On her feet are works of art


Candid Closet: Dorinda Tolson of Randallstown paints shoes to match anything.

July 29, 1999|By Stephanie Shapiro | Stephanie Shapiro,SUN STAFF

Dorinda Tolson went to Catonsville Community College to learn how to transform rooms. Instead, she learned how to transform shoes. While studying interior design, the self-confessed shoe fetishist also took an art class that introduced her to the wonderful world of colors and how a dab of this and that can create any number of wondrous hues and shades. The result is a cottage industry called Step On It. Tolson, of Randallstown, runs the business with her brother.

But Tolson, who works by day in the express mail department of the U.S. Postal Service, is about more than shoes. She's a stickler for color-coordinating, from top to toe, and is in demand among friends and colleagues as a personal shopper and fashion adviser.

Talk about your shoe business.

I can redesign shoes to match outfits exactly. If an outfit has a certain print, I can take that print and put that on the shoe.

How did your business start?

I'm a fashion nut, and I love colors. Often times, I end up buying things in colors that aren't common, like buttercup or Chinese red, ultramarine, pea green, things like that. It's hard to find shoes to match those odd colors. At Catonsville, I had the opportunity to learn the spectrum of colors. There are millions of colors out there that you can get from mixing. When I bought a multi-colored silk jacket for a wedding, I couldn't find a pair of shoes to match, even though I have 200 pairs of shoes. I was real careful as I worked on the shoes and came out with the same pattern in the jacket and in the same exact colors.

How does your brother help?

He does the difficult patterns, like houndstooth.

Where did this fixation with color come from?

Art is the legacy of my family. My grandmother was an art teacher who also painted. I had two uncles who were art teachers. And I have a brother who won a scholarship for architectural drawing and another one who majored in art.

Can you trace your fixation with fashion?

When I was a little kid, I made clothes for my paper dolls. That interest came from my aunts, who were fashion-conscious women. One was a seamstress, and the other was a hat maker.

Where do you shop?

I hit the second-hand boutiques: Repeat Performance and Just About Perfect on Reisterstown Road and Second Time Around on Liberty Road. I find great clothes; I mean designer clothes. And I find accessories all over, including flea markets.

How do you assemble an outfit for work?

In my art class, my teacher taught me that all colors go together. I'll wear a skirt from one suit, and a jacket from another. Then I'll wear a blouse that has both colors. Then I might throw on a scarf, and the earrings will match exactly. I have over 300 pairs of earrings.

How do you keep track of your earrings?

In a tool box with different little drawers. I store them by color.

How do you know what to wear every day?

When I get up I know how I want to feel. If I feel like a sunflower, I put on yellow. Even if I have a down day, I really dress up and try to fool people. Then it lifts me up to hear their compliments.

It sounds like your colleagues are also lifted up by your colorful contributions.

We had a "Step On It" day at the office. Everybody in the office has a pair of shoes I redesigned. We had a lot of energy that day, and the work was getting done.

Pub Date: 7/29/99

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