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Pittsburgh icons share their must-have fashion items

| Thursday, Jan. 2, 2003

If you have a favorite pair of black pants with which you feel an almost psychic connection, a lip balm that might be literally addictive, a pair of designer shoes from 1988 that still go with everything — OK, that might be pushing it — then you know the feeling of needing that one special item that completes your outward appearance.

Few are immune. TV news anchors and ballet dancers need their security blankets — and boots and skirts — too.

Here, a look at the most-loved fashions and the must-have beauty potions some of Pittsburgh's most interesting people cling to:

Sally Wiggin, TV anchorwoman

Any Pittsburgher who owns a TV knows Sally Wiggin, co-anchor of WTAE Action News at 6 and 11 p.m. She has been with the station for more than 20 years and has won her share of awards for her hard-nosed reporting skills.

More than just a pretty face, Wiggin holds a master's degree in Chinese Studies from the University of Michigan and has studied Japanese at the University of Pittsburgh.

But to shine brightly on the small screen, Wiggin relies on lipsticks, lip glosses — anything to boost the color.

"I have to have something on my lips," Wiggin says. "I'll take anything, it doesn't matter if it comes from someone else's purse."

These days, Wiggin has found a new best friend — Lancôme Juicy Tubes.

"It tastes like juice, and I think that I've become addicted to it," Wiggin says. "I like it very much, because it's like putting chewing gum on my lips."

Kyle Abraham, Freelance choreographer and dancer

Kyle Abraham is certainly a man on the go. Abraham has worked with numerous dance companies in Pittsburgh, including Dance Alloy and Expressions Dance Company, as well as the Bill T. Jones Dance Company and Gerrard Dance Company in New York.

Abraham says the one item he can't live without is his computer — but that doesn't count as a fashion accessory. His collection of hats comes in a close second.

"I wear hats a lot, but there is not a specific one that I always wear," Abraham says. "I crochet my own hats and make crocheted jewelry."

Some might say Abraham has an ulterior motive coupled with his passion for crocheting hats.

"My favorite singer is Erykah Badu, and I'd always hoped that I'd run into her and have something to give her, because she always wears crocheted hats," Abraham says.

Hint to Abraham: Badu will perform Feb. 4 at Club Laga in Oakland.

Mary Margaret Stewart, Owner and designer of Iman B.

Pittsburgh native Mary Margaret Stewart is the quintessential local girl made good. After spending 12 years living in Paris, Stewart returned to Pittsburgh to open Iman B., a trendy Shadyside boutique where Stewart creates and sells her original clothing designs.

Stewart moved to France when she was 18 to attend design school. She first sold her designs at flea markets, where a Japanese retailer discovered them and introduced her to the Japanese market.

Stewart moved back to Pittsburgh in 1997 to be closer to her family and to raise her daughter in a less hectic environment. The rest, as they say, is history.

Stewart's battered Coach backpack has accompanied her on many cross-continental jaunts.

"I've had it for eight years, and it's so weathered. They don't make them like they used to," Stewart says. "When I wear it with a nice coat, I look like a vagabond."

Florence Rouzier, Founder of Ambience Boutique

Florence Rouzier's career has spanned across many diverse industries. Rouzier, the founder and principal of Ambiance Boutique, worked as a marketing and communications specialist in New York for 12 years before moving to Pittsburgh in 1980.

Rouzier, however, was never one to let dust settle around her. A native of Haiti, Rouzier immigrated to the United States when she was 12. A modern-day Renaissance woman, Rouzier holds several advanced degrees, including a master's in public management from Carnegie Mellon University.

Rouzier's most coveted fashion accessory is her collection of Bakelite bracelets.

"I've collected them over the years, and they are the one thing that I could never part with," Rouzier says. "They're made of a particular type of heavy plastic that dyes very well and have a certain weight and heft to them and can also be carved.

"I can accessorize them with everything that I own. They're my most prized possession."

Karla Boos, Actress and founder of Quantum Theater

You will never hear the words "ordinary" and "stuck in her ways" to describe Karla Boos. Boos has been changing the way Pittsburghers view theater since Quantum's inception in 1990.

Quantum is known for staging cutting-edge and unconventional plays in unusual locations. This past season alone, Quantum plays popped up in a cemetery, a warehouse and a recording studio.

To navigate new and uncharted territory, Boos relies on sky-high heels — but they must meet certain criteria.

"They have to be substantial," she says. "I don't like flimsy shoes, because I'm not a flimsy girl."

Melissa Martin and Adrienne Wehr, Writer/director and producer of "The Bread, My Sweet"

Still high on the success of last year's sleeper hit, director and writer Melissa Martin is not content to just bask in the glow.

Along with "The Bread, My Sweet," Martin has written several plays, including "The Last Bridge" and "The Shriveled Arm of Uma Kimball," which she and "Bread" producer Adrienne Wehr are currently turning into a feature film.

Martin and Wehr united through shopping, but Martin says Wehr is the diehard shopping fanatic.

"I'm not a big shopper, and (Wehr) took me out to Shadyside and was like a total dictator and kept making me buy stuff," Martin says. "Finally, I was like, 'I'm not doing this anymore.'"

Martin says she can't live without her little plaid skirt.

"It's sort of reminiscent of a Catholic schoolgirl skirt, only shorter," Martin says. "Everybody says that it's really cute. It's kind of a kicky little thing."

Wehr, also a stage and screen actress, petite model and voice-over artist, finds time to look fashionable.

Wehr happily reminisces over her initial bonding-over-shopping experience with Martin at the Toronto Fringe Festival.

"We had known of each other for many years. We were discovering about each other a profound respect for the other's work ethic," Wehr says. "We bonded over the makeup counter at Club Monaco during the Toronto Fringe Festival."

Wehr picked up her favorite pair of Italian leather boots at the Sonoma Valley Film Festival.

"I'm a shopping fiend, and I had to shop in all of the great shops," Wehr says. "I've worn them so much that the soles are wearing out. These boots were basically screaming out for me."

Peter Kope and Michele de la Reza, Founders of Attack Theatre

Peter Kope and his wife, Michele de la Reza, make a dynamic duo.

They have been involved with the Pittsburgh arts community for the past 15 years.

Kope describes Attack Theatre, which he and de la Reza founded in 1995, as a "multimedia dance company." That makes sense for a duo that has a relatively broad range of talents to draw upon.

Their current production — "This Ain't the Nutcracker" — plays at the Hazlett Theatre through Saturday.

What better way to relax after a hard day of rehearsal than to slip into a robe and put your feet up• Fittingly, Kope says he can't live without robes.

"Mostly everything that we own has a story behind (it)," Kope says. "One of the robes was bought at Victoria's Secret. I purchased the vintage robe from Eons. I bought the Happi coat in Japan for Michele, but I use it too, and our slippers are what we wear in the studio."

Jilline Ringle, Star of "La Dolce Vita" at City Theater

Jilline Ringle, star of last year's hit one-woman show "Mondo Mangia," is back in town for an encore. Ringle dominates the City Theatre stage once again in "La Dolce Vita," a collection of hit movie songs from the 1960s, which she wrote, produced and stars in. Catch a slice of the good life at City Theatre on the South Side until Jan. 19.

How does Ringle stay super-svelte both onstage and off• Why, with a long-line bra and full-support girdle, of course.

"I never go onstage without them," Ringle says. "They give the perfect line to the costume, and they always make me feel secure."

These unmentionables are hard to find, but Ringle snatched up her current ensemble at Gabriel's for $2.99. These items are a must when it comes to clingy clothing.

"My philosophy about the way that clothes fit is that if it's a size too small, then it's perfect," she says.

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