Characteristic Styles

While Steele's demeanor in interviews was calm and sweet, his intensity and ambition radiated through his descriptions of his clothing. "I make the clothes modern women will find utterly desirable; my vision is glamorous, sensuous and a little dangerous and it includes breasts!" (Specter, p. 98).

The on-screen glamor of Diana Ross in the film Mahogany dazzled Steele as a boy; as an African American, he proudly acknowledged her as his muse. His ideal female of the early 2000s had a long neck, even longer legs, and a slim, vibrant body. Marlene Dietrich, Marilyn Monroe, and Josephine Baker were the film sirens who appeared on his inspiration boards. Copies of line drawings by Madeleine Vionnet, Cristobal Balenciaga, Coco Chanel, and Charles James were tacked to the walls of his atelier above random stacks of international periodicals.

Steele's memorable runway presentations attracted the interest of such stylish celebrities as Jennifer Aniston, Naomi Campbell, Erin O'Conner, Lauryn Hill, Meg Ryan, Oprah Winfrey, and Julia Roberts. The atmosphere at his shows compared with the electric excitement of a rock concert. Steele designed a "red carpet" gown in layers of black chiffon with a plunging back and twisted halter detail displaying the shoulder area, which he con-sided an erogenous zone. He watched Aniston walk down the aisle wearing the gown he designed for her wedding in 2001—hand-stitched and seed-pearl-encrusted with a 28-yard skirt of silk tulle. "I wanted the effect of a cloud around her feet" (Alexander, p. 29).

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