Down a sunny side street in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, a long staircase leads to a spacious studio tucked beneath a brick building dating from the 1880’s. On the door hangs a small painted sign: Regalia Handmade Clothing Studio. My first ramble through Eureka Springs, I missed it completely. My second, the store was closed. But on the third foray into town, I hit pay dirt.
Mark Hughs, Regalia’s proprietor and genius-in-residence, makes wonderful, stylish and fun linen clothing. Clothes of the ilk I have always wanted to wear but never could. You know the kind: simply shaped and loose fitting, in sumptuous colors and soothing neutrals, the kind of clothes that are somehow simultaneously elegant and casual. Plenty of women wear them. But not yours truly.
On moi, simply shaped is shapeless; loose fit looks like I’ve lost all fashion sense. Time and again I’d try on a skirt or a top somewhere and exit the dressing room full of hopes that were dashed the moment I looked in the mirror. I somehow simultaneously resembled an unmade bed on legs or a bolt of cascading cloth with a head sticking out of it. Until I stumbled upon Regalia.
It’s not every day, or even every decade, that a woman can go into a store and fall in love with nearly everything she puts on. I had an absolute blast just trying things on. The shoulder seams hit my shoulders. The cuffs hit where cuffs are supposed to hit — at the wrist and not my thumb knuckle. OK, the drawstring pants would need hemming but I’ve already alerted the re-incarnators that next time around I’m coming back five foot six. I tried on skirts with clever seaming, capped sleeve tops, pants with drawstrings and a cute little top finished with a three-inch flare of ruffle at the hem. My favorite is the Trapeze Jacket: a cropped delight with a deep back pleat that makes the whole garment swing. Ergo Trapeze, I assume.
And the colors! A veritable crayon box of delight: rose, red, yellows, aquas. The hues are yummy and so area the names: wisteria, sumac, celadon. I don’t exactly get why a burlap mushroomy brown is called “inca.” Skin color? Dusty earth? I’d have more fun and call black “inka” and “inca” burlap mushroom. But that’s just me.
Mark, a former costume designer who has been designing and making clothes since he turned his childhood GI Joe’s parachute into a skirt, also works in silk and wool. One of my favorite fabrics is a really fun 1950’s evocation of cowboys on horses. Think Beaver Cleaver’s bedspread. I’ve put on my wish list the Trapeze Jacket in the denim cowboys or maybe pink. It also looks fabulous in “inka.”
Price — the crux of any purchase. Regalia clothes aren’t inexpensive but they are quite fairly priced for what you get: handmade, beautifully constructed and finished, with all the facings topstitched and laying perfectly flat. I look at the garments as investment pieces — classically-designed clothes that I will wear for years to come. And when my novels sell, first thing I’m going to do is order that Trapeze Jacket in Beaver Cleaver cowboys.