It comes as no surprise that summer is when Kansas City designers most ceremoniously trot out their wares. Because in the winter, clothes have work to do. They have to keep you from getting frostbitten. They have no choice but to cover you completely. In the summer, however, if we let them, our clothes can party like crazy. Instead of covering us, they complement us, exposing shoulders, calves and often more.
Every June, Kansas Citians flock — in droves — to the 18th Street Fashion Show (previously Isabel’s Fashion Spectacle) to see summer garments created and modeled by locals. In the years since this tradition took hold, the number of summer fashion shows around town has steadily increased. Judging by a recent frenzy of spring shows, we can’t imagine this year will be any different. But because you can’t wait until the middle of the summer to address holes in the ol’ wardrobe, there are plenty of options for the summer-clothes fiend who wants something made by a human being with a bright idea and nary a marketing team interfering with the fine art of draping hot bods — as measured by degrees.
At just more than a year old, this boutique is very here, very now. Owner Hadley Johnson (who also works as an embroidery assistant for New York-based artist Ghada Amer) creates bouncy, feminine garments for the store and still finds room to stock screen-printed T-shirts (for men and women), jewelry, ladies’ blouses, guys’ button-down shirts, pants, and skirts by a handful of other up-and-coming local artists. On top of that, she tracks down clothing and accessories by not-so-local artists from all over the globe whose styles fit the store’s urban aesthetic. Big-kid clothes share wall space with clothes for the world’s hippest babies. As Baby Spool’s advertisements proclaim, “Be small. Look cool.” Located at 122 West 18th Street, 816-842-0228.
Once a custom designer and consultant working from a downtown loft, Laura McGrew now runs her own shop, where she exhibits clothing by different artists and designers every month. At the end of the month, the featured designer’s work rotates back out, keeping things fresh and interesting. McGrew creates a line of clothing called Tomboy Designs as well, and items from that line always hang on the racks. The pieces tend to be sturdy and sensible with some subtle character enhancements — ribbon, slight asymmetry, uniquely placed snaps — lending distinct flavor. Most days, you’ll find McGrew sitting at her drawing board in the back of the spacious retail area, a tape measure draped around her neck, ready to sketch ideas for customers. Located at 1817 McGee, 816-472-6200.
The Cope and Drag Peculiar Bookstore and Scientific Panty Shop
In this renovated firehouse, replete with an outdoor sandbox just for kicks, you will find two things: Susan Wiegand and her wares — including, but not limited to, handmade clothing. Consider doing some advance browsing online at www.scientificpanty.com, where you can not only catch enticing glimpses of Wiegand’s elegant yet breathable couture but also read up on her passionate garment-making philosophy. Cornerstones of said philosophy include the notion that ideal garments “are happy to do anything with you, whether it is gardening or going to a ball” and that, in the case of the award-winning Scientific Panty, “it must be possible to create an undergarment that respects, supports and adores the body it nestles against.” You can order online or stop by the firehouse, 4518 Troost, 816-531-7331.
Once a month at Bar Ibiza (next to Matadors), Carmen Stalker of Stalker Designs curates a trunk show, exhibiting varied work by local designers. A few too many nicely priced beverages from the bar, and you’ll be on a shopping spree before you know it. Stalker’s own adorable, rubber-bathmatesque handbags are also on sale at Humanature Salon in Westport (4041 Pennsylvania, 816-931-3993), where the shelves often showcase locally made camisoles, hairpins and other little whatnots (but currently only Aveda hair and body products and Stalker handbags). The event at Bar Ibiza lasts from 5 to 9 p.m. on the first Thursday of the month, with $2 beers as well as half-price margaritas and mojitos until 7 p.m. Located at 1815 West 39th Street, 816-561-3663. See www.wearhaus.org for more information.
This 39th Street shop has changed its style and its exact location over the years, but it’s been a neighborhood staple for more than a decade. (How did we love your dark-blue jeans back in high school? Let us count the ways!) Once strictly a vintage-and-thrift store, Revue is now a hip boutique, offering primarily sleek new clothes with a handful of vintage items for old-time’s sake. Of note for shoppers in search of locally made clothing are the apron skirts. The owner of Revue (who goes simply by “Terry”) pairs vintage aprons with fabrics and sends them off to three seamstresses, who transform them into skirts with apron fronts. New apron skirts should continue flooding into the store as long as the weather stays hot and people keep buying them. Located at 1415 West 39th Street, 816-561-6059.
Arizona Trading Company
This is where you already go to buy your friends’ old clothes (and, yes, that is why they look so eerily familiar). But the Trading Company also offers original screen-printed T-shirts by store manager Venus Starr as well as by collectives Blue Ribbon Press and Hey, Sailor. Especially appropriate are T-shirts for the Ssion, whose frontman, Cody Critcheloe, can frequently be spotted working the cash register. The shirts read “I love punk rock, but I hate SSION.” What? Stop hating. Handbags by Angela Williams hang on the easternmost wall, by the entryway. And locally made greeting cards (by that, we most certainly don’t mean Hallmark) sit on the checkout counter. Humorous screen-printed undies (boy shorts with full coverage, no less) are in back by the dressing rooms. Located at 209 Westport Road, 816-960-0200.
Two words: scented tights. OK, there’s a lot more to say about this store, but the scented tights are our most recent discovery at this local, artsy panty shop. Consider us equally impressed by the handmade Sophie and Gwendolyn line of matching tops and bottoms, the cotton panties screen-printed by top-notch local artists and the hot James Bond-style belted bikinis. Some of the creations are local, and some are not. But skivvy purveyors Corrie Van Ausdal and Peregrine Honig can answer any of your intimate apparel questions — especially helpful if you’re shopping for someone else. They put up one hell of a billboard, too. Located at 116 West 18th Street, 816-842-2473.
Phil Shafer (aka Sike Style) can outfit you for the STREET. With his ever-impressive graphic-design skills, he makes propaganda for the body — student or otherwise. Go to his Web site and click on “store,” where you will find “stuff and things, things and stuff!” — including local hip-hop CDs, affordable one-of-a-kind painted canvas boards and, of course, clothing: T-shirts, tanks, hoodies and the rest. That’s www.sikestyle.com.