Originally created 06/13/06

Fashion statement



Never mind her jeans and baggy T-shirts.

You probably just saw her on one of her casual days.

As a budding fashion designer, Tuttie Ross, 17, says she's all about changing it up, both in what she wears and what she designs.

"It's crazy, because one day I'm, like, grunge and the next I'm, like, professional," said the 2006 graduate of T.W. Josey High School.

Her closet proves that, and there also is a mix in her portfolio.

"I could describe my clothes as sophisticated, elegant, sensual. My evening gowns are very elegant. My urban attire is street and at the same time sophisticated," she said.

With influences including Roberto Cavalli and Kimora Lee Simmons, of Baby Phat, Tuttie has been sketching her designs for about as long as she's been able to pick out her own clothes at the mall.

"I really discovered I loved fashion when I turned 13," she said.

It wasn't that she dreamed of wearing fine fabrics or wanted to play dress-up but that she saw a void.

"Like with magazines and catalogs that would come to the house, I didn't really see the clothes that I liked, so I'd (get a pad of paper) and redesign the clothes," she said. "I couldn't find any clothes that fit my own personal style so I got the idea to make my own clothes."

The choice to do it herself probably comes from her "bossy" nature, Tuttie says.

A natural at art (which she gets from her father), Tuttie began letting her eye for color, fit and flow become a guide for the pen. Art classes last year in high school have helped give her designs a more polished look.

Her friend Courtney Lesley, 18, a 2006 graduate of A.R. Johnson Health Science and Engineering Magnet School, has seen her develop during the past six years.

"She is a great designer," Courtney said. "Her designs look like they would draw the attraction of famous people or anybody. I wanted her to design my prom dress."

So did a lot of other students. Some even asked for her to design their wedding dresses one day, Tuttie said.

There's been only one problem: She can't sew.

"I got a sewing machine two years ago for Christmas, but I ended up giving it away because I was in a lot of extracurricular activities at the time. Even now I really don't think I have the time," Tuttie said. "I just haven't learned yet."

She wants to enroll in a sewing class in July so she won't be behind any of her classmates once she starts at the Miami Institute of Art and Design in the fall, where she'll be a fashion major.

Courtney says she's seen the work that Tuttie does, and her vision is just as valuable as her output.

"Matter of fact, when I was looking for my prom dress, I called and asked her what colors would look good on me and what style," Courtney said.

With Tuttie's help, "everybody commented and complimented me on what I was wearing," she said.

Tuttie has been getting those compliments on her designs for years. She's just not always so quick to give them to some of the others in the fashion world, who she feels rely too heavily on creating trends instead of creating beautiful clothes that fit people's bodies and tastes.

"Right now, a lot of things are really skimpy or ugly," she said.

Aside from Mr. Cavalli and the elegance he's been able to maintain in his work, Tutti said other designers have gone astray from producing clothes that combine real fashion for real people.

"A lot of designers have lost it," she said. "With some other people, it's just jeans with their name on the back. It doesn't take too much to design a pair of jeans and (stitch) Apple Bottoms on the bottom of it."

Tutti said her criticism isn't that she is cocky, but rather that she has a fresh perspective.

Consider her vision for new uniforms at the fast-food chain where she works:

"I had designed us some hot uniforms," she said, explaining that instead of the traditional visors at Wendy's she'd suggested a regular cap with an embroidered "W."

"My manager was like, 'Nah,'" Tuttie said. "They pick at me all the time."

She knows that rejection and disbelief are part of the process, just as clothes are more than just things to wear.

"Before you open your mouth, your clothes should say something about you," she said. "It may not always be the case, but most of the time (they should). Fashion, to me, should be a way of life. The way you dress is the way you live."

Reach Kamille Bostick at (706) 823-3223 or kamille.bostick@augustachronicle.com.

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