Professional designers and costume connoisseurs will merge on the streets of the Short North Saturday for Highball Halloween, the neighborhood's second-annual street party.

Professional designers and costume connoisseurs will merge on the streets of the Short North Saturday for Highball Halloween, the neighborhood's second-annual street party.

And for the second year, a Project Runway participant will headline the show.

Dayton native Althea Harper is competing on the current season of the reality TV competition. And while we don't yet know how far her designing skills will get her on Project Runway, it's clear she's since found success in New York City.

Now 25 (she was 23 during the show's taping), Harper works for women's clothing designer Tory Burch while developing her own eponymous line on the side.

Everything's been a whirlwind since the show, Harper said - so much so that as of last week, she hadn't started working on the Halloween costume she'll show at Highball on Saturday.

"I think I might do a gypsy," Harper said, laughing. "At first I was going to do Aphrodite ... it might be a mix; I don't know."

Along with that surprise costume, she'll show four pieces from her spring/summer collection, Assimilation, which she just presented at New York Fashion Week. The female sportswear collection is heavy on contrasting fabric weights and color blocking, she said.

Highball's Costume Couture Fashion Showdown will also include collections from Terri Stevens of last season's Project Runway and, among others, local designers Barb Wallace and Esther Chung.

Following the showdown, Harper will serve as one of several judges for the Highball Halloween Competition. Dressed-up adults can enter in categories like "celebrity look-alikes" and "tag teams," and Harper urges entrants to amp up the drama - and the attitude to match.

"Your attitude in the costume, I think, is just as important as what the costume is," she said.

All this people-watching is what makes Highball the perfect opportunity to showcase local designers, said John Angelo, president of the Short North Business Association, which plans the street party.

"We hope the Project Runway contestants inspire the Highball masqueraders to pull out the stops and go for the best costumes they can imagine," Angelo said. "We know that not everyone is able to invest the energy to create the over-the-top eye candy, but everyone has fun looking at what the others have created."

Show & Tell

Althea Harper grew up in Dayton and graduated from the University of Cincinnati's College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning in 2008. In the current season of Project Runway, which airs Thursdays on Lifetime, Harper's still going strong in the top six. She isn't allowed to discuss the outcome, but she shared her thoughts on being on the show.

Having recently graduated from design school when Project Runway was taped, "I was used to staying up crazy hours and not getting a lot of sleep," she said. "But there are pros and cons to everything, because it's also nice to have lots of experience."

Another pro of being a recent grad? Her DIY skills were still sharp, Harper said. "The more you work in the industry, you don't really sew as much because everything gets manufactured. But I was in school and had been sewing a lot, so I think that helped."