Denim goes everywhere with this designer, usually embellished to keep it fresh


Glance around Joanne Kalus Thaler's Pikesville home, and you see many works in progress. A half-finished shirt in the family room. A buttonless jacket on the bed. Antique lace peeking out from a closet.

Juggling many jobs comes naturally to Ms. Thaler, a fashion designer and mother of two.

She never intended to earn a living at beaded, buttoned and trimmed clothing. But after so many friends asked to buy the outfits she and her young children wore, Ms. Thaler, 40, decided to turn a pastime into a profession several years ago.

Her pieces -- most of which are embellished denim -- have been featured in trunk shows at Nordstrom.

Although she's dabbled in other fields, she's found fashion the most satisfying. "I worked for a short while in law," she says. "But I discovered I'm more creative than academic. The other side of my brain kept taking over."

How would you describe your own look?

Conservative but a little on the wild side. I wear jeans every day, a blue shirt and a different blazer, sweater or vest. I've had this look my whole life. It's comfortable, easy and never goes out of style.

Does it ever get dull?

No. I incorporate other things. I'll wear jeans with a beaded blouse or a great silk shirt. That adds new life and makes it a totally different look.

How has being in the fashion industry influenced your own taste?

It hasn't. I've always had the same taste. I've read fashion magazines since I was 7 or 8. I've been inspired by the European designs of Yves Saint Laurent and Gianni Versace. There's great art in the fashions they design.

What's your favorite purchase?

A red velvet bomber jacket by a Russian designer. I bought it in California, and the workmanship is great.

And your best buy?

A copper sequin skirt that I got on sale at Nan Duskin. It was around $400; I got it for $20. I completed it with a denim jacket that had a giraffe pattern on the back. It was very exotic, very wild and sexy. It was the perfect thing to wear to Zoomerang, (the Baltimore Zoo's benefit).

What purchases do you most regret making?

I always buy suits but never wear them as often as I think I will. Even when I go to business meetings, I wear jeans with a nice jacket. But I keep on buying suits because I'm afraid I'll need one and won't have one. There are just certain things that every woman needs to have in her closet.

Like what?

A blazer, blue jeans, a dressy black dress, a lace blouse, a dressy vest, a few denim shirts and a suit of course. Then she's set.

What would you most like to change about your style?

I guess I'd like to not wear jeans so much. I'd like to have a little more grown-up look. But my lifestyle now doesn't call for that.

Anything you've bought for fall yet?

A pair of crushed velvet black granny boots. I'm going to see "Evita" at the Lyric and I'm going to wear them with a red velvet jacket, black lace top, red camisole and black velvet pants.

Do you know some dressers? Let us know. Write to Mary Corey, The Baltimore Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278.

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