Try a repurposed necklace to defeat wardrobe boredom

When you’re bored with your wardrobe, consider buying a piece of jewelry that will make your old clothes seem new.

Grants Pass jewelry designer Maria Sparks has mastered the concept of old-to-new. Droves of Art in Bloom revelers patronized her stand at downtown Medford’s annual spring festival last weekend to fawn over necklaces made out of antique women’s wrist watch movements. I was among them.

This jewelry was made to fascinate. I could have spent hours just examining the jewelry’s details, trying to guess which parts came from separate pieces and their time period.

One of the necklaces, which cost $59, depicted a bumble bee made of detailed silver with the body of an industrial Steampunk. Constructed out of the movements of an antique pocket watch, the bee’s body appeared to be a working machine. See the necklace here.

What I love about Sparks’ pieces is not only their ability to fascinate but also the fact that they’re made of reused items, parts that otherwise might not have had any use and were otherwise destined for a landfill. Not to mention that the pieces are made by locals, contributing to our local economy.

Sparks shared her stand with jewelry designer Mystique Jaramillo who crafts some layered necklaces out of antique jewelry.

Layered necklaces and bib necklaces are both popular right now and can give a new character to your basic pieces, but beware of adding them to garments that are already embellished. You could end up looking like a notions rack. Steer clear of ruffles, complicated necklines or busy prints.

You can find Sparks and Jaramillo and their art at the Grants Pass Growers Market from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays at the corner of 4th and F streets.

Their jewelry also is available on a fantastic website, where you also can find unique accessories made by other artisans:

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Do-it-yourself haute couture

There’s a point in every teenage girl’s life when she wants to stop fitting in and start standing out. Kinsey Sutherland, a senior at Eagle Point High School, had reached that point by the time she began considering what to wear for prom, which happens tonight. I wrote about her decision to sew her own gown in an article today about the resurgence of sewing.

TV shows such as Project Runway have served as an important reminder that the only way for a girl on a budget to obtain one-of-a-kind haute couture is to make the garments herself. (Mind you, you’ll need to hone your sewing skills before your creations resemble anything in the haute couture category.)

To design her prom gown, Sutherland visited a website that allows you to design your own wedding gown online, such as the Wedding Dress Creator. She mapped out her look there before finding two patterns she could combine to bring her vision to reality.

She chose a strapless design with a ruched bodice, a midriff panel that was a last-minute save when the dress construction went awry and a flared, paneled skirt that swept the floor.

One of the pieces of material she used for the dress came from the high school’s donation box. If you have some extra material around that you don’t think you’ll ever get around to sewing, consider donating it to the high school’s sewing lab.

The dress is made of toile and midnight blue crinoline set with silver sparkles reminiscent of a starry sky. The gown took her about two weeks to make and cost her $40 to make, versus $100 to $300 to buy her own.

Best of all, Sutherland can rest assured that she won’t see any other girl wearing the same dress.

Sutherland’s design is a good example of how far ambition and determination can carry us in our pursuit of a one-of-a-kind look. The only sewing creations the 18-year-old had to her name before she designed her prom gown was a pair of pajama bottoms and the initial sewing project in Eagle Point High School’s Clothes I class, what’s referred to as a fat-quarter purse.

This is a good project to start on if you’ve never sewn before, as it involves mostly sewing straight lines. It also will give you the first satisfying taste of making something that’s uniquely you. The panels in the deep bag, which I have already envisioned using as an eye-catching gym bag, provide plenty of room for self-expression. Sutherland’s bag had a different color and print in each panel. See Kwik Sew’s pattern.

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Ginger Rogers’ life in clothes

The purple gown Rogers wore in to a women's history event in Texas in 1981, and a pink ostrich feather dress inspired by "Top Hat"

The purple gown Rogers wore in to a women's history event in Texas in 1981, and a pink ostrich feather dress inspired by "Top Hat"

Actress Ginger Rogers’ friends gave her the nickname “Pinky” because pink was her favorite color, according to Rogers’ personal secretary Roberta Olden.

Her fondness for the color was apparent Sunday in a fashion show displaying 20 of Rogers’ personal gowns at Medford’s Rogue Valley Country Club. The show was held to benefit Southern Oregon Historical Society.

“For her nightclub act, she asked (designer) Jean Louis to design something reminiscent of the dress from ‘Top Hat,’” Olden said. “That dress was blue; she wanted pink. That was just Ginger.”

About 25 pairs of Rogers’ shoes were sold at a silent auction before the fashion show, and five gowns were auctioned off live after the show.

We all like to see the human side of a celebrity and learn the small details of their life. I wanted to know her shoe size, so I took a peek inside some of the shoes at the auction to see what size she wore: 6 ½.

Not only were her feet small, she had a tiny waist, 25 inches, according to her official biography site. Olden estimated that Rogers wore a Size 0-2, even in her later years.

“She was very slinky,” Olden said.

Model Olivia Wesner, a Cascade Christian High School freshman, could barely fit into a blue sequin halter dress in a floral print, which Rogers wore in 1958 at the age of 48 on the Bob Hope Show.

“It’s just a little tight in the waist,” Wesner said later.

One gown in particular was a reminder of the British royal wedding last weekend. A long, tight dress in sparkling white that Rogers wore in 1962 for the Ed Sullivan television show was designed by Helen Rose, who also designed Grace Kelly’s wedding dress. Kate Middleton’s wedding gown was reminiscent of the one Kelly wore when she was married.

Rogers’ gowns and coats elicited gasps of delight from the audience of 300 as they came to life down the runway. One stunning number was the “Top Hat”-inspired ostrich feather dress in bright pink.

Another purple gown with silver accents and boa cuffs and collar that Rogers wore in 1981 to a women’s history event in Texas fetched $1,200 during an auction at the end of the program.

“The colors are so vibrant,” said emcee Rosemary Harrington, a former conservative talk radio host on KCMX 880. “We need to get more of that going.”

Rogers’ creativity in film branched out to other areas of her life. She enjoyed painting and designed a line of lingerie, some of which was modeled Sunday. JC Penney selected her designs in a competition between 35 celebrity contestants to create a lingerie line.

Although Rogers lived in Southern Oregon on and off for 50 years, residents here would have been hard-pressed to see her gowns wearing any of her flamboyant gowns in this region. Her secretary said Rogers came to Southern Oregon to escape the trappings of glamour and fame.

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Sip some fashion nostalgia Sunday

Travel back in time to Hollywood’s Golden Age and take a peek in starlet Ginger Rogers’ wardrobe at a tea and fashion show Sunday to benefit Southern Oregon Historical Society.
The show features 20 of Rogers’ personal gowns, including one she wore on the Bob Hope Show. The event, which includes a tea and silent auction, begins at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Rogue Valley Country Club, 2660 Hillcrest Road in Medford. Buy tickets at the door for $50 apiece. Only 25 out of 300 tickets remain, as of early Friday. (If you go, don’t forget to dress up. Feather boas and other embellishments are encouraged.) Twenty-five pairs of Rogers’ shoes will be auctioned off. Her former secretary will provide the audience with some insider information about the starlet.
Rogers bought a 1,000-acre ranch on the Rogue River in 1940, the same year she starred in “Kitty Foyle” for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress.
She retired in the Rogue Valley in 1969 and is the namesake for downtown Medford’s Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater.
Sharon Becker, wife of Paul Becker who is an executor for Rogers’ estate, came up with the idea for the show to mark the 100th anniversary of Rogers’ birth. 

I’ll provide coverage of the event Sunday, including information on how Rogers’ impacted Southern Oregon and the historical society’s role in keeping her and other Southern Oregon historical characters alive in the minds of the community. I’ll also blog here about some of her gowns.

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“One Haute Night in April”

Zand Amsterdam reversible skirt

Zand Amsterdam reversible skirt

The cold weather has overstayed its welcome in Southern Oregon. Spring says it’s time for a change. A clothing change, that is. Warm up at 6:30 p.m. tonight at Waterstone Spa & Salon’s “One Haute April Night” fashion show at the Ashland Springs Hotel, 236 E. Main St.

Models, including Mrs. Oregon 2011 Aspen Droesch, will “bring in the new” with spring fashions by Ashland’s Patina Soul and hair and makeup by Waterstone.

Patina Soul owner Catherine Wallner says you can count on a procession of flirty, feminine details, including off-the-shoulder T-shirts and cowl necks, sheer fabrics, ruffles and lace.

Frugal tip: Patina Soul has reasonable prices, not a common characteristic at Ashland boutiques. In fact, Wallner says she opened the shop at 342 Lithia Way in downtown Ashland about a year and a half ago to try to fill a void in chic-yet-affordable clothing in Ashland.

My friend, Monique, calls her patronage of the store an addiction, if that’s any testimony.

Patina Soul will introduce a couple of international lines this spring, including Dezigual from Barcelona and Zand Amsterdam from the Netherlands. Some of those spring designs will glide across the catwalk at tonight’s show.

Blame it on my love of travel, but my favorite concept at Patina Soul was Zand Amsterdam’s one-of-kind, reversible, one-size-fits-all wrap skirt.

Made of different cotton prints on each side, the skirt sells for $54 and includes a pouch that can be used as a purse. It’s the perfect travel skirt. Save space. Avoid baggage fees.

“You can pair it with a couple of T-shirts to match, and that’s the only skirt you need,” Wallner says.

Skirts and dresses will continue to have a dominant presence this spring, she says. The more feminine detail on them the better. Look for crocheted or embroidered details and ruching on blouses, tunics and dresses. Pair your tunics and dresses with Capri leggings, a basic you can find at Patina Soul.

Tickets to the show are $15 in advance at Waterstone or $20 at the door. Admission includes a gift bag with sample products and a $10 voucher to the spa.

One-third of proceeds go to the Miss Rogue Valley Scholarship Program.

For details, call 541-488-3700.

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Show off that neglected vintage slip

This fuchsia-colored vintage slip helps embellish the neckline of a kara-line wrap dress.

This fuchsia-colored vintage slip helps embellish the neckline of a kara-line wrap dress.

A vintage slip’s femininity and simplicity are easy to admire and hard to resist. However, its practicality was, in my mind, largely in question until last weekend when I paid a visit to Portland’s N.E. Alberta Street, a local fashion design hotspot.

My coral-colored vintage slip, made of lace and nylon, dated back to nearly six years ago when I first moved to Southern Oregon. I picked it up at the Ashland Goodwill. My intention was to don it as a nightgown, but that idea never materialized. I moved into an apartment in Ashland without air conditioning or adequate heating, so it was too hot in the summer to wear a nylon slip to bed and too cold for the slip during the rest of the year.

Finally last summer, I sent the slip back to where it came from. Until the very end when I deposited the slip in a donation receptacle back at the Goodwill, I admired the lovely little thing with a tinge of sadness. But a girl has to make room in her closet for something she can actually wear.

Last week when I was scouting out local designers on N.E. Alberta, I saw an ensemble in the Tumbleweed Boutique window that made me think of my coral-colored cast-off. It was a similar vintage slip, this one in a fuchsia color, but it had been used as an eye-catching camisole and hemline embellishment beneath a $158 heather gray wrap dress designed by Portland designer Kara Larson. The vintage-inspired dressed in the “kara-line” are a good match for a vintage slip. Tumbleweed carries kara-line and other designer lines, including Glam Garb, maker of the hand-dyed fuchsia slip. Glam Garb owner Gunlis, who is originally from Sweden, peruses second-hand shops in her home country to find plain vintage slips and hand dyes them in her Odessa home in a variety of bright hues. The slips are available at Tumbleweed for $60 apiece or on Glam Garb’s website.

If you’d like to try out the idea and don’t already have a vintage slip, you can support a local designer by buying a Glam Garb slip. With some luck, you might also find one at your local second-hand shop. Next, pair with a dress that you will allow you to show off the slip’s beautiful lace accents.

This style has swept over Portland. A little later while browsing a children’s store, I noticed another woman wearing a vintage slip under a dress in the same style.

But here’s a word of caution: don’t expect every generation to recognize this ensemble as a viable fashion statement.

“I wore one of the slips with a dress, and on my way to work, a little old man on the bus said, ‘Ma’am, your slip is showing,’” said Tumbleweed employee Susan Lutjen. “I said, ‘Oh, thank you’ and tucked the slip under me for the rest of the ride. I didn’t try to explain it to him.”

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Blame fashion for the latest dictionary addition

hipsterTen years after making their way into mainstream American fashion, primarily by riding on Brittany Spears’s bottom, low-rise jeans have made their mark on the Oxford English Dictionary.

Last week, the dictionary inaugurated the word, “muffin top,” into its pages, along with “OMG,” the text message abbreviation for “Oh my god” and “LOL,” which stands for “laugh out loud.”

And we all know what’s responsble for this development: the unintended consequences of a fashion trend. You can credit or blame British designer Alexander McQueen who revived a 1960s trend with the “bumster,” a low-rise jean cut just above the public bone, or can hold the American obesity epidemic responsible for the addition of “muffin top” in our every-day vocabulary. Either way, the complications of low-rise jeans solidified “muffin top” in the English language.

Low-rise jeans, also known as ” hip-huggers”, “hipsters” and “lowriders”, first surfaced in the 1960s. Embraced by men and women alike, the jean was usually paired with a lively print or color that defined the era.

The style made a comeback in the mid-1990s when McQueen introduced his “bumster” version, which daringly revealed the cleft of the buttocks, according to London’s Design Museum website.

Brittany Spears made the style popular in the United States around 2001. By then, Americans’ waistlines were decidedly puffier than in the 1960s, and the term, “muffin top,” was coined to describe excess flesh hanging over the low-slung waistbands, according to a 2010 article on the BBC website.

You don’t have to have a muffin top in order to object to low-rise jeans. I have a few friends who swear off of them. Personally, they only bother me when the hem of my blouse isn’t long enough to meet the waistband of the jeans, and I have to change. I know ya’ll have been there.

My friend, Erin, a tall, slim brunette with no body image issues to speak of, vents regularly about her jean-shopping frustrations. In addition to the notorious muffin top, low-rise jeans offer a host of other disadvantages, such as revealing your underwear. It doesn’t seem to matter how little fabric the underwear consist of; they still seem to show if you don’t have a top that’s long enough to cover the top of the jeans. Erin vehemently objects to this. But what really upsets her is that the short crotch combined with tightness in low-rise jeans often show the shape of a woman’s genitalia, sometimes described in popular culture as a “cameltoe”.

“They made these jeans for girls, not women,” she says.

Erin has turned to men’s Levi jeans as an edgy alternative. While she deems low-rise jeans as too revealing, she thinks many of the jeans with higher waistlines look dowdy.

Ironically, the days seem to be numbered for this object of Erin’s ire. Just as “muffin top” graduated into the dictionary, low-rise jeans seem to be waning in popularity.

If Erin has her way, “muffin top” (and its cause, the hipster) will become antiquated in less time than it took to land itself in the dictionary.

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Travel in fashion

Kristin Hassan's Vita Dress

Kristin Hassan's Vita Dress

My traveling mantra: Never do, eat or buy anything I can find at home.

Buying local is not only kinder to the environment and the local economy; it also adds a unique flavor to your travel experience. So when I travel to a new city I try to check out what’s local, including fashions created in the place I’m visiting.

I had the opportunity to do that this weekend in a prime location. Imagine a city where the mayor assembles a fashion council to promote local designers. Welcome to the “windy city,” where there’s more to discover than Al Capone, good pizza and celebrities such as President Barack Obama and Oprah. Chicago also boasts four fashion design institutes and a contingent of designers that have the backing of municipal government.

My visit to the nation’s third-largest city last weekend coincided with the Mayor’s Fashion Council’s annual Fashion Incubator Pop-Up Shop events from March 17 until April 23. I popped into Friday’s event at the 900 Shops on the fifth floor at 900 N. Michigan Ave. where I met Chicago designer Kristin Hassan.

This local designer knows the importance of frugality. None of her pieces sell for more than $200, and most retail for less.

“That’s my philosophy: a reasonable price, but you’re buying something that was made in Chicago,” Hassan said.

Her designs are ultra-feminine. You won’t find one pair of pants in her collection. Hassan’s designs are bursting with flowing skirts and bold, feminine prints, including bright, large flowers, polka dots and feathers; ruffles, and large floral brooches attached to skirts and bodices. She gives the soft feminine lines a little edge with exposed zippers, usually in black.

Yet her designs also are practical. Made of polyester, they don’t require ironing, can be machine washed and have pockets. When I saw her Friday, she was wearing her signature Vita dress, a wrap dress that comes above the knee and flatters just about any figure.

“I feel comfortable wearing it; my mom wears it,” she said. “It’s very forgiving.”

She showed me how she had stowed a cellphone in one of the dress’s pockets without causing a bulge.

You can find Hassan’s designs at Frugal tip: She charges no shipping fees.

But if you happen to visit Chicago, her clothes are also for sale at the Cerato Boutique, 3451 N. Southport Ave. in Chicago. You can also find out about fashion events happening while you’re in town by visiting

The Cerato Boutique is worth a visit for any fashionista with a stopover in Chicago. The boutique sells the creations of about 20 local designers, including Kate Boggiano, a former technical designer for Polo Ralph Lauren in New York who returned to her native Chicago to launch her own line.

Fashion is one of the best ways you can discover what’s exclusive to any given place. Instead of buying a refrigerator magnet or a coffee cup, why not try finding a garment you can’t buy anywhere else? Not only will you leave with a souvenir, there’s very little danger of running into someone at home who’s wearing the same thing.

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Priceless tip for bagging pricey shoes

I began to notice the ramifications of my penchant for cheap high-heeled shoes around the age of 30. Pumps and lofty boots had been daily wear for me since my teenage years, except during jogs and trips to the gym.

About three years ago, my steadily expanding bunions and frequent dorsal tendonitis flare-ups prompted me to revise my shoe-buying practices. Pumps constructed of manmade materials with narrow toe boxes and bought for $20 were no longer a good fit for me. Instead, I opted for orthopedic brands. So far, I haven’t had to surrender high heels altogether. I just had to revise my practice. Instead of wearing them every day, I try not to wear them two days in a row. Instead of bargains that cost me tenfold later in pain, I now opt for more expensive brands known for comfort, support and, I’m happy to say, style. One of my favorites is Sofft. This Massachusetts-based brand offers not only comfort and style, but height. The shoes typically cost around $100 a pair on the company’s website. Similar prices are at stores such as Macy’s at the Rogue Valley Mall.

However, knowing where to look and how to shop can reward you with a significant discount. I recently found a pair of black, vintage, 1920s-style Sofft high heels with ankle ties for $34.99 at Ross Dress for Less in Medford. The same shoes were tagged at $79.99 at Macy’s at the Rogue Valley Mall. T.J. Maxx also carries orthopedic brands at prices as low as ballet flats.The drawback of this type of outlet store is that merchandise is as varied and unreliable as a second-hand store. You can score some treasures after meticulous hunting, or you might leave with nothing.

Sallie Johnson, the principal of Medford’s Howard Elementary School, suggested an alternative for trapping a deal.

This bubbly, wily shopper recently found a pair of Jambu loafers (the brand was formerly called J-41) for $30 at Famous Footwear in the Rogue Valley Mall. The price was a fluke, as the shoes were a return from an online order, but in addition to her lucky bargain, Sallie gained some priceless insight. Famous Footwear offers customers the ability order online items from the store and bypass the $11 cost of shipping and handling. Moreover, there is no cost associated with returns. Even better, the prices for brands such as Jambu on Famous Footwear’s website are lower than most of what you’ll find in department stores such as Macy’s. The shoes she bought for $30 were priced at $119 at Macy’s. They were $89.99 on the Famous Footwear website.

“They carry brands on the website that they don’t carry in the store,” Sallie said. “So you can pick out the shoes online, try them on at Macy’s and then, order them at Famous Footwear.”

“I paid $120 for my first pair (of Jambu), and my dog ate them,” she said. Iris, a chocolate standard poodle, “almost didn’t live that week,” Sallie said. “She has good taste,” she said. “She doesn’t eat cheap shoes.”

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Fascinators have fascinated for 300 years

Paris's $5.99 fascinator

Paris's $5.99 fascinator

With St. Patrick’s Day around the corner and incomprehensibly depressing news out of Japan, it might be time for a pick-me-up on Thursday, March 17. One way to get in a festive mood on St. Patrick’s Day or any other day is to wear a fascinator, an accessory with a long history that’s had a comeback in the last couple of years.

You might have seen one of these hair accessories, usually made of feather plumes and beads attached to a comb or headband, on celebrities such as Kate Middleton or Paris Hilton.

A fascinator can dress up your day dress for an evening out or be added to any outfit as a signal that it’s time to celebrate, whether it’s St. Patrick’s Day, Middleton’s engagement party, Hilton’s 30th birthday party or whatever your occasion might be.

The good news is you don’t need to have either woman’s wealth in order to obtain this flirty headwear. Fascinators can be high fashion at featherweight cost if you look in the right places. They’re available for next to nothing at boutiques, department stores and outlets. I bought my peacock feather and rhinestone fascinator last December for $5.99 at Ross Dress for Less in Clackamas, Ore. That’s less than the average cost of going out to lunch and leaves room for other expenditures. May I suggest a donation to a charity helping out in the earthquake and tsunami relief effort in Japan?

Feather headwear has a long history. European aristocrats, both men and women, began wearing plumed cavalier hats (the hats worn by the Three Musketeers) in 17th century, according to headwear history expert Beverly Chico of the Chico Group in Greenwood Village, Colo. European women in the 18th century wore their own variations of the broad-rimmed plumed hats, Chico says. For example, Duchess Georgiana (Spencer) Cavendish, June 7, 1757-March 30, 1806, (played by Keira Knightly in the 2008 film, “The Duchess”) was known for wearing a tall feather plumes in her up-do’s to add height.

However, today’s fascinator takes its name from another hair accessory that bears little resemblance.  Originally, a fascinator was a decorative covering made of lace or other delicate material for the head and shoulders, Chico says.

“It has gone in and out of fashion since the 17th century,” Chico says. “By the 19th century Victorian era, somehow its name became interchangeable with ‘cloud,’ but I am not sure why.”

I wore my modern-day fascinator to Christmas and New Year’s parties and plan to don it as my St. Patrick’s Day patch of green (because of the green on the peacock feathers). So far, it’s brought in a flock of compliments, indicating this resurrected accessory hasn’t lost its ability to fascinate.

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