Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Hot Stuff

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Hot Stuff

Article excerpt

WHEN THE going gets hot, the hot get going.

To their closets, to their shops and to other sources of cool clothes from hot climates for wearing right here in the St. Louis heat.

From Africa, India, Bali and other points south on the ethnic compass come woven or batik-dyed cottons in colors to rival an equatorial sunset. And they're worn elegantly, throughout the summer and well into fall, by owners who prize each garment's uniqueness above all else.

For Doris Suits, a part-time employee and buyer for Coyote's Paw Gallery, the coolest clothes are a series of ankle-length Indonesian tunic-vests from the island of Bali. She wears them with billowy white pants and tops, in crinkled rayon, also from Bali.

"I call it walking-around art," says Suits, just before modeling her finds for a photographer at the St. Louis Zoo.

"The story of these tunics is very funny," Suits continues, "because they're made from hand-woven cotton, and I had about eight or nine of them made when I went to Bali last summer. I brought them back - they're reversible, one side is a pattern, the other side solid color - and I only sold about four or five. I was so disappointed. I thought they were wonderful."

They are, of course, as appropriate wear for dressier summer events - parties, concerts and, she says, "in the shop, because I can play dress-up there."

More recently, Coyote's Paw shoppers have expressed new interest in the tunics, she says.

Suits has been going to Indonesia each summer since 1985, when she inherited just enough money, she says, to make one big trip during a hiatus from her secretarial job at Washington University. She says that her son, Coyote's Paw owner, Alan Suits, instructed her, ` "Mom, that country is full of crafts. Take every penny you have and buy everything you can and I'll sell them in the shop.' I bought carvings and fabrics and jewelry," she says. "And I made enough money so I could make a trip back the next summer."

Now that she's retired from Washington U. she continues to go to Bali on annual two-month buys. She knows people in the town where she stays. "I can't wait to go back and hear the gossip," she says.

Most importantly, she finds cottons that are hand-woven from hand-dyed threads - fabrics that are so unusual, she would never see them anywhere else.

"I try to be honest about finding indigenous things and then have them made so that we can wear them in the West," Suits says. In Indonesia, she adds, " Their sense of style is very strange. They have no sense of style for Western clothes at all. I've had a lot of things made from real sarongs, hand-batiked and very elegant. They're beginning to be collectors' items." Also from Indonesia are many of the mass-produced garments sold at Pier One Imports. They're not one-of-a-kind items. But, says Nicky Dawson, 20, clothing coordinator for Pier One in St. …

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