Giving Bows the Business

"I never had a desire to be in fashion or a designer -- it just sort of evolved," says local accessories designer Andrea Chafetz. She started out as a high school English teacher. In 1986, while home on maternity leave, Chafetz found herself with a lot of free time. She began to make hair bows similar to ones she had seen in stores. Before she knew it, Andrea's Beau and Andrea's Petit Beau were being sold to small boutiques and on consignment to such department stores as Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, I. Magnin and the late Garfinckel's.

Chafetz prides herself on the beautiful and unusual fabrics she uses for her creations. Originally she made only hair bows. She soon realized, however, that many of her wonderful fabrics "did not lend themselves to that shape," so she began to let her materials dictate what shapes they would take, and flowers, poufs and draping chiffon styles emerged. As her designs began to expand, so did her business -- she now creates hair bows for women, girls and infants as well as a wide range of shoe clips, some of which match the bows. She sells to six departments in Nordstrom alone. And although her business has grown tremendously, she still works out of her house. "It is very difficult with children walking in who have to go to the bathroom or need a drink. However, these are the daily factors in the way I handle my business.". She also knows that working at home gives her flexibility.

Chafetz is motivated by what she calls the "fun factor." She loves what she does. She also believes that her healthy lack of appreciation for what is in fashion gives her freedom. "I do go to fabric shows and read the fashion magazines, but I have my own sense of what's beautiful."

In the Swim

This summer the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York has a wonderful exhibit tucked away in its lower level -- a retrospective of the swimsuit containing more than 125 bathing suits and photographs from many eras. Styles start with the "cover-ups" from the turn of the century and continue to the skimpy, body-baring suits of today. The exhibit will be open until Sept. 15. But if you don't make it to New York, the softbound book that accompanies the exhibit includes some of the photographs shown.

"Splash! A History of Swimwear," written by Richard Martin and Harold Koda, the curators of the exhibit, provides a brief and fascinating history of the swimsuit. It also contains a glossary of swimsuit terms and styles as well as a swimwear chronology. Published by Rizzoli ($29.95), it is available at Olsson's. Odds and Ends

Now that the summer wedding season is over, brides should think about storing their wedding dresses. The Museum Shop of the Montgomery County Historical Society has a solution that is both inexpensive and easy. The shop carries textile boxes and acid-free tissue, which should be used to store and preserve wedding gowns. The cost of the one-size-fits-all box is $27, and the tissue is 20 cents per sheet. (The museum recommends 20 sheets for most wedding gowns.) The shop also provides a free brochure on the cleaning and storage of bridal gowns.

Kente cloth, the colorful patterned hand-loomed cotton fabric from Ghana, has become increasingly popular this summer, popping up when Nelson Mandela visited in June and then becoming a permanent fixture of Marion Barry's wardrobe. Worn by both men and women, it is used as a head wrap, scarf or belt. These beautiful strips of fabric are now available in two weights (single- or double-woven) for $20 or $25 each at G Street Fabrics, 11854 Rockville Pike, Rockville.

Sewing reminder: The Washington Post will publish its annual list of sewing classes on Sept. 2. If you would like your sewing or craft classes listed, please send complete information on skills required, fees and locations, plus a phone number, to Julie Bresnick, Washington Post Fashion Dept., 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, by Aug. 28.