If it's good enough for Shakespeare ...

Candid Closet

November 13, 1997|By Stephanie Shapiro | Stephanie Shapiro,SUN STAFF

When Jude Asher's friends need something to throw on for the Renaissance Festival or Halloween, they come to her bungalow, a whimsical clutter of objets d'art, candlesticks, photos, cats, old furniture, gargoyles, masks, dolls and all the clothing and accessories you might need to play the fair maiden.

Her house, itself, "is in costume," Asher says.

Asher, an artist and yoga instructor, has a day job at Downs Engravers & Stationers at Cross Keys. Instead of playing it straight, she prefers to "tweak" conservative Baltimore with a melange of vintage and Talbot's. You might see her in a circa 1950s Hawaiian shirt and a gabardine skirt. On special occasions, however, she turns into a Shakespearean dream, wearing a high-waisted, lace-up brocade gown in sunset colors, discovered in the basement of the Wise Penny, the Junior League consignment shop where she once worked. Asher assumes the dress was worn in "Romeo and Juliet," perhaps by Juliet's best friend. There she also found a set of tails that fit her petite form perfectly.

How did you acquire such an eclectic wardrobe?

I've been collecting since I was 16. My first purchases were a Civil War-era lady's jacket and a long dress with an 18-inch waist that I bought at a Bethesda flea market for $5. Thirty years ago, I could get Bakelite for $1. I saw a vintage rhinestone pin at the Baltimore Museum of Art -- two cockatiels -- for $150. My aunt gave me one that probably cost $5. I also have all my mom's hats that she wore during the '60s and I have the first vintage sweater I ever bought, a little Audrey Hepburn cashmere thing with pearl buttons.

How do you accumulate funky stuff and straightforward stuff?

At the Wise Penny, I stocked up on Talbot's and Gap clothing. The Wise Penny is the best for classic clothes. When I worked there, I was more disciplined. I saved up to buy a Coach bag. At the junkier places, I can fill four bags. I go to the thrift stores in Pimlico, Saks North Avenue, the one on Belair and Erdman, and the one on York Road. And the two stores in Laurel, Amvets and the Community Thrift Shop. At the GBMC sale you can get some real deals, if you can stand the mob.

How do you mix the two for work?

I'll wear a vintage suit, as long as it's not too Miss Marple, or funky jewelry with tailored suits and wild shoes.

Do you make any of your own clothes?

I buy men's suit vests, get them dry-cleaned and then "fem" them up with fabric patches, sequins and different buttons.

What's one that got away?

At the thrift shop on Belair and Erdman, I bought a beautiful vintage black Miller Brothers dress. I washed it by mistake.

Do you have any other thrifty anecdotes?

Once in South Carolina, I was in a thrift shop wearing a long cardigan jacket. I took it off and someone else picked it up and walked to the counter and paid for it. The store told me to pick something out. I found my "Joan Crawford" jacket, in flecked tweed, with a peplum waist, big shoulders and lined with taffeta. It was $2.

Do you ever buy anything new?

Rarely. I do do a lot of catalog shopping. At Montgomery Ward, I find shockingly wonderful things. And shoes. I probably have 150 pairs of shoes, most of them bought new. If I see something exquisite and vintage in a shoe, I will buy it.

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

Pub Date: 11/13/97

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