In the past few years, Portland has gained a rep for being packed to the gills with clothing crafters. But the real sardines in this fish tank may be our local accessory designers. Makers of bags, berets and baubles, they often market their work nationally, and P-town's boutiques are beginning to benefit from this homegrown creative buzz. That means buying locally has never been so stylish. Cast an eye (and your net) over these wares.
POSIE: ROSY LITTLE THINGS BY ALICIA PAULSON
Alicia Paulson's dancing hands have been turning out beautiful things since she turned 13--that's when she launched her first business monogramming miniature saddle blankets for the hobnobbing equestrienne set. As of late, her handcrafted genius has turned to photo albums (the darling of a recent issue of Country Living), and now thrives in her newest venture--a line of "flirty, frothy and a little bit fancy" handbags. The bags each have a theme and nostalgic, J. Peterman-esque descriptions: Pique-Nique features gingham and rickrack and evokes "champagne and chocolate strawberries, eyelet bustier, flirting shamelessly"; Lake Lawn Lodge is "'50s Wisconsin resort" with bark-cloth prints and ultra-suede accents. But the star of the ensemble is the La Vie Parisienne collection, which pairs reprints of '20s fashion illustrations with striped grosgrain ribbon. I guess it's the little things that matter.
Call 231-7674 for more information. Albums are available at Ella Boutique, 2337 E Burnside St., 236-2933. Bags are available at www.rosylittlethings.com.
BIRDS OF PREY BY JAYME HANSEN
Don't hit yourself over the head in search of a trendy topper. Just drop your worn-out knit cap and start accepting the fact that the best spring hats take classic church-on-Sunday shapes and tilt them 20 degrees. Local designer Jayme Hansen has apprenticed herself to Portland's venerated milliner--Dayna Pinkham, owner of Pinkham Millinery. By learning traditional hat-blocking techniques and personalizing them with her signature edgy scissor-style, Hansen has created hats that magically balance traditional elegance and indie wit.
"A year ago, I would have never guessed I'd be making blocked-felt and straw hats, but somehow it feels like millinery and I are meant to be together," says Hansen. "Lately, color has been my inspiration, and I just got the most amazing felts: hot pink, turquoise, lime and electric blue."
Available at Seaplane, 3352 SE Belmont St., 234-2409.
JEWELRY BY PATTY LEHNER
It took three years--and heavy badgering from her daughter (a graphic artist with a good eye)--for Patty Lehner to extricate herself from her day job and begin stringing stones together full-time. Her off-the-rack earrings, necklaces and bracelets feature refined-but-funky asymmetrical crystals and rough-cut semiprecious beads. They're feminine but not nauseatingly delicate--some of her bracelets look like they could survive a trip down the garbage disposal, though that's not recommended.
"My collection is made for the contemporary woman who loves color, texture and fun. Each piece I make is either a single item or a very limited production," says Lehner. She also collaborates with Ella Boutique owner Carmen Bailey-Davis to create custom jewelry pieces for brides and bridesmaids.
Available at Ella Boutique.
SOFADA BY ALICE DOBSON
"I've been working on bathing suits for years, so I've gotten used to how a suit ought to fit a woman's body," says bikini designer Alice Dobson.
Her swimmingly sweet suits, which mix the low-slung hipline of '60s mod and the glam halter look of the '40s, use lightweight lingerie elastic, so waistbands and leg openings don't strangle the body. The suits often look bigger than standard bikinis on the hanger because they fit evenly instead of stretching and straining. Prêt-à-porter styles run about $90. She also produces custom suits (about $110) in a broad range of sizes and styles. Her stock of fabrics runs from contemporary prints to retro graphics (yes, even a teeny-weeny yellow polka dot).
Available at Papillon Fine Lingerie, 232 SW Ankeny St., 284-1023, and Sofada, 4623 NE Fremont St., 445-2006.
QUEEN BEE BY REBECCA PEARCY
Queen Bee's rule can't be overestimated--Rebecca Pearcy's vinyl empire of goldfish-and-flower-festooned handbags, wallets, belts and guitar straps have infiltrated every hipster shopateria west of the Cattle Belt, from San Francisco's Otsu (an all-vegan craft and fashion boutique) to Evergreen State University grad cool-kid website buyolympia.com. The fanfare is deserved--Pearcy's designs, which layer topstitched vinyl cutouts in contrasting colors with eye-catching oddments like 7-inch records and Spanish lotería cards, are fresh and often ha-ha funny. Also a musician who released her second solo album late last year, Pearcy recently relocated her workshop from Oly to Portland, happily employing several local stitchers.
Available at Seaplane, at www.buyolympia.com, or by calling 232-1755.