A work of art and whimsy, in hand


October 27, 2002|By Maria Blackburn | Maria Blackburn,Sun Staff

The fur-trimmed handmade handbags lining a wall at Mano Swartz in the Village of Cross Keys look like miniature works of art. They are colorful, textural masterpieces, no two of which are alike.

Baltimore designer Debra Swartz knits the bags herself from lush chenilles and wools in a rainbow of vibrant colors, then embellishes her creations with scraps of fox and sheared mink. She sews the bags by hand, lining them with unexpected fabrics such as a wild multicolored, slouchy bag lined with a prim Burberry plaid. Swartz, who is the wife of store owner Richard Swartz, finishes her "mano mano" (named with a wink at the store name) handbags with antique shoe and belt buckles as clasps and sculptural stylish handles of bamboo, glitter-filled plastic tubing, twisted clear Lucite and other materials. The end result is a collection of handbags that is whimsical and original, modern but not trendy.

Our favorites include "The Squid" (top right), a small black and white chenille confection shaped like a cone and trimmed with two shocks of white Tibetan lamb fur ($195), and a trim little fuchsia and turquoise patchwork tote (bottom right) with bamboo handles ($395) that looks simultaneously proper and funky. Mano mano bags retail from $195 to $395 at Mano Swartz. For more information, call the store at 410-825-9000.

Vintage shopping as treasure hunt

Like the look of vintage sweaters, Chanel suits and little black dresses so much you've decided to go vintage? Don't go shopping for vintage clothing expecting to have the same experience you would at a mall or boutique, cautions Catherine Bardey, author of Wearing Vintage (Black Dog & Leventhal, 269 pages).

When shopping for clothes made from the late 1920s to the mid-1970s, look on the experience as a treasure hunt. Take it slow, follow your taste and examine garments closely for stains or holes, the fashion magazine writer and stylist advises. And because items are almost always one of a kind at vintage clothing shops, when in doubt it's probably best to buy. You can always sell it back later.

Reviving the scent of a muse

He was the fashion designer. She was his muse.

Hubert de Givenchy was just 28 and only one year into creating his own couture house when he met Audrey Hepburn. Told only that Miss Hepburn had arrived to see him, the designer was expecting Katharine, but Audrey, dressed in a simple top, pants and ballet flats, did not disappoint.

Their relationship and fashion collaboration lasted the rest of their lives and to this day, looking elegantly simple a la Audrey is still desirable.

In honor of Givenchy's 50th anniversary in couture, the company is relaunching L'Interdit, the floral fragrance the designer created for his muse, which she wore exclusively until 1957. The scent, a combination of bergamot oil, lily of the valley and jasmine, costs between $48 and $75 and is available at department and specialty stores and at sephora.com.

Retire those plain black shoes

Basic black boots are old and tired, according to the folks at shoe emporium DSW. Instead, look for fall shoes and boots with a little something extra. Some trends to watch:

* Boots: Slim heels, suede, denim and Western styling are in, as are embellishments like patchwork, fringe and cutouts.

* Dress shoes: Feminine styling and unique details such as two-tone and multi-tone color combos make for fancy Mary Janes, mules, slingbacks and ankle strap shoes.

* Casual shoes: Look for contrast stitching, Euro-sport sneaker-styled shoes and lots and lots of clogs.

* Sneakers: Go retro with styles from the '70s and '80s in suede and shades of blue, gray and silver.

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