Jill Palkovitz of Roland Park lives in the wonderful world of color. A Texas native, Palkovitz, 40, grew up in a family of quilters, weavers and sewing mavens, and, like them, she is a natural designer who can throw a dress together in less than two hours. And chances are, the dress will have very little to do with black, the fallback color of so many women for so many occasions. "I see color before I see anything else," says the mother of two young children.
Palkovitz is co-chair of the annual Maryland Historical Society Antiques Show, which opens with a gala preview tonight and continues tomorrow through Sunday at the society. (Daily admission is $10. For information, call 410-685-3750 Ext.321.) Her involvement with the Maryland Historical Society goes back 17 years. Palkovitz, a former designer of party dresses and formal gowns, even had a gown displayed in a museum exhibition that compared old customs and styles with contemporary counterparts. Her dress was a modern, Western-themed extravaganza that contrasted with a historical piece from the collection.
"It was a ball gown with a bustier top with fake fur, a tutu skirt, and a velvet bolero jacket with fringe, and a Western yoke and back," Palkovitz says.
Do you continue to make clothes?
I still sew for myself. But it's hard to hem or sew buttons with children about. The sewing room is not safe for kids.
Who were the textile experts in your family?
My grandmother makes a dozen quilts a year. My mother and sister are both weavers. We just always made things instead of buying them.
Are you self-taught?
Yes. I learned as I went along. You need an engineering mind to keep a strapless dress on a flat-chested woman. Hips help!
What distinguished your designs from clothing off the rack or others' homemade efforts?
My own party dresses always had a sense of humor. Not everyone is as courageous. Some people aren't as accustomed to the freedom of designing your own clothing. No knockoffs!
What might you add to a dress or suit that makes it unique?
Fringe, for example, on sleeves. And before it became popular, pony prints and animal prints.
What is a priority for your clothing?
It's changed over the years. Now comfort is very important. No pointy shoes and tight waist bands; only on a good day. The simplicity movement came at the right time for me.
Do you have a weakness for any particular accessory?
I have a huge hat collection.
What are you making for your kids' Halloween costumes?
I'm making a mummy outfit for Robert and a princess costume for Alice.
What has changed in the fabric and pattern industry?
I'm impressed by the great designs in the pattern catalogs. You can find Calvin Klein, Vera Wang, Issey Miyake. And they have easy patterns for beginners.
Where do you go for sewing materials?
G Street Fabrics. It's worth a drive to Rockville. It's a mecca. If you want pink pleather or suede periwinkle, they have it.
What other sewing projects have you embarked on lately?
I've started making some non-traditional quilts with raw edges and pretty fringe.
What do you have to guard against when designing your wardrobe?
I try not to look like an aging hippie.
What is one of the favorite pieces you made?
My painting/gardening smock. Because when I'm wearing it, that means I'm painting or gardening!
Do you know a Snappy Dresser? Write to Stephanie Shapiro, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St. Baltimore 21278.