Purple Paisley and Partners
Winchester — Purple Paisley and Partners in Winchester isn’t just about selling clothes, it’s about providing possibilities.
For owner and seamstress Roslyn “Ella” Honesty, the mindset behind her business is that women can look special every day. She wants to aid that goal with custom-made clothing designed to fit the bodies and personalities of her clients.
With a few designs that can be customized to different sizes, shapes and preferences, Honesty, 55, of Frederick County, said she can provide clothing to fit a variety of tastes.
“It is about having simple silhouettes,” she said. “Then you put different fabrics with them to take on a different persona.”
Honesty opened her business in October, offering services as a seamstress and fashion consultant. She has a shop at 132 N. Braddock St., Suite 2, but it is less of a retail spot and more of a way for customers to get an idea of fabrics and how her clothes wear.
“Some people need to see it on them,” she said. “They can’t visualize how it will look.”
The two-room space is full of color, with racks of clothes, bolts of fabric, accessories and other items, filling but not cluttering the space.
To start with, Honesty has created a few signature items she hopes will set her work apart. One is her work with polar fleece. Since she is allergic to wool, she needed an alternative to help her stay warm. But the shirts, dresses and coats aren’t meant exclusively for winter wear.
“I don’t really like clothes that have a season,” she said. “You want to get your cost of wear out of them.”
Honesty created a design for a polar fleece flower scarf, which is fringed, has leaves on either end and, when not being worn, can be curled up and made to look like a flower. It is her way of giving someone a flower that lasts. “I want it to be a signature piece of mine.”
The base of Honesty’s clothing is three simple silhouettes — a tunic, a convertible dress and a long piece of fabric — that can be easily customized to create different looks.
“Between those three things, depending on the fabric chosen, a woman could have something made for herself to look elegant for just about any occasion,” she said.
She has made samples of the tunic in pink faux fur with a rose motif, a white popcorn knit swimwear cover-up, and a slinky knit dress in a blue, green and black leopard print.
The convertible dress can be worn as a dress with a few variations or as a skirt. Some of her samples are made out of stretch lace, a crushed velvet knit, and an interlock knit.
The long piece of fabric is usually styled as a sarong, and she leans more toward knits rather than cottons because the former “lays on the body better.”
An example of each of the silhouettes is on display at the Shenandoah Arts Council, 811 S. Loudoun St., as part of its Black History Month exhibit, “Interculturality.” Honesty is one of three African-American women with work on display, Executive Director Tracy Marlatt said.
Some of the outfits include a purple polar fleece tunic with a tank top dress and a jacket titled “family” that is made on African mud cloth and features hand-sewn figures on it.
Since the exhibit went up at the beginning of February, Marlatt has had women attend private events in the space, see the clothes, and admire them.
“She doesn’t design just for black women or size 2,” Marlatt said. “She takes her original designs and makes them to fit whoever her customer is. She celebrates all women.”
As an added event for the gallery, Honesty will offer “Purple Peace: A Show of Fashion” at 3 p.m. Sunday to showcase her designs along with music and narrative displays.
Unlike a traditional fashion show, Honesty’s commentary will delve into culture, personal and community history, and inspiration for her clothing.
She is framing the show in the context of “going to church, dressed to the nines,” a tradition she learned from her mother, the late Audra Honesty, while growing up in Winchester. The practice of big stylish hats, white gloves and lovely handbags isn’t as popular as it once was, but it can still be celebrated, she said.
In addition to her clothing, Honesty will have her models wear hats that belonged to her mother, her sister, and some borrowed from the personal collection of a local woman. They will not be for sale.
The clothes and the business are a way for Honesty to celebrate and honor her late mother, who first taught her to sew and “was an inspiration to me because of her creativity and the way she carried herself.”
Audra Honesty, who was an educator from 1955 to 1980, worked as a teacher and principal in all-black schools in Frederick County and then during transition after desegregation.
At home, she made clothes for her family and quilts to give away, some of which people in the community still have in their families today, Honesty said.
“I got my love of fabric by watching things that came in the house and how you can take scissors and pen and create something,” Honesty said.
She graduated in 1975 from James Wood High School and before long fed her love of fashion by working in retail. Over the next few years, she worked at Ellie’s Bridal Shop and Junior Boutique in Winchester and several stores in Washington, D.C., and then New York.
At age 29, she started studying fashion at the International Academy of Merchandising and Design in Chicago while working part time at Saks Fifth Avenue. The job turned into a 19-year career with the company, working at locations in Chicago, Chevy Chase, Md,, Hilton Head, S.C., and Tyson’s Corner.
In 2009, she came back to Winchester and cared for her mom, who had been diagnosed seven years earlier with Alzheimer’s disease. Audra Honesty died May 2012 at 87 years old.
Her daughter decided to stay in Winchester and use her experiences to start a business. The name Purple Paisley and Partners sprang from the iconic color for Alzheimer’s, a shape her mother was fond of, and Honesty’s desire to partner with customers and other local businesses to create something special.
She has her own designs and can sew commercial patterns, but she does not tailor. She offers services as a stylist, fashion consultant and interior design. She also makes custom bedding, throws and curtains.
As part of the business, Honesty offers Fashions for Fun, customizable events that range from personal fashion shows to women having “dress up” parties where they can try on clothes and be photographed without having to purchase clothes, similar to glamour shots.
Many of her events can be turned into fundraisers.
Purple Paisley and Partners, 132 N. Braddock St., Suite 2, is open after 2 p.m. Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and by appointment. For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact Honesty at 703-244-5671 or email@example.com.
— Contact Laura McFarland at firstname.lastname@example.org