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Children's Clothes--the Way They Were

September 09, 1988|KAREN NEWELL YOUNG | Karen Newell Young is a regular contributor to Orange County Life

Remember those little pajama tops with the red fire engines that you wore as a kid? Or the little dress with satin ribbons and a lace collar?

The clothes many of us remember from our childhoods are being re-created in a quaint little shop in Laguna Beach called Kokonuts. Handmade of fine antique cottons, chenille, wool, corduroy, linen and rayon, Kokonuts clothes come from fabrics that owner Frank Ballotta has purchased from antique dealers and estate sales. Most of the materials are between 30 and 50 years old.

The fabric sleuth has been uncovering sources for fine-quality vintage yard goods since his days selling used clothing at another Laguna Beach shop. "I'm a fabric junkie," he says, fondling some material. "I love the way the fabric feels, the way it moves, the patterns."

Ballotta says he began designing children's clothes, which are sewn by seamstresses in their homes, when his friends started having children.

"I realized that people were paying a lot of money for what you see all over. You can go to any department store and (the merchandise) all looks the same. I thought if people are paying this kind of money there must be a market for good clothes and I could make them even better."

Ballotta also felt most children's clothes found in stores looked like adult clothes, only smaller. He wanted to make clothes like the ones he remembered from his past.

His designs often have hand embroidery, appliques and handmade lace surrounding the collars, and most of them are made of fabrics from the 1940s. His "Humphrey Bogart" shirt has two flap pockets in front ($45); his "Ricky Ricardo" jacket, made of rayon gabardine, has a pleated waistband ($75); and his "Hopalong Cassidy" outfit is made of cotton print with little cowboys on it and detailed with coconut buttons.

Most of the designs are one of a kind. He also has a wide variety of chenille jackets, shirt and pant outfits for boys and fancy dresses for girls. Custom-made holiday clothes are a specialty.

Besides morning sickness and backaches, pregnant career women face another unpleasantness about four months into their maternity: finding professional-looking clothes that fit their expanding midsections and their budgets. Renting maternity wardrobes might be the answer.

Pro Creations is, according to proprietor Joy Shivers, the only place in the county that leases maternity wear. Part of a franchise based in Oregon, the company offers a full line of career clothes, including lined jackets, blouses, skirts and dresses.

All the pieces are traditionally styled in high-quality fabrics, Shivers says, adding that the outfits are "like new." Customers can select styles, fabrics and colors in her Irvine office or she will travel to clients' homes. If an outfit is not found in Pro Creations' inventory, the garment can be manufactured to order at no extra cost. If the customer outgrows her maternity wardrobe late in her pregnancy, another wardrobe will be offered free of charge.

Suits rent for $9.95 a week; dresses for $4.95 a week and blouses for $2 a week. A minimum order is 12 weeks, and delivery takes between one and three weeks. Shivers says that a typical wardrobe order runs about $300 and that the suits alone, if sold in retail stores, would each cost about $350.

Pro Creations will also rent special occasion maternity wear for 48 hours. For an appointment, call (714) 552-0959.

CLOTHING ALTERNATIVES AT A GLANCE

Kokonuts: 1524 S. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach; (714) 497-8281

Owner Frank Ballotta offers handmade children's clothes of vintage fabrics; one-of-a-kind special occasion and holiday clothes are a specialty.

Hours: Daily 10:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.

Pro Creations: 22 Carver, Irvine; (714) 552-0959

Owner Joy Shivers leases maternity wear for career women; suits, dresses, blouses and holiday clothes are offered in a variety of fabrics, styles and colors.

Call for an appointment.

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