Merchants dangle fun events to lure you into shopping


Just when summer kids, cottons and temperatures become tiresome, the weather changes, the kids go back to school and stores put their best looks forward.

The September air is charged with fashion energy, and it's smart to take advantage of the special events retailers offer to lure you out to shop for fall. They're selling, but doing it gracefully with perks, spritzes of scent, prizes, refreshments and the attention a woman needs to charge up her sense of style.

The Village of Cross Keys starts its "Fall Design Festival" today through Saturday. The party starts at 6 p.m. with fashion shows on several stages in the village square. Participating shops have also scheduled trunk shows and demos.

A trunk show can be rewarding. The manufacturer's reps know their lines and can offer special orders, fitting suggestions and hints that store clerks may overlook. Seeing clothes modeled informally gives a sense of how they move -- better than a hanger. You may learn how to dress thinner, tie a scarf with authority, or be the first woman on the block to discover a new label.

Those women who have spent a fortune having sleeves shortened and pants cut down to size may want to take in Petite Week at Saks Fifth Avenue in Owings Mills Monday through Sept. 17. That includes informal modeling, complimentary makeovers and a preview of Ellen Tracy designs. Call (410) 363-7200 Ext. 329.

Women who find themselves shopping with their significant other can keep him occupied at Towson Town Center Saturday when the mall presents a fall fashion freeze. Is she live or is she mannequin? It's a game to get attention and adds an extra dimension to window shopping.

It's a good time to get a fix on the trends and discover if they work for you.

Young stylists

There's a lot more to 4-H than kids and their farm animals. At the Maryland State Fair which wrapped up Monday in Timonium, more than 50 4-Hers presented Fashion Horizons, a show of clothing made, designed and staged in competition. We're not talking feed sacks here. These young people whipped up some smart outfits in categories that included formals, separates, costumes and tailoring.

It is gratifying to see independent and creative dressing on the junior scene, which so often is driven by peer and label pressure. Home sewing may be put aside in adulthood, but it's a sure thing that these young sewers will never be fooled by a slip-shod seam.

Heather Brown, an Atholton High School grad, and now a freshman at Towson State University won the Grand Champion award, the best of winners in eight categories.

"I've been sewing since about age 5. If I can see a picture I can make it," she says. Her winning design in the costume category was made for her to wear in a madrigal group. It will see more wear now that she has joined a Shakespeare troupe in college. A pretty and practical creation.

Status labels

Looking for some designer zip in the city? Pretty Please, a new addition at Mondawmin Mall since May, has the name-dropper items -- Moschino bags and belts, Versace Jeans Couture, leathers by Andrew Marc.

"Most of our inventory is in the dressy/casual style," says owner Jackie Hemphill who, with her husband, Jonathan, believes there is a high-end fashion customer in the city.

"Mondawmin is a black mall, the highest selling mall in the city," she says, "and we're out to prove there is more to city style than hip-hop dressing."

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