MAXImum Style

Have you taken the town and your closet to new lengths with floor-gliding maxi dresses? If so, you’re not alone. Maxis have actually been back on the fashion scene the past few years. It seems their popularity increased last spring and summer seasons, but they continue to crop up everywhere. Because a maxi dress is floor length, you can take measures to extend its wearing time throughout the seasons. Yes, even into fall and winter! It’s a perennial-favorite chic piece that ladies love layering and accessorizing a thousand different ways. And a maxi dress tends to flatter all figures. Bonus!

Plenty of maxi dresses and maxi skirts can be found now at your favorite shops or online retailers. Here are multiple ways to wear a maxi.

Simple Chic
Keep it simple and rock your maxi with bold accessories for an effortlessly stylish look.
Maxi Work 2014

Work It
Make your maxi work for you at work by adding a sleek blazer. You’ll take the office by storm!

Relax A Bit
Run your weekends in comfort and style by adding a cardigan or button down shirt or blouse. Comfy-chic never looked so good!
Maxi Casual 2014

Winter Wear
Add an oversized faux fur vest or scarf and booties for a look that’s downtown luxe and downright warm!

Vacation Mode
Between the extended winter weather wonderland we’ve witnessed to the tease of warmer days, haven’t you found yourself dreaming of tropical wind-swept days and nights dancing? Pack a lightweight and lovely maxi design.
Maxi Four Seasons 2014

Nothing exudes spring style quite like a breezy maxi dress. Most trends hang around a few seasons like the maxi has. So even if you’re reluctant at first, you can let the maxi marinate until you’re ready to partake.

Comment below to share your favorite maxis of seasons past and present with Chapelboro Insiders.

What to Wear When Working from Home?

So you think all those telecommuters are working from home in coffee-stained PJs and bunny slippers? Think again.

Leonardo Rocha of IBM Finance recently posed these questions on

“For those that work from a Home Office, how do you dress up for work? I work from home 2-3 days a week and still haven’t made up my mind on what I should be wearing. Do you feel it’s important to put on your working clothes?”

Since I have experience working from a home office several times in my career I felt prepared to tackle this set of queries. This was my response:

“I just read an article that lists two reasons not to wear pajamas and slippers to the home office – productivity and efficiency. I’m sure you probably don’t wear your PJs to work at home! But you Can dress comfortably and remain Chic in your home office with a business casual outfit. If you ever worked in an office with business casual Fridays, then you know what I’m suggesting. Possibly chinos or dark washed denim with a polo-type shirt or a favorite button down. If you conduct or attend video meetings from your home office, then you want to appear presentable. When you look good you feel good and possibly accomplish more!”

Leonardo liked my response. Score one for The Fashion Plate!

“Kristin, I think your comparison between working from home and business casual Fridays was spot on. Thank you.”

Dressing for success isn’t just for corporate settings. Women and men working from home have something to gain from putting on real clothes.

A study from professors at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University found when research subjects wore a scientist’s or medical doctor’s white coat, they performed better.

The subjects wearing the lab coats – typically associated with care and attentiveness – made about half as many errors as their peers.

How to remain comfy and look chic while doing business at home?

I made some suggestions for men in my response to Leonardo above. Ladies, try colored jeans with a sleeveless blouse and lightweight printed scarf. Or a structured blazer paired with printed shorts or pants for another great fall look.

Maxi skirts paired with a fitted sleeveless top are also cute and comfy and can be easily dressed up with a short jacket.

Fashion and function can combine for a successful workday, every day!

Are you guilty of working from home in your pajamas? Share your home office work attire comments with Chapelboro Insiders.

Check Out Radius Pizzeria & Pub


Ever have a food tradition growing up? In my household Saturdays meant pancakes for breakfast and homemade pizza for dinner. Some traditions tend to stick. Like pizza on a Saturday night. Since I’ve fallen hard for a Hillsborough restaurant that opened in late March, I thought I’d invite a couple of Chapelboro Insiders along to experience pizza and so much more.

Ready for a comfortable setting with a creative twist? From the local art on the walls to the tasty pizza on your plate you’ll find it at Radius. Once a former bank, the edifice now houses Radius Pizzeria & Pub at 112 North Churton Street.

1150327_516474265088243_1049954179_nYou know what really piqued my taste buds and drew me in Saturday night? A picture I saw on their Facebook page of the weekend special. Pan-seared and almond encrusted grouper on mixed greens with strawberries, blackberries and blueberries in a lime cilantro vinaigrette. Talk about a healthy salad full of flavor! We picked a winner. Our other shared orders included Lemon Herb Cheese Spread which is a blend of goat and cream cheese with fresh basil, chives, garlic and lemon zest served with sliced pear and flatbread. The accompanying greens tasted amazing due to a dusting of sherry truffle vinaigrette.

And we scored again! The signature pizza picked was called the ‘Cyclist’ — topped with onion marmalade, chicken, green onion, mushroom, mozzarella and Parmesan. I told you this place is creative, whether it’s in the kitchen with the ingredient combinations or the signature pizza names! On a former visit I stepped outside of the traditional pizza comfort zone and into the creative pizza box with a ‘Hold The Bagel’ pizza — combining smoked salmon, fried caper, micro-shaved red onion, creme fraiche, fresh squeezed lemon and fried egg. My stomach and I were pleasantly surprised. To wrap up our dining experience we listened to the decadent desserts of the day. Chocolate mint creme brulee, mixed berry crisp and gluten free chocolate cake with orange butter creme. We were full, but thanks to server Melanie for the vicarious fulfillment!

Owners Kate and Mick Carroll moved from San Francisco to Hillsborough to be closer to family and to pour their creative energy into Radius. Mick, an experienced chef and Ireland native, orchestrates the kitchen while wife Kate, a North Carolina native, mans the front of the house.


At the back of the house.the private Fireside Room awaits your next event or meeting. Equipped with state of the art technology (like an Internet ready 60″ TV screen) and a wall fireplace, this unique room is functional and comfortable.

I asked Kate to describe the many meanings of the restaurant name, Radius. Hillsborough reminded Mick of his Ireland homeland with resources like produce, seafood and beef, all found in a local radius. The goal is to source as much as possible locally while keeping the menu affordable. They also wanted Radius to appeal to many different radii from parents to foodies to date night couples to folks who just want a comfortable place to eat and relax. Mick is a big mountain biker who thinks of pizza when he thinks of cycling due to a pizza place that rejuvenated him after biking expeditions. A pizza pie wedge is also like the radius of a circle. Radius Pizzeria & Pub equals reaching out to the community like the spokes of a wheel but in a myriad of ways.


1146556_515132465222423_2117742139_nThe interior space appeals to many tastes on many levels. Art work changes every two to three months. Currently, abstracts by Maxine Mintz fill the walls. Previously Eduardo Lapetina of Chapel Hill was featured. TVs in the bar and dining room are unobtrusive and present for the prerequisite sporting events. On our visit country music played in the background, but the genre changed toward the end of our meal. The attention to detail continues with hooks under the bar counters to hang a purse or bag. Art, music, television and conversation to accompany delicious food and beverage cover most of the senses.

Expect globally inspired comfort entrees! In addition to 12″ signature pizzas from their Old-World Italian wood-burning oven (which can be baked with gluten free dough) your options include starters (I’ve heard the mussels are delicious!) salads, paninis and sides. Whether you choose The Pub (bar area), The Front Dining Room (also called the living room) or outside on the garden patio with lighted umbrellas, you will be taken care of by “family” staff and leave well sated.


Hungry yet? Time to try Radius! Get your spokes on and check it out. Visit for daily specials, menus, “Kids Make A Pizza Summer Session” and more.

All pictures from

Fit To Flatter

Discovering the perfect dress style for your body can be a challenge. Determining your body type is the first step. Are you petite, pear, athletic, straight or hourglass? Or are you somewhere in-between? The ultimate goal is finding a fit to flatter your shape and look. And that you feel comfortable wearing! Here are some body descriptions with example looks to finally fit and flatter you!

Petite – Vertically challenged. Short and sweet. Petite packs a punch no matter how small you are! Elongate your shape with a mini dress in a colorful print.

(all dress pictures from

Pear – Like Shakira sings…your hips don’t lie!  Accentuate your waist with an a-line skirt that skims your hips.


Athletic – Muscular build and lines. Create dimension with feminine details and an intricate neckline.


Straight – Willowy like Kate Moss or Calista Flockhart? Highlight a lean silhouette in a floor-sweeping look with a high neck and visible waist.


Hourglass – Va-va-voom! Like the song says…You’re sexy and you know it! Emphasize yourcurves in a fitted skirt and asymmetric hemline.


It takes all shapes and sizes to make the fashion wheel go round. Find your fit and wear it well! Share your figure flattering secrets with Chapelboro Insiders below.

Experience Junkies in Business

It’s true what KIit  FitzSimons said in his article Climb It Control.

I have taken a Fifth Ape class.  Yes – right there in the  Forest Theatre, I ran and skipped and jumped up and down and across.  And after at least twenty tries, succeeded in jumping off a wall and landing on a 2 by 4 without falling off of it.  Yes – I stuck it.  Like a gymnast.   Well – sort of. 
After that, I picked up a tree, put it on my shoulder and walked across the stage at Forest Theatre. 

The crowd roared.  Or it would have had there been one.

By the way – that’s not me in the photo but I looked kind of like that.  Maybe a tad older.

And you know who else was there that day?

Chapelboro Fashion Plate blogger – Kristin Tucker. 

Of course, her outfit was far  more stylish than mine, but she stuck it too.   And she carried a tree across the stage and once again the crowd roared.

From there we did loop-the-loops in a tree like monkeys.

It’s not fair though.  We did NOT go to Coldstone Creamery for ice cream the way Kit’s class did.  So that means I must go back!

Talk about good business….

Colin Pistell is mixing work and play – doing business he loves.  Offering little tastes of it for free each Saturday morning. Building a community with his various meetups and potluck suppers.

And what about Kit?!  What a fabulous way to celebrate life – with his commitment to trying a new experience each week and share it with the Chapelboro community.

In case you missed them, in his article, Kit shared these  seven tenets of the official Experience Junkie:

  1. Try something new.
  2. Challenge yourself.
  3. Be unique…
  4. …or find a unique way to do something common.
  5. Get involved and/or learn something.
  6. Share the experience with others.
  7. Get excited.

What about trying a version of this in your business?

You could try a new process, a new package combo, a new kind of coffee in the coffee machine or a different color marker on the white board.

Or do something new like celebrate National Ice Cream Day on Monday.  Or Lollipop Day on Friday.  Or National Pickle Month.   Ideas and more celebrations for July listed here.

What about sharing Kit’s article with your entire team?  And then inviting them to share any new experiences they try at an upcoming staff meeting.  Maybe some of them will decide to try something new together.

Or maybe the whole team could do something like attend a Fifth Ape session on Saturday morning, celebrate Stick Out Your Tongue Day (July 19) or climb a wall at The Triangle Training Center.

You wouldn’t have to do something new every week.
You could shoot for once a month.
Or once a quarter.

Or even just once could bring a shift, an aha  or even a break through.
Breaking through barriers and boredom. 
Bringing a boost in energy, confidence, morale, productivity and overall performance.
So that you and your team can do good business – better business.

copyright 2012 by Business Class Inc

Got any ideas for Experience Junkies to try?
Write them below in Comments section or send to

The Great Seasonal Closet Cleanse

Between passing trends, classic pieces and the perfect “power outfit” for each season, it’s easy for a busy woman’s closet to get a little out of control.

Even if it looks like a hurricane hit, just a few simple tricks can get your closet back on track.  And now is the perfect time to tackle the closet challenge, before summer slathers its heat!

Refer back to the The Fashion Plate’s in-depth Closet Cleansing article from May 2011for a step-by-step guide.  But here are some basic tips to get you started.

First figure out if you can reasonably fit everything into your closet space or if you should rotate seasonally.  Think about storing only out of season items (if you rotate) and ultra formal wear.

You can sort by type (shirts, dresses, etc.), color or occasion.  And when it comes to hanging versus folding, (no matter what your decision) stay consistent within a category.

Most people wear just 25 percent of their wardrobe.  Determining what pieces to hold on to and which ones to toss is vital.

Experts suggest asking three questions:  Do you love it?  Do you wear it?  Does it project the image you want?  If not, let it go!

Some fashion experts say an objective trick is to face all your hangers the same way, and turn the hanger around the other direction when you wear something.  By the end of the season you’ll know exactly what you wore.

After deciding what didn’t make the cut, it’s time to toss, donate and store.  Donate what’s out of style or more than one size away from your current size.

Toss items that have holes or stains.  If you paid a lot for it or can’t bear to say goodbye, see if disguising the area with a brooch or flower appliqué will help.

Take the cleanse up a notch by getting fashionably organized at work.

Comment and tell us how you keep your closet clutter-free.

“I’m like every other woman: a closet full of clothes, but nothing to wear.” 

Cameron Diaz

One Girl's Fashion Dream

Meet rising fashion designer Leigh LaVange. I’ve wanted to introduce Chapelboro readers to Leigh and showcase her designs ever since I started writing this column.  I have this talent scout intuition that tells me big things are in Leigh’s future. So here’s the story of how she got started.

Leigh is one of our own…born and raised in Chapel Hill and as a huge Tar Heel fan.  She attended Frank Porter Graham Elementary School and Culbreth Middle School before attending Durham Academy for high school.  Freshman year of college she followed in the footsteps of her parents and attended UNC-CH, but then decided to transfer to NC State’s College of Textiles (COT) program at the beginning of her sophomore year. She graduated from NCSU in December 2009 and moved to New York City in February 2010. Local girl follows the stars to the big city.

Life-long focus and determination can take you places. Just ask Leigh’s Dad Ben. “Leigh was very focused as a child and remains so as an adult.  When she decided on something, she went for it. No retreat, no surrender.  She usually gets what she wants, due in no small part to her own hard work.”

Mom Lisa describes Leigh as the LaVange family member who could assemble whatever arrived in a box without ever looking at the instructions. “She has a very intuitive feel for how things are made and work. Whether computers, telephone answering machines (back when we used them!), DVD players, etc., she was our go to person for anything electronic or mechanical.  I bought her a Swedish-made sewing machine at the Cotton Boll at around age 10 or 11 (she still uses it–great machine), because of her affinity for making things, and right away she starting sewing, often without a pattern. “
I asked Leigh’s parents Lisa and Ben LaVange to share any childhood or teenage stories of Leigh’s creative outlets. Dad Ben had this one to share. “One of my favorite stories from high school is Leigh staying up with me to watch the Boston Red Sox (my team) win the 2004 World Series.  Afterward, she had me drive her to Walmart to get supplies to make a championship t-shirt, which she wore to school the next day.  We were both tired, but happy!”
Leigh sites her family as one of her biggest influences. I asked Leigh’s folks which parent claims passing on the creative gene. Mom Lisa says, “Ben and I are both musical, with his drumming and my piano playing, and both girls studied piano and sang in the church choir. Perhaps some musical creativity morphed into design creativity for Leigh.”
As UNC grads and Tar Heel fans, was it painful for you to watch Leigh transfer from Carolina blue to State red? Lisa admits, “We did have a hard time accepting her transfer to NC State. I told her at the time, jokingly, that I was a Carolina alum and faculty member, but my proudest moment was being a Carolina parent, when she was a freshman! I had already planned to participate in graduation as a faculty member four years later when she graduated. But, we knew she was anxious to get started with her career training and did not want to wait until graduate school to study textiles. The NCSU program is top notch. Once we saw the curriculum and met the Dean (who is a statistician like Lisa) and faculty, we were very excited about her studying there.” Ben adds, “As for switching from blue to red, she never did.  We were extremely proud when she was accepted at and chose to attend UNC, but I encouraged her to apply to State when she was a high school senior. She wouldn’t hear of it then, because she was true blue, and she continued to attend Carolina sporting events whenever possible during her years at State.”
That’s dedication to two schools for sure!
Leigh took a break from the bright lights and big city to answer some questions about when she got stung by the fashion bug and how she has pursued and followed the designer’s dream.

When did you realize the fashion world was calling you? I grew up sewing and taking classes, and as most girls I dreamed of becoming a designer, but as I got older and started applying to colleges I didn’t think it was a career option. As much as I loved sewing I wasn’t an artist and did not think an art school was the right choice for me.  About half-way through my freshman year I started feeling like I was missing out on something.  A great friend of my family told me about the College of Textiles at NC State and sent me to the annual Art to Wear show. That is when I realized there was more to fashion than sketching, and I decided that night that I wanted to apply to the COT (College of Textiles) and be in that show by the time I graduated.

What are your most creative childhood memories beyond paper dolls?

When I was about eight years old, my mom signed up my sister and I for sewing classes at the Cotton Boll in Chapel Hill.  My sister didn’t care for sewing, but I couldn’t wait to go back.  I think at my first class I learned to make boxer shorts.  Every summer after that I took more and more classes and made pajama pants, quilts, stuffed animals, dresses, purses and more!  Once I would take a class, then I would take what I learned home and make presents for my friends for birthdays and holidays.  Finally I built my way up to making my own prom dress!
Dad Ben calls Leigh’s prom dress “a labor of love and a thing of beauty to behold!” Mom Lisa adds, “It was gorgeous, made from pale yellow silk georgette. She spent hours creating rolled hems with that delicate fabric. The night before the event, she was doing some trim work, and the zipper broke. I was away on business, so Ben drove all over the Triangle trying to find a store open that sold the right kind of zipper! The dress turned out to be absolutely gorgeous, and the Cotton Boll proprietor urged her to enter the dress into her fashion show that year, but Leigh did not want to compete with her creations. She was crowned Queen of the Prom, which was a nice reward for all the hard work! (see photo above)

Who has inspired you most along the way?

My family of course has always been so supportive of me, and if it weren’t for my mom I may have never learned that I loved sewing and fashion.  A great friend of my mom Kaola Phoenix (local artist in Chapel Hill) was the one who introduced me to COT and encouraged me to pursue fashion. Lastly, while in College I worked at SoHo clothing in Cameron Village and owner Martha Parks and manager Ellen Edwards were a constant inspiration and encouragement for me.  SoHo carries the most amazing and unique designers and being around clothes like that every day was so inspirational.

What was the experience like at NCSU’s COT and how did it prepare you for life in the fashion industry?  And don’t be shy…tell us about your accolades!

I had such a wonderful time at NCSU’s COT.  It was exactly what I was looking for. The classes I took really prepared me for the fashion industry.  It’s not like your typical art/fashion programs.  Each class when we would have the opportunity to design something for a project we had to take it through all of the steps: Designing, Costing, Pattern-making, Grading, Cutting, and Sewing. They taught us that in the industry it is so important to know every step of the process.  I had the opportunity to participate in many different fashion shows, designing and modeling for friends!  My first show at COT was the Cotton Couture show where I designed a convertible dress and showed 4 (of many) different ways you could wear it! (see photo below with Leigh runway center)  My senior year I made it into the Art to Wear show like I had wanted to since before I started at COT.  This was the most fun because I got to be as creative as I wanted. My line was based on the White Witch from the Chronicles of Narnia.  Finally I participated in the Threads Senior show at the COT in December 2009 and designed a line inspired by the French revolution. (see photo below with Leigh in center holding a bouquet of roses and older sister Kate to her left modeling a Leigh LaVange design)

Where do you draw inspiration for your designs?

Everywhere! I like to design things you don’t see every day, so I typically stay away from fashion magazines.  My favorite place to draw inspiration is on the streets on New York.  I love seeing what people are wearing.  I will sometimes even take just the simplest of details in someone’s outfit and expand from there to create something of my own.  I also get inspiration from shopping.  My favorite place of course is SoHo Clothing in Raleigh, NC where I used to work.  Vintage shops are always fun too! My most recent inspirational tool is the coffee table book from the Alexander McQueen exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  If I ever feel stuck I like flipping through that and others.

Tell readers what brought you to the Big Apple and about your current gig.

After graduation I decided my best chance of really getting into the fashion industry would be to move to New York.  I lined up a few interviews for internships with smaller local design firms and after receiving an offer I moved up two weeks later!  It was a very quick and big decision, but I’m so happy I did it.  I worked as an intern for about four months while working part-time at different retail stores in the city.  I was then hired full time as a production assistant (with fashion label Hunter Dixon).  It was great fun and such a learning experience being in the factories everyday and shopping at the local fabric and trim stores.  May of this year I took a job as an assistant technical designer for a bigger company (The Moret Group).  I’m very happy with the move into tech design. My training from COT prepared me well for this job.  It’s been interesting being able to learn about overseas production as well.

What’s your professional dream?

It changes about everyday!  I love doing technical design, but one day I would like to use that skill plus my education in pattern-making (from COT and now FIT – pattern-making certificate program) to branch out in pattern-making as well.  I love making my own patterns for my designs and would like to do that professionally as well. I sell my designs occasionally, so of course I would one day love to make a living out of that!

Where (and when) can fashionistas find your designs?

Usually once to twice a year SoHo clothing hosts a local designers’ event in Cameron Village, and I sell my designs there.  Check the SoHo clothing website  or the Cameron Village website for the next event.  You can find my designs at SoHo anytime though.  Hopefully soon I will have a website up and running!!
Leigh is living proof that one girl’s dream can become a reality with the right training, tenacity and drive! I predict she takes the fashion world by storm. And along the way I plan to wear her threads and write about her future successes! 

Thank you to proud parents Lisa and Ben LaVange for sharing their stories and memories of Leigh’s fashion pursuits. Lisa was most recently a professor in the Department of Biostatistics in the Gillings School of Global Public Health at UNC (2005 – 2011). This past September she joined the FDA as Director of Biostatistics in the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research in DC. Ben works in Human Resources at UNC Health Care. They reside on South Columbia Street (the Bagby house) and throw a great tailgate party!

This is the second story in a series on fashion designers with a Chapel Hill or Triangle connection. (See The Fashion Plate’s 9/20 interview with Chapel Hill native Donna McMillan of Uncommon Threads.)

That’s my feature on a local fashionista! Share your comments and praise about Leigh and other local designers below.

Fall Fashion Dilemma

Fall is officially in the air; just step outside at night for a taste!  A fan favorite for sure, fall means pumpkin patches, football frenzies, fairs & festivals and to-die-for temperatures. Those of us lucky enough to live in the south bask in the glow of “Indian Summer.”  For fashionistas these warm days and cool nights pose a recurring fall fashion dilemma.  I hear it repeatedly, “I never know what to wear in the fall!”  Personally, I think fall is the hardest season to dress for followed closely by spring.  Temperatures creep into the high 70’s and even 80’s in October.  (I’ll never forget catching rays by the pool at Granville Towers freshman year on my October 3rd birthday!)  But at night they dip down to the 40’s and 50’s.  Am I dressing for fall or summer?  Or do we need to create a new season called fallmmer?!  I have a one word answer for this conundrum….Layer!
Don’t pack up every summer outfit just yet.  Throw a pair of tights under that peacock colored playsuit and add a cardigan.  Same with tailored shorts in wool or tweed that appear popular this fall.  Still love the look of your long maxi dress?  Layer with a denim or corduroy jacket for evenings out.  Adding a fall pop of color with a jacket or lightweight coat will spice up your outfit and keep you warm at night.  Try orange!  This week I wore my favorite corduroy polka dot skirt by Donna McMillan of Uncommon Threads (see last Fashion Plate post for article and picture) and a ruffled tank to an outdoor patio lunch at Weathervane.  That evening before I left to meet friends for a little birthday cheer I added tights and a lightweight long-sleeved shrug.  Perfect transition from day to night!
It’s always fun to invest in a few new key pieces each season…like a fall cape, riding boots or an animal print blazer…all hot for fall 2011.  But if you’re on a budget, look at what you already own.  Banish to the back of your closet anything that screams summer in terms of pattern or fabric, and move any transitional pieces to the front.  Then mix in tights, leggings, boots, blazers, cardigans and pashmina wraps and you’re covered…literally!
These are my answers to some of your fall fashion dilemmas.  Add your own ideas below!          

Uncommon Threads – A Common Connection

Several years ago my Mom, Pat Lopp, gave me the coolest black and crème skirt with a patch-work of panels in different fabrics sewn together….one corduroy, one polka dot, one toile, one swirls.  When I looked at the tag it said Uncommon Threads.  I thought, “What a creative designer!”  Fast forward a few years and Uncommon Threads becomes a common connection—Chapel Hill, in fact.  I’m researching a story for Chapel Hill Magazine and selecting items for their 2007 Holiday Gift Guide.  I fall in love with a funky black corduroy skirt with color block panels at the clothing boutique Wink inside Cameron’s at University Mall.  Its label says Uncommon Threads.  I think back to my closet and say, “Hey, I own one of these creations!”  I finally learn the line was created by Chapel Hill native Donna McMillan, sister of Cameron’s own Bridget McMillan Pemberton-Smith and Wendy McMillan Smith.   
I asked Bridget and Wendy what it was like growing up with an aspiring fashion designer.  “Donna was always making something creative with her sewing machine.  She often made us really cool clothes.  Also, I think her creativity really helped me to tap into my own creativity,” says Bridget.
The name alone helps explain what sets Uncommon Threads apart from other lines available at Wink.  “Donna’s skirts are really unique,” explains Bridget.  “People like the idea that they can buy one and be one of a very few persons with that same skirt.  Our customers love that they are made by a Chapel Hill native.  Several of our customers know Donna personally and the love that they can support a friend’s business.” 
Unique is right!  And that’s what personally draws me to her designs.  Here are a few examples.
Follow me from the cozy college town of Chapel Hill where Donna got her start to the quaint coastal village of Georgetown, SC where she now resides and creates.  Here is a peak into Donna’s design world via a recent Q&A with The Fashion Plate.
Give Chapelboro readers a history of Uncommon Thread’s evolution.
I’ve been sewing pretty much all my life; mostly for fun but also for profit. My decision to start Uncommon Threads came about from a combination of things: burn-out from a 20 year restaurant stint, mid-life crisis/awareness and encouragement from family, especially, Bridget and Wendy (sisters who run local favorite Cameron’s at University Mall). The internet has also been a huge inspiration. Living in this area made it difficult to buy fabric and supplies locally. The internet made finding what I wanted possible and fun. The business started by making skirts to sell at Wink, Cameron’s clothing boutique. There has been a lot of trial and error but the styles that seem to sell best are the original appliquéd designs, the panel skirts which incorporate recycled denim and simple basic skirts using fun fabric.


Describe your design space and inspirations for new creations.
I work at home where space once designated for dining or entertaining has been taken over by fabric, pins, measuring devices, patterns, etc. I have a room where most of my fabric is stored and where all the sewing and pressing is done. Most of the cutting is done on my dining room table. Regarding inspiration, sometimes it’s a piece of fabric that leads to envisioning a finished garment. Handbags and other accessories often have details that can be translated into an article of clothing. Current events and social trends have had great influence on some things. Recycling denim and men’s shirts has been done fairly frequently.
Color blocking is a big trend this fall. A lot of your skirts already incorporate this theme. How much do current trends influence your designs?
I have been a fan of color block designs for a long time. My dog appliqué skirts have done pretty well at Cameron’s. The most popular ones are probably those with a black silhouette of a particular dog breed on a bright background with a contrasting band at the hem. I’ve also added collars which provide an additional color to the mix. I’d like to come up with a new theme for fall! As far as design trends are concerned, I stay pretty basic. There are so many fun things out there and I love to see how people coordinate scarves, leggings and jewelry with my skirts. Women are so busy these days and my main goal is simply to have something that’s cute, comfortable, durable and easy to take care of.

Besides visiting your sisters at Wink inside Cameron’s where can fashionistas find your line?
Taylor’s in Pawleys Island, SC
Harbor Specialties in Beaufort, NC This web address now takes you directly to my Facebook page where you can see all the latest things that are going on.
My all-time favorite skirt is one you designed for me when I was writing for Chapel Hill Magazine.  It oozes my personality with a patchwork of colorful polka dots on a chocolate brown corduroy background. (And you had never met or seen me!) Do clients have pieces commissioned?
A large chunk of my business lately has been custom sewing. The best way to contact me is probably through my Facebook page. People can look through the photo albums and see past projects to get ideas of the kind of things I’ve done.


Can you give us a glimpse into the future of Uncommon Threads?
Although I plan to concentrate on skirts, I’d like to try some casual dresses. There are so many nice knits available now. Many are eco-friendly such as rayon made from bamboo. I’ve been intimidated by knits but I think I’d like to give it a try.
Thanks to Donna for sharing her story and to Bridget and Wendy for helping to promote her unique design line in Chapel Hill!

Feel free to share your comments on local designers below and let us know if you own a favorite Uncommon Threads piece.

Stay-cation II

Blow the horns! It’s 5:00 p.m. on Friday! The last great escape of the summer has officially started. I’ve got friends headed to the NC coast and mountains as I type. Even know folks flying in from all over for a larger-than-life Las Vegas blow-out extravaganza. So many places, so little time left on the summer solstice clock.  After forfeiting a Memorial Day weekend trip to exotic Turks & Caicos, I promised myself that history would not repeat itself for the last official holiday weekend before fall. 
Welcome to Stay-cation II! Alas…it’s all good. (Re-visit my May 28th article on ideas for a home-bound holiday weekend if you’re in the same boat.) Instead of packing the car or boarding a plane I will be celebrating all things Chapel Hill starting with a favorite tradition…Fridays on the Front Porch at the Carolina Inn. Saturday’s season opener in Kenan Stadium should be glorious. Long live Tar Heel football and let the tailgating begin! Time to catch up on the Triangle’s plethora of dining, music and outdoor adventures.  The list is endless!
If you do get that itch to get in your car for a spontaneous road trip, Governor Beverly Perdue has made it clear that “the North Carolina coast is open for business.” Deals are out there. The Sanderling Inn just outside the quaint village of Duck on the northern Outer Banks slashed room rates in half this week to attract tourists. Check the internet and make some calls. There is still time to plan an overnight trip. Support our state’s economy and travel to the shore.
I’m keeping this short and sweet, as the Carolina Inn is calling my name. Stay tuned in next week when The Fashion Plate interviews clothing designer and Chapel Hill native Donna McMillan.
Have a safe and happy Labor-Free Labor Day Weekend!
This is my weekend story, share yours below!