Artist dresses to express herself

Candid Closet

November 04, 2001|By Tricia Bishop | Tricia Bishop,Sun Staff

Pat Van Horn is not your average legal secretary, particularly in appearance. Sometimes she wears pantaloons beneath her skirts or mismatched socks, and she almost always wears earrings of different lengths.

"Some people might think that's strange," says Van Horn, who lives in Baltimore. "But when I get among a group of artistic people, I look ordinary."

That's probably because she's really one of them; the secretary gig is just her "survival job" -- a.k.a. the one that pays the bills. In her other life, Van Horn is an artist: She makes handmade books and jewelry (earrings, pendants and pins).

"I think of jewelry as a little work of art that you get to carry with you," Van Horn, 40, says. "Sometimes it's even more important than the clothes."

But to Van Horn, clothes still play a role in expressing who you are: "You can tell if somebody has a freer way of thinking or an ease with their body by how they dress."

See what you can tell about Van Horn from how she dresses:

Describe your style.

I would say it's eclectic. I'm not a girlie girl; I don't wear high heels and stockings -- I'm more artistic and eccentric. I tend to like asymmetry, which is represented daily because I wear one long earring and one short. I part my hair on the side, too, and I've been known to buy the exact same pairs of shoes or boots in different colors so I can wear one gray one and one red one.

What influences your clothing choices?

A lot of it is comfort. Cotton and natural fibers are really important to me -- that goes back to my degree in college. I had a weaving degree, so I'm really into textures and fabrics.

Where do you like to shop?

Bargain stores. Being a starving artist, I find I can't do any high-end shopping. Sometimes I'll go to nicer stores for inspiration or to fabric stores and look at what the new fabrics are and make something.

So you sew, then?

I made the whole outfit I'm wearing in the picture [jewelry, too]. It's from an Issey Miyake pattern, but I interpreted it into a cotton panel two-tone red and gray top and skirt. [Miyake is] a great designer, his work looks almost like origami and can be asymmetrical.

What would an outfit that was quintessentially you include?

It could either be a particular piece of vintage clothing from the 1920s (I have a body type that mixes with the 1920s), or I would wear something very sleek and stylized with asymmetry in it somewhere. It would have a lot of black in it or purple, and the jewelry would most likely be silver. I think purple, black and silver is an exquisite combination of color.

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