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Done With Drab 

Finding attractive clothes that reflect the personality of the wearer is the quest of every woman. For those who wear plus sizes, the journey often is filled with drab colors and styles, and a limited selection. Tia opened Ms. Spratt's (4206 Magazine St., 891-0063) to change that situation in New Orleans, and the positive response over the past five years has motivated her to buy a building on Magazine Street and move the store a few blocks from its original location.

In decorating the new store she used interesting colors, fabrics and other decor aimed at adding some fun and excitement while putting her customers at ease and defining the store as a friendly place to relax and enjoy the shopping experience. It also reflects her personal vision that clothing is a work of art that helps emphasize a woman's personality.

"When I first opened, the store was so new for New Orleans, and women didn't really have a good place to shop (for larger sizes)," she says. "It was the first time a business woman could buy an artsy business suit, and it wasn't run of the mill. It brought a breath of fresh air. I'm a plus size myself, and I never could find clothes here. I had to go out of town, so I brought in what I liked."

Ms. Spratt's offers clothing from small designers, many of them available at no other shop in the South. Tia says she looks for high-quality workmanship, inspired fabrics and flattering designs.

"When people first came in my store, they had had bad shopping experiences," she says. "They would come in here and find things that fit them. I'm all about positive experiences."

When she goes to market, Tia says, she sees a prevailing attitude among buyers that women who wear larger sizes don't want distinctive outfits. Her own experience, however, proves them wrong.

"Buyers are not into taking a risk," she says. "They don't think women are going to buy things that are artsy or a little risky. I think that's the attitude for larger sizes. When I go to market I pass up what buyers for larger stores are buying -- it's so conservative -- and I'll take the risk. But I only buy four pieces of each style to keep it exclusive."

She stocks fashions from casual to glamorous, plus uncommon handbags, stylish jewelry and footwear that make even the simplest outfit a work of art.

Windows on Design

When you hit on a good idea that makes peoples' lives better, you want to share it, and that's what owner Georgina Callan has done with The Curtain Exchange (3936 Magazine St., 897-2444; www.thecurtainexchange.cm/nola), which in just a few years has expanded from a local enterprise to one that will have 25 outlets open across the United States by the end of this year.

The shop offers ready-to-hang window coverings designed by the company's staff as well as consignment curtains and drapes for a fraction of the cost of custom-designed versions.

"The whole idea behind this was that people used to hang onto their curtains for 15 years," Callan says. "They didn't even do that with their cars. If you're going to the trouble to change everything else in your room, why would you stop with your curtains?" Making high-quality curtains available in designer styles with a range of fabric options gives people a chance to breathe new life into rooms and change their environments at a reasonable price simply by hanging some new curtains.

"Windows are such an important part of the room," she says. "They can dictate a room or support a room. I think curtains, like chairs, have personalities all their own; they can be loud and aggressive or quiet and passive."

Currently The Curtain Exchange's most popular items are made of chenille, textured and woven fabrics, silk dupioni and the company's own lines of woven silk taffetas. It will bring out new items in the fall, including its own line of exclusive colors, and its own bedding line to complement the linens it already carries.

A goal of the business is to make fine design accessible and easy for everyone and to make them realize it doesn't have to be hard. To that end, The Curtain Exchange allows customers to take curtains they like home with them for 48 hours so they can see them hanging in different lighting and living situations.

"It's giving people options and making them realize it doesn't have to be that difficult," Callan says. "They can try it on approval; there's no guess work any longer." The approval system has worked so well that nationwide, some 40 percent of the company's customers are interior designers and decorators who find the system optimal for clients who are having trouble visualizing curtains. While The Curtain Exchange is a homegrown enterprise, the plan always was to expand beyond the Big Easy. "The idea of having curtains ready to go in cities all over the nation was the plan, and that's where we're headed," Callan says.

click to enlarge Tia shows off the clothing, handbags, shoes and jewelry at her new Ms. Spratt's location on Magazine Street. - CAMERON YANCEY
  • Cameron Yancey
  • Tia shows off the clothing, handbags, shoes and jewelry at her new Ms. Spratt's location on Magazine Street.
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