Her skill with a needle leaves her in stitches

Candid Closet

January 15, 1998|By Stephanie Shapiro | Stephanie Shapiro,SUN STAFF

Correction: In last week's Candid Closet, Lucretia B. Whitten's age was incorrectly reported. In fact, Whitten did not reveal her age. The Sun regrets the error.

By the time she was 7, Lucretia B. Whitten says, "I had a needle in my hand." Whitten, her mother and many of her seven sisters would gather around a quilt on a rainy afternoon and stitch away. By the time she was 10, it was Whitten's summer responsibility to sew three dresses by the start of school. She and two sisters were particularly dedicated seamstresses. "We sewed at night. We had a lot of fun," Whitten, 77, says.

Sewing came easy to Whitten, now a retired accountant, and patterns fit her well, so creating elegant garments for everyday and evening wear was never a stretch for her. And she had an innate sense of style that took a basic silhouette dress from day to evening with the stroke of a necklace or jacket. As she and Benjamin C. Whitten Sr., her husband of 48 years, have traveled around the world, Whitten has accumulated wonderful fabrics rendered into wonderful clothes.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

Describe one of your favorite finds on your travels.

I bought this piece of fabric in a special couture shop in Paris. The fabric was made of plastic white sequins on a cocoa background and I bought contrasting fabric with the same sequins. I had to have it. It was very delicate, nothing gaudy, very subdued. It was gorgeous. My husband loves the dress. I still have it. It will be an heirloom for my granddaughter. It is a two-piece, long, after-five dress. I made the buttons and the shoulder pads, too.

It sounds like fabric is a drawing card for you.

When you talk about fabric, I'm just turned on by the feel of it. ... During my extensive travels, I make it a point to buy a piece of fabric in an outstanding city. Belgium was one place I liked so well because of the lace. In Switzerland, I loved the fine cotton, batiste. I made a petticoat out of it with tons of lace on the flounce and a camisole with hand-stitched ribbons of lace ... for my granddaughter. In Beijing I bought beautiful silk for $10 a yard. You know I bought a lot of that.

It sounds like you enjoy sewing just for the joy of sewing.

I'm turned on by sewing. It's truly the art that I like. My field was business accounting, but sewing has always been something I loved. The fact that you can hold it in your hands, a creation of your own and it just seems everlasting.

Do you customize your shoes?

I sewed about 60 costume jewels on a pair of tennis shoes, in pink, purple and white. The idea was taken from a Neiman Marcus window display in Florida. I did socks to match.

What creation would you wear on a typical day?

If I were going to a luncheon -- I play bridge -- I might wear a cardigan-style suit. I would put a scarf around it. I have three or four nice pairs of pants and blazers. I'm not big on quantity. I really just like the things I have. I feel good in what I wear because it represents what I believe is my personality.

When you do go clothes shopping, where do you go?

Any place I travel. Myrtle Beach is a great place for colors. They have great shoes and nice suits. In Brigantine, N.J., I shop. I shop locally at any store -- Macy's, Hecht's, Marshall's.

Where do you shop for fabric?

I shop at A Fabric Place, the Fabric Warehouse and G-Street in Rockville.

Do you wear accessories?

I have three strands of gold chains I keep on and I have bought some really nice jewelry on sale at Trillium. But I keep it pretty simple. It's the same with my hair. I have gray hair people look at. Most people put in a rinse, but I'm old enough to have gray hair and I'm not going to go out to be "Miss Old Young."

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

Pub Date: 1/15/98

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