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FASHION : Uncommon Yokes Free Entrepreneur's Spirit : Former horse trainer forced to switch careers indulges her creative instincts and finds her Western designs have great appeal.

July 21, 1994|KATHLEEN WILLIAMS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Following hunches is not for everyone. There's a lot to be said for time clocks, paychecks and group health care--they keep casseroles on the table and tires on the car.

But right-brain people don't deal with life that way. They doodle on old envelopes, stare at sunlight patterns and venture where left-brainers would fear to go.

Fashion design has lots of right-brainers.

Frances Proctor is one of them.

Her early career was breaking and training horses; but recently horses became luxuries for many. So she switched to line inspection of medical appliances, a career that left yearning in the soul.

Inspiration came during evenings at Western dance clubs.

"I kept looking at everybody wearing these clothes, and I thought, 'I could make something like that,' " said the soon-to-be entrepreneur. Her sewing experience was limited to curtains.

An acquaintance said, "Why don't you give it a shot; you can make my daughter an outfit for a fashion show."

Why not? thought Proctor. She borrowed a sewing machine, and made up a cotton blouse and tiered skirt.

It was the push that led to flying.

Her friend's daughter "got first place in Western wear in the state finals," Proctor said.

It was the California Gold Coast Models show.

With this beginning, Proctor went on to make more outfits, relying less on patterns and more and more on intuition. She started creating uncommon yoke patterns that caught attention. She also combined contrasting fabrics, such as organza with cotton, denim with lace. She has teamed bright Southwest motifs of blue, brown and purple with sheer gauze panels.

Since she launched her business seven months ago, one bride has worn her lace and satin creation, and another has placed an order for a summer gown.

Her dance wear is shown at the Longhorn in Oak View; but Proctor finds most of her customers at the Splash nightclub in Simi Valley, where she appears weekly to introduce new designs.

"I just grab people and send them out on the floor wearing my stuff," she says.

Troy Robinson, leader of the band Caught Red Handed, wears the shirts regularly, and the producer of Country Music World has taken an interest in the clothing, and wants samples.

This puts Proctor on the horns of a dilemma. If she is going to outfit bands, her business may soon pay all the rent, but she will need to hire help to put the clothes together--and she's not keen on delegation.

That's the way success works. Once you're holding the trapeze, you need to catch the next bar that swings toward you. The first leap is the hardest; challenge gets easier as time goes on.

Proctor remembers when she sat down to produce the original dance dress.

"I was scared to death when I made that outfit," she says with a smile, "I couldn't read a pattern; I couldn't do anything."

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