velvet formal sofa. And, of course, Bea, my blankie, slung lion skin-like over one shoulder.” When her mother saw her, she told her to go change, to which little Schwab said she’d rather just wear her blankie — and nothing else. Her mom called her on her bluff. “I got all the way to school before I figured out what social mores were,” she says. “Huh. Guess things haven’t changed that much.”
GLITTER GLAM. Though she’s known for her outlandish outfits, Schwab says she typically leans toward comfort when choosing what to wear. “I don’t play favorites or labels,” she says. “I actually love outfits that incorporate juxtapositional elements, comfort, and a sense of humor. So, maybe layering two chiffon dresses of couture-clashing patterns with a man’s vest, tights with socks, platforms to dance in. A turban or headgear is usually involved. And glitter. I’ll say it again: glitter. Don’t forget to shine, people.”
GALLERINA. When working at Robert Lange, Schwab says she tends to match the gallery with a homey-modern vibe. “But on show nights, eureka! Time to become the personification of the theme/inspiration/shape/emotion of the featured artist’s work.” For instance, at the recent Megan Aline and Nathan Durfee collaborative show, she wore a 1920s-era flowy white silk gown with white feathers glued in patterns all over her upper body, “like a formerly winged creature learning her newly human form.”
CURTAIN CALL. While Schwab loves putting together unique outfits, sometimes she likes being told what to wear — namely, when she’s acting. “There is freedom in being told what to wear,” she says. “You can relax into the outward skin of a character and work with the costume to dictate imperative details like how to walk, stand, and sit, how to breathe, a character’s social rank, or sense of personal history, etc. In other words, a corseted and bustled lady-in-waiting in the midst of seducing a lover on her best friend’s dressing chamber sofa will speak, sit, and move differently than a meth-head who’s been pacing her apartment for two days in somebody else’s jeans, no bra, and a hoodie.”
NO SCRUBS. This North Carolina native isn’t a big fan of Southern preppy style. “Favorite thing: the dapper way Chucktown gents can sport the seersucker pants with embroidered sailboats all over them with zero sense of irony,” she says. “Gotta give it up for that kind of commitment.”