Colorful dresser, spirited wardrobe

Candid Closet

March 20, 1997|By Stephanie Shapiro | Stephanie Shapiro,SUN STAFF

If a "coolhunter" came to Baltimore in search of unfettered coolness, she might stumble upon Monique Duval, whose spiritual and celebratory approach to fashion is way ahead of the times.

Duval, a 33-year-old transplanted Texan who once steered the Radical Chic Boutique, a pink school bus full of vintage apparel, around San Antonio, is a Charles Village artist who crafts jewelry, "story box" sculptures and personal journals.

Where did you find all those Radical Chic clothes?

I would drive to Laredo, where there was a sweltering warehouse of old clothes. You climb on top of mountains of clothes and you dig. And half of the bus was my wardrobe. I took everything out of my closet. I've always loved whimsical, colorful, extraordinary clothes. Audacious clothes.

How does Baltimore vintage compare to Tex-Mex vintage?

The clothes I'm finding are not as weird as what I find in Texas. I had lots of things in sequins. I'm Mexican-American and in my culture, the clothes are very, very colorful.

What do you demand of your clothes?

Because I live as an artist -- I'm always in my studio working -- there are some requirements that I have. First of all, I'm very fond of cottons and it's just got to feel good against my body. I have a lot of leggings. And I have a pair of insulated work boots I live in.

How do you choose your everyday wardrobe? One really important criterion: My clothes have got to look good with drips of paint or burn marks, lots of burn marks from soldering. My clothes are almost like a canvas.

Do your clothes have meaning beyond their appearance?

I have this very significant idea about clothing and a lot of things in my home and life. Things carry with them a spirit. That's why it's important to buy clothes that have already been worn, because of the memories.

Is it troubling that you don't know who occupied a dress or blouse before you?

No. I enjoy the mystery of it.

Do you frequent thrift shops? Killer Trash in Fells Point. I got a leather jacket there with eight pockets. I don't carry a purse. Function is big. It's my philosophy about everything. I don't think I do much of anything without a reason.

What's your accessory of choice?

Hats, I love hats.

Describe a real hat find.

In Fells Point I found this hat I could not live without. It was an old fake fur from the '50s or '60s. I had to have this hat. I put it on my head and told the clerk that I was going to the ATM across the street and would be right back. He agreed and I walked across the street. While I was standing there waiting for the machine, a group of drunk fraternity boys made comments about my hat, that a possum had crawled on my head and died. I was smiling ear to ear. They had no idea I was there to get money to pay for the darn thing!

What's your favorite hand-me-down?

My mother's dress. It's black and white paisley, very form-fitting and has a very, very low back. I love this dress. When I was younger, I told myself, 'I'm going to wear that dress some day.' I did eventually fit into that dress. It's a dress I will never part with.

Do you know any snappy dressers? Let us know. Write to Stephanie Shapiro, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278.

Pub Date: 3/20/97


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