You shouldn’t confuse Merella Merulla with your typical soccer mom for two reasons.
One, it would be wrong: She is a hockey mom to sons Michael, 12 and Charles, 15.
Second, she certainly doesn’t navigate the rink in traditional sports-mom threads.
Instead, catch her in high stilettos, skinny jeans with a cuffed hem, a fabulous shirt with the requisite Merulla splash of bold, all topped with her signature Hermes scarf, which does nothing to thwart the hockey rink chill but does everything to stake her claim as a fashionista.
“I’m usually not dressed like the other moms, but this is how I feel comfortable,” the 48-year-old says. “I’m usually carrying heavy bags to hockey practice, but I don’t lose my high heels unless I’m exercising.”
Merulla makes her mark by putting an unusual spin on the usual suspects.
That may mean an unexpected cut on a classic suit, a jolt of color to wake up a sleepy top, or pairing an indie label with high-fashion fame.
She credits her mix-and-match method to her experiences growing up.
The daughter of a father in the oil biz, Merulla hopped from Canada to Venezuela to Washington to Spain to California before settling in Kennett.
“I spent my impressionable years in all sorts of places, observing different cultures, which I think influences me to pull from different things,” she says. “Fashion is all about being comfortable in your own skin, and I am.”
Case in point: fresh from the West Coast where mini-skirts were all the rage, Merulla had no problem showcasing her gams when she arrived in Kennett. “I guess [mini-skirts] didn’t get here yet because no one was wearing them,” she recalls.
Now that the world of fashion is favoring the maxi skirt, Merulla has come full circle.
A card-carrying member of Corporate America, Merulla has to balance her look between work and play.
As the director of sales and marketing at the Hotel du Pont, Merulla’s 9-to-5 is draped in elegance.
She says the hotel’s style influences her, so she adores wearing classy suits to work. Of course, she brings her own touch, be it her fiery red lipstick, brightly colored heels or her über-short, spiky hair.
“I like it because it’s different,” she says of her hair.
The hotel industry allows her a lot of travel time, so Merulla stocks up on pieces from around the globe.
When grounded, she enjoys boutiques that carry unique pieces, like Apricot Lane in Glen Mills.
Merulla takes her style home with her in the form of fabulous decor and design.
Her heels go clickety-clack on her stylish granite floors, and in typical Merulla fashion, she pairs highbrow elegance like a gorgeous chandelier with leopard-print dining room chairs.
“I don’t know how I’d define my look,” Merulla says. “But I think my best advice is to be fearless and to ignore age. You can absolutely look fabulous over 40. And mix the bold with the simple. Fashion changes constantly, but it’s a statement of you, so don’t be afraid to express.”
Page 2: The New Dry Cleaning
Yes, it uses water. No, it won’t harm your clothes—or the environment.
Fernando Guarjardo hopes to prove that going green is also about how you clean your clothes.
His dry cleaning service in Rehoboth Beach, Clothes 2 You, is the only one in the state that uses a wet cleaning process that requires no unhealthy chemicals.
Wet cleaning uses refrigerated water as the main solvent to clean clothes. Biodegradable detergents and soaps and computer-controlled washers and dryers get dry-clean-only clothes fresh and clean.
For over three years, Clothes 2 You’s state-of-the-art facility has offered zero health hazards and the same prices as any other dry cleaning service.
Guarjardo says his business, unlike almost all other dry cleaners, does not use the dangerous chemical perchloroethylene, which pollutes the air, ground and people who are exposed to it—including those who wear clothes cleaned with it.
“This chemical is a very dangerous health hazard,” Guarjardo says. “People have gotten sick off of it.”
Guarjardo assures customers that anything that can be dry cleaned can be wet cleaned at his store. He said it is important for people to be informed about perchloroethylene and know about the chemicals their dry cleaning service uses. California law is phasing out the use of perchloroethylene. Guarjardo hopes Delaware will follow suit.
“Dry cleaning is one of the least regulated industries,” he says. It could be time to give wet cleaning a try.
Page 3: The Skinny on Jeans
Shopping for jeans has never been easy for Carrie Ventresca. She has a size 0 waist. Poor fit, uncomfortable material and a lack of proper sizing have frustrated many a thin woman like her, especially if the kid’s department is the only place to shop.
“I couldn’t wear anything from a regular store,” Ventresca says. “I had to wear children’s clothes with gem stones and superheroes.”
So last year, she bagged the gemstones and started Club Skinny with her husband, Delaware native Greg Ventresca. Club Skinny produces handmade jeans that cater to svelte fashionistas.
In just a year’s time, stars like Paula Abdul and Hollywood stylist Rachel Zoe were donning Ventresca fashions. And the company is getting orders from around the world.
“We’re not saying you have to be skinny to be beautiful,” Ventresca says. “But if you’re a part of the club, you understand what we go through.”
Club Skinny offers a wide variety of denim jeans, including wide-leg trousers and matchstick Jagger-esque jeans. A men’s line will premiere this winter. The jeans range from $148 to $180.
“The first thing we get when people try them on is, ‘Oh my god, I’ve never had a pair of jeans that fit me before,’” Ventresca says. “Once a woman puts them on and cries, it’s just like, wow, it’s worth it.”
For info, visit clubskinny.com.
Page 4: A Fashionable Address
“It’s an entrepreneur’s dream,” says Wil Minster. But it’s not the dream he’s living, running a century-old family business.
Minster, owner of Minster’s Jewelers on Ninth, has joined with Don McGinley of Preservation Initiatives and Jim and Susan Steward of Bennett, Colorado, to make the block of Ninth between Orange and Tatnall in Wilmington a fashion hub for women.
The group is renovating the buildings from 216 to 222 West Ninth Street. Project manager Rachel Royer of Preservation Initiatives and Hue Architecture of Wilmington are restoring the structures, while Minster recruits retailers.
“When do women have time to shop?” Minster says. “Our goal is to enable women to shop Ninth Street and get an entire outfit, including jewelry, after work or even during their lunch time.”
The so-called fashion district will complement existing businesses and mesh with the overall strategy of Wilmington’s Main Street program. Main Street “aims to have a niche for every area downtown,” says director Clarence Wright. “We have the design district of LoMa (Lower Market Street), the arts of Crosby Hill (Upper Market Street), entertainment, restaurants and, now, the Fashion District on Ninth Street. It’s all happening very naturally. With the reopening of the Queen Theater at Fifth Street up to the DuPont Theater and Theater N, we’ll have arts on every block, with Ninth Street as a natural crossing.”
Page 5: Dress for Environmental Success
New fabrics and fibers are just the beginning of the story.
It’s easier than ever to dress green, says M. Jo Kallal, a professor at the University of Delaware who specializes in environmental apparel design. But beware: Totally green fashion is still a dream.
Today’s fibers are made from bamboo, seaweed, wood pulp, milk, organic wool and cotton, sustainable silk and vegan silk. Even DuPont is in on the trend, having recently introduced Sorona, a polymer fiber made of starch from corn. “Modern green designs do not shout that they are eco-friendly because they are seasonless, easy care or multi-functional,” Kallal says.
Eco clothes are easier to find online than in local stores. Lara Miller (laramiller.net) offers women’s apparel made with sustainable materials. Nike recently announced the Air Jordan XX3 from its environmentally friendly Considered line. “Nau (nau.com) focuses on balancing beauty, performance and sustainability in their fashionable sportswear pieces,” Kallal says.
It’s nearly impossible to find entirely eco-friendly clothing, however. “Everything from selection of the fiber, fabrics, garment components, factories, and packaging to the specification of the production, care, shipping, advertising, merchandising and retailing methods are part of the story,” Kallal says.
So it’s important to remember that care and disposal of all clothing matters, too. Read labels and consider how the cleaning will impact water and power resources. And, Kallal says, remember the three Rs: reduce (limit unnecessary purchases), recycle (Alabama Chanin and Patagonia make duds from recycled materials or donate used clothes to Goodwill) and reuse.
“Look at Hollywood,” Kallal says. “Renée Zellweger often arrives at the Oscars wearing vintage gowns.”
Page 6: Used Bling
Go ahead and buy. Estate jewelry has a luster all its own.
Those with Jackie O style—with or without Jackie O cash—can shine just as brightly as any red carpet starlet. They just have to find the right estate jewelry. Local stores can help.
Paul Cohen, owner of Continental Jewelers in North Wilmington, is one of Delaware’s leading experts.
“First you have to determine what you like, what makes you feel good,” Cohen says. “That could mean remembering a grandmother that had a similar piece or a certain color that makes you feel glamorous.”
Second, Cohen says, examine the condition of a piece. Repairs “have a major impact on value.” If the stem of a Victorian brooch has been replaced with a modern component, it isn’t as valuable as one restored with an authentic stem. Beware of bad soldering. And consider authenticity. If that late-Edwardian piece was restored with white gold, it’s not so precious. White gold wasn’t made until 1917.
Don’t care about bad glue? Go ahead and buy. But if you know history, you can negotiate a better deal. Some estate pieces are antique, made before 1920. Art deco, vintage and retro pieces cover the 1920s through the 1950s.
Cohen can fill you in. Or visit Winterthur to see how the du Ponts sparkled. At the Pennsbury Chadds-Ford Antique Mall, dealers such as Betty Martin can help. The Heritage Antique Market in Lewes sells jewelry ranging from Victorian to vintage 1930s and ’40s. Centreville has great antique shops with estate jewelry, as well. And Brandywine Boulevard in Bellefonte boasts fabulous shops with estate pieces. But a word to the wise: If you go on Saturday morning, grab a coffee first. Shops don’t open till 11.
Page 7: Retrograde A+
Clothes in the Past Lane moves fast.
Sandi Patterson was listening to an Eagles game when the song “Life in the Fast Lane” came on. It was the a-ha moment when her Clothes in the Past Lane was born. In the two years since the Newark shop has evolved to feature new, cutting-edge clothing as well as retro items.
“I always wanted to open up a little boutique,” Patterson says. Layoffs at the nonprofit she worked for gave her that opportunity. Less than a year later, she opened Clothes in the Past Lane.
In general, “retro” at her place refers to articles from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. Vintage usually means older items. Patterson offers both. Items include women’s skirts, dresses and coats. Men’s items include jackets, ties and shirts. “Hats,” she says, “are real big.”
Patterson buys outright from various sources, including private sellers and estate sales. The retro section, which features a case of vintage jewelry, takes up only a small portion of the store. “I quickly realized a store of all retro clothing would not work here in Newark,” Patterson says. “It’s mostly students and university employees. Students who come from New York City love the retro. Others would never try it on. They look at it as used clothing, but now they are starting to get a little savvy.”
Assembling and displaying outfits with new and retro items helps customers see the possibilities. Among the new items are jeans by Mavi, a Turkish line. “They are an upscale jean at an affordable price,” says Patterson. All the jeans are under $100. She also carries Levis, Converse sneakers, Threadless T-shirts, Rocket Dog shoes, Melie Bianco bags, TOKYObay watches, American apparel and Red Tango handbags. She’s planning to add Fossil wallets.
Many of the new items are vintage-inspired. After all, when it comes to fashion everything new is old again.
Page 8: A New Hue for You
Organic spray tanning may just be the healthiest—and easiest—way to slough off the cold-weather blues. So go ahead and tan your hide.
If lightboxes, pungent chemicals and claustrophobic machines are a turnoff, an organic spray tan may be the best way to get your winter coating on.
The odorless airbrushing process takes five minutes to cover the entire body. Experts say streaking is not a worry and the tanning solution won’t stain hair or clothing. Perhaps most important, there’s no need to fear you’ll appear as orange as an Oompa Loompa.
The process, says Devon Tucker, is safe and simple.
“The solution contains dihydroxyacetone, which comes from sugar beets,” says Tucker, owner of Covet Spa in Greenville. “It’s organic. I watched the guy spray it in his mouth twice during the demonstration.”
The tan ($48 per treatment) is available in three shades, starting with level one for fair-skinned folks. The recipient must stay dry for six hours after treatment to allow the color to develop. Tucker recommends using moisturizer twice a day because the tan fades due to exfoliation.
The first treatment lasts five to seven days and can remain for up to 15 days after the third treatment. “For some people it’s longer,” Tucker says. “It depends on the natural melanin level in the skin.”
She strongly recommends a 30-minute body exfoliator treatment to prepare the skin for the spray tan application. One of five varieties of body scrub will be recommended according to skin type.
“It sloughs off the dead cells and gives it the perfect surface to adhere to,” Tucker says.
Customers can purchase treatments in a series of three, six, nine or 12. The different series offer a discount and include one or more exfoliator treatments.
Page 9: In With the Old
When it comes to recycling, Second-Hand Rose had the right idea.
Why strain the planet by buying everything new? Second-hand and consignment shops offer an earth friendly—and less expensive—alternative.
At Rags to Riches Upscale Resale (5801B Kennett Pike, Centreville, 654-5997) Jodie McLaughlin offers gently used designer clothing, handbags and jewelry she calls “recycled chic.” Designer labels such as Bebe and Carlisle hang on the racks. A 1980s Channel bag that fetches $1,155 on eBay is $325. A 1970s Halston gown: $225. McLaughlin’s gem is a vintage Bob Mackie priced at $2,200. On vintagatextile.com, a similar gown sold for $3,200.
Indeed, most consignment shops carry designer products. Used home furnishings, estate jewelry and vintage clothing buffs are well served at Finders Keepers (910 Brandywine Blvd., Wilmington, 762-7878), Sacks Thrift Avenue (800 Brandywine Blvd., Wilmington, 762-1702) and The Fairy Godmother’s House (901 Brandywine Blvd., Wilmington, 762-7878). Eclectica (800½ Brandywine Blvd., Wilmington, 888-1824) offers whimsical gifts. Blueberry Hill Resale (1015 Brandywine Blvd., Wilmington, 765-2047) boasts six rooms of collectibles, housewares, vintage clothing and linens. Karey Sperbeck of Déjà Vu (111 Atlantic Ave., Ocean View, 539-1335) sells clothing originally from Talbots, Chico’s and Flax. Coach bags are $75 (retail: $300).
McLaughlin donates a portion of her sales to nonprofits like Ministry of Caring and Women’s Opportunity Link of Delaware. To her, the benefits of consignment are economic as well as environmental.
“When people don’t give their clothes to us, they end up in the trash,” McLaughlin says. “And I’m pretty sure most aren’t biodegradable.”
Page 10: It’s That Time Again
Fall back into these funky fresh looks.