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In-home shopping options expand

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
| Thursday, April 9, 2009

There's something special about shopping with one of your girlfriends.

Selecting clothes from the rack and trying something on so she can give advice is part of the female bonding experience.

Just watching Katy Everett and Monica Watt, you can tell that shopping connects them, even when there's no actual store involved. They have fun browsing inside Everett's house, which is set up like a boutique, filled with racks and racks of gorgeous clothes.

Everett is a wardrobe consultant for Etcetera, a women's clothing line sold via direct sales. Four times a year, the first floor of Everett's Fox Chapel home becomes a shopping Mecca.

Etcetera is one of the apparel companies that sells via private, one-on-one appointments. Others include Doncaster and Worth.

"This is such a great environment to shop for clothes," says Watt of Highland Park. "I am in a relaxed atmosphere where I can see everything at once and get one-on-one attention. ... Plus, we have so much fun. I only shop in New York and at her house. I go to Saks occasionally, but these are the same caliber of clothes, only a little less money."

Etcetera gives clients access to fashion-forward clothing, says Everett, who is having a show through Tuesday.

"My goal is for customers to feel good about themselves when they put on a piece from the Etcetera line," Everett says. "We develop a relationship based on trust, because I may have to say that something doesn't fit right or look right."

Many women are buying high-end clothes via trunk and home shows because department stores have become an area of sameness, says Burt P. Flickinger III, managing director of Strategic Resource Group, a consumer industry consulting firm in New York.

Some of the finest clothing in department stores is not made as well, he says, and most of the sizes are between 2 and 6, which do not fit most American women.

"The salespeople selling out of their homes are more knowledgeable than most department stores or specialty stores, with the possible exception of Nordstrom," Flickinger says. "The clothing at trunk shows is exceptionally superior. It is hand-cut and hand-sewn, and made with all-natural fabrics. A lot of it is made in the U.S., and people like to support the U.S."

These companies pride themselves on longevity of the clothing, as well as attention to detail and knowing the latest trends.

"First and foremost, we are a fashion house," says Diane Manley, vice president of design for Worth. "We begin each season with a beautiful collection, and we think about our customers and how we can make them feel comfortable and beautiful and strong in every event of their lives wearing our clothes."

Consultant Tovah Green will be having a Worth trunk show May 1 through 7 at her Mt. Lebanon home.

"I love direct sales, and this is a great company to work for," Green says. "We offer such a broad range of sizes because every woman wants to look beautiful, no matter what size they are.

"I just love fashion, and you have to be able to honest with your clients and do what it takes to help them find the right look for them," she says. "You develop a relationship with them. This is for women who don't want to run to the mall. She can come to one of our shows four times a year and get her entire wardrobe."

The Doncaster line is offered at trunk shows, and year-round at a showroom in Canonsburg.

"We handle the social client," says Teresa Cavoti, district sales manager. "We deal with a lot of attorneys and corporate women. All our clients want a variety of clothing to choose from, and we believe we can give them something they can't get anywhere else. We look at their lifestyle and recommend clothing to fit what they want."

Doncaster offers two labels, a high-end and a more affordable level. Pieces from past years can be coordinated with the current collection. Suits are sold as a separates, so you can get the top and bottom in different sizes.

"The consultants are so truthful about what colors look good on you and which outfits you look good in," says client Lynn Patterson of Washington, who has been purchasing Doncaster for 10 years. "And if it doesn't look good, you take it off. I absolutely prefer shopping this way over going to the mall."

One thing you won't get at most mall stores is someone who tracks who bought which outfit to avoid two women at the same party wearing the identical thing.

"We try to go the extra mile for our clients," Cavoti says. "Personal service is what sets us apart. We offer beautiful quality fashions in every state. Our clothes are designed with sophistication in a New York design studio."

Additional Information:

Shopping at home

Direct-sale clothing is offered in homes or alternative spaces, versus traditional boutiques. Here are a few with local consultants:

Doncaster: www.doncaster.com , district sales director Teresa Cavoti, 724-745-4210, 800-669-3662 or e-mail

Etcetera: www.etcetera.com ; director of recruiting Edie Dance, 850-484-8120 or by e-mail

Worth: www.worthny.com , 800-967-8465; Worth sales associate, Courtney Myhrum, 412-782-2646 or by e-mail ; or Tovah Green, 412-279-5184 or by e-mail

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