Jerry Lee Atwood, perhaps the most prominent Indy-based fashion designer right now, finally showed his work on the Rev red carpet last month. Atwood, a tailor known for embellished Western wear, himself appeared in Vogue earlier this year in his own garments and outfitted the other three designers who were featured alongside him in the story about the Midwest fashion scene. He has also gotten attention for his celebrity clientele, including musicians Post Malone and Lil Nas X. But he doesn’t often get to design for a local event or a local client.
Which made his in-person dress-fitting with Rev committeewoman Michelle Christy special: Atwood usually doesn’t get to do fittings. Most of his clientele is out of town, so he usually works from measurements and sends off a custom design that the client may or may not have tailored elsewhere. The day he was fitting Christy’s sheer mini-dress and bolero jacket, he had just sent a suit to the CEO of Warby Parker for his wedding. But he wouldn’t get to work directly with that client as he did with Christy to make a one-of-a-kind version of his blingy work for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s biggest bash of the year.
The fundraiser for the Indiana University Health Foundation usually kicks off the Indianapolis 500 action in early May, but was canceled last year and bumped to July 31 this year. Christy, who helped put the party together through her work on the committee, was also going to host a VIP two-level pavilion built by her husband’s company and Rev VIP sponsor, EquitiesFirst. So she wanted something extra.
Rev founder and executive director Carol Howard suggested she talk to Atwood. “I’m a theme person,” Christy says of her approach to cocktail attire. “It always looks good for photos.” She also appreciates local artwork and liked the idea of supporting an Indy talent. She and Atwood met to discuss concepts based on a photo of a dress that Christy liked, and they clicked creatively. Atwood put together a silver strapless romper as a base garment and layered sheer black panels on top of it, showing a lot of leg in the asymmetrical cut that is longer in the front than back. They call the silhouette “low-high” instead of the popular “high-low” dresses of recent years. “You want to be sassy and sexy but classy at the same time,” Christy says of dressing for Rev. “It’s more of an edgy event versus others where you’re going to be wearing evening gowns.”
The piece de resistance of Atwood’s outfit was a metallic-silver cropped bolero jacket embellished with an IndyCar on the back, full fringe on both sleeves, and a silk lining illustrated with the IMS’s pagoda by Indy painter Erin Huber. The jacket alone took Atwood about 40 to 50 hours to make.
Christy was torn between two pairs of shoes to pair with the dress. Both Christian Louboutins, one was a Western bootie and the other a fringed wedge. On Rev night, the fringe took the checkered flag. Christy’s husband, Al, wore silver embellished Louboutin sneakers and a suit with a black-on-black camo pattern. Christy, a retired makeup artist, did her own makeup, while the rest of her glam squad included hairstylist Eva at Beauty Lounge, Elite Nails, and independent lash specialist Abra Land.
Anyone who needed a touch-up at Rev could stop by the pop-up salon inside Rev’s VIP area for curls courtesy of Drybar and a makeup session courtesy of Saks Fifth Avenue. One partygoer whose dress ripped even got a quick stitch-up at the Saks counter, too. And as it turned out, the evening’s mild temperatures were perfect bolero weather.