Women are dropping the sloppy look in clothing 

By DAVID SPEAKMAN special to next

From the health club to the nightclub, figure-flattering workout-style clothing is quickly replacing the baggy grunge look on Fort Wayne area women.

Tighter-fitting clothes started as a trend on the West Coast in 1994, yet Fort Wayne clothiers didn’t start stocking workout wear as fashion until late last summer. The local surge in figure-hugging clothes began with a boom in sales of belly-baring crop tops, according to Jessica Jones, a sales clerk in Hudson’s New Attitudes juniors’ section.

Jones said the average customers who buy these clothes range from late teens to late 20s. Popularity of the style has been gaining since Christmas, she said.

Joining with the crop top, now form-fitting silk blouses, skirts and pants have been big sellers in the post-Christmas shopping season.

“Workout fashions haven’t changed a lot,” according to Maxine Brown, ladies manager at the North Clinton American Health Fitness Center. “Women in good shape are wearing leotards and thong.”

Seria Nelson, assistant manager of Merry-Go – Round in Glenbrook Square, agreed that the loose-fitting look is on the way out for women.

“Women’s clothes fitting more toward the figure are selling better,” Nelson said. The store’s biggest seller are Y-legs, which are like leggings and are a typical accompaniment with the crop top.

These clothes are available at most specialty clothing stores and department stores in sections that cater to young women. Prices range from $15 to $60, but may be less because of current sales. Most are made of silk, cotton, rayon, polyester and blends.

“Women are more fashion-conscious,” said William Tyler, fitness consultant at the Fitness Connection. “Men just throw things together. Sometimes they match, sometimes they don’t.”

 The alarm is silent. Your wallet is empty. Such is the life of someone who’s been laid off.

By DAVID SPEAKMAN 

“They shook my hand and said, `Merry Christmas, we’ll try to call you back – no promises; no guarantees. Turn in your uniform. See ya.’ It was that cold,” said Bart Sexton, retelling the events after a local United Parcel Service Christmas party last year.

A recently discharged Navy veteran of the Panama invasion and the Gulf War, Sexton said he had been hired at UPS in October 1995. Although startling, his quick holiday-time dismissal was expected – and common. Sexton joined a select group of workers that many industries depend on – seasonal help. These workers, many in the 18- to 30-year-old range, usually are hired in October and become an important part of the corporate team.

When the holidays are over, and things slow down a bit, though, these “migrant workers” of the ’90s are dismissed. The good ones sometimes are called back when future jobs open. But not always.

Sexton knew at the time of hire “the possibility of layoff was an almost certainty.” But that didn’t make him feel any better.

Twentysomethings are bombarded by a series of firsts. First car, first permanent full-time job and, unfortunately, first pink slips.

Young adults are particularly vulnerable to unemployment, according to Gary Gatman, planning director for JobWorks, a northeast Indiana private sector employment and workforce development service based in Fort Wayne.

“Younger workers and part-time workers – usually mothers in two-income households – are among the hardest hit,” Gatman said.

Making matters worse, he said January through March is the most difficult time for the unemployed to find work. In general, the economy tends to slow down during this time period.

Although about the same number of unemployed are processed through JobWorks each month – about 30 in Allen County – Gatman said the program had a 60 percent job placement success rate in December but only a 17 percent success rate for January.

Although both Sears Roebuck & Co. and GTE have announced the possibility of reduction-in-force layoffs, a U.S. Postal Service mail processing center opened last year in Fort Wayne and soon is expected to hire another batch of part- and full-time workers.

Older workers sometimes fear that twentysomethings, who are traditionally paid less than their older counterparts, are a threat to their job security. Gatman said that wasn’t necessarily the case.

“Lower wages (for twentysomethings) is an advantage of sorts,” he said, “but that is offset by less experience. Employers want a proven work and attendance record. Settling for lower wages is not a major benefit.”

Dealing with first-time unemployment can be a scary thing, but it usually isn’t the end of the world. Tim Williams, a 25-year-old former sales administrator at The Essex Group in Fort Wayne, has been dealing with unemployment since he lost his job a year ago.

“First, you look at finances and see what you’re going to be able to pay,” Williams said. “I got rid of my new car, gave up my apartment and scanned the classifieds.”

Then there’s 29-year-old Julia Kirchhausen, who was with the Buffalo, N.Y., Philharmonic from January 1993 to July 1994. During her tenure, she was laid off – twice.

“They sent us registered letters at home,” said Kirchhausen, who has since moved up in the orchestral world and is now the marketing director of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic. “It was very short and photocopied and not personalized at all. It was devastating, even though we knew it was going to happen.

“We knew what the cash flow situation was, and we knew that there wasn’t any,” she continued. “We went on unemployment, which is a humbling experience, because here you are a supposedly professional person who has been to college and done all the right things and has worked hard and worked well.”

And because bills can’t be paid without money, a possible source of funds is unemployment checks from the local Indiana Workforce Development office.

Although some frown on the use of public assistance, Sexton explained: “If you’ve worked, you’ve paid your dues. I don’t plan on living off the system for my entire life. Unemployment claims are a part of a job like medical and dental benefits.”

DEALING WITH DEBT

  • Claiming unemployment
    Why: If you’ve worked at least three months, these checks could keep you from starving or moving back with the parents.
    Where: Indiana Department of Workforce Development, 5821 S. Anthony Blvd.
    Phone: 447-3575
    Hours: 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday
    What to expect: It’s first come, first served. Show up as early as possible. Expect at least two hours of waiting in line, answering a computer questionnaire and waiting to speak to a counselor. The counselor will schedule an appointment for a mandatory 90-minute course. Because of paperwork and red tape, benefits will be delayed at least one week from your application. Bring your social security or green card.
    What you get: Providing you have worked long enough to qualify and your past employer doesn’t deny benefits, you can expect to get between $50 and $217 each week for a maximum of 26 weeks in a one-year period – depending on your former salary. No taxes are taken out. You are required to sign a weekly form that lists at least one company where you are trying to get hired.
  • Food Stamps
    Why: Unemployment checks can’t cover all the bills – especially if you have children.
    Where: Allen County Division of Family and Children (formerly Welfare), 4820 New Haven Ave.
    Phone: 458-6200
    Hours: 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday
    What to expect: Paperwork galore – especially if you don’t live alone. You can’t buy beer or cigarettes with food stamps. Call before showing up to be sure you bring correct identification and other information to the meetings.
    What you get: Specific dollar amounts depend upon demonstrated need.

It takes a certain type of person to wear hip-hugger – mainly, someone with a perfect body.

By DAVID SPEAKMAN special to next

Like many new clothing trends in Fort Wayne, they first appeared on fashion mavens at trendy nightclub dance floors.

Hip-huggers – slinky body-hugging, gravity-defying pants which barely cover the backside – are the newest addition to the retro fashion scene. A 1970s-era fashion world response to the feminist “She Decade,” hip-huggers “celebrated” the female form – albeit an ultra-toned, thin and anorexic female form.

Although originally designed for women, men too can be found donning the occasional pair of hip-huggers in the unisex ’90s.

These pants, jeans, shorts or skirts, often made of cotton or polyester, are not for the meek. Usually worn with a body-conscious ribbed or waffle-knit top, ’90s hip- huggers can dip way below the navel in front.

Hip-huggers range in price from $20 to $80, and can be found at stores such as Merry-Go-Round, Rave and L.S. Ayers. Or you could go the cheaper – and more authentic – route by finding a pair at a local thrift store.

The rising popularity of navel piercing may help explain their modern-day appearance. With their natural dip, hip-huggers won’t rub the freshly pierced the wrong way – and won’t do anything to hide the proudly pierced.

Because of its body-revealing qualities, however, the hip-hugger won’t be embraced in every wardrobe. In fact, it probably will be a “fashion don’t” for most.

“If you’ve got a bad body, you might as well just forget about wearing these,” said 22-year-old Cherie Damos, a Fort Wayne resident we found wearing a pair of hip-huggers at Glenbrook Square. “You know there’s people out there who still wear them and shouldn’t, but I wouldn’t dare wear them if I wasn’t looking good. Anyway, that’s the point of fashion.”

How do you know whether you can pull off this hot trend in pants? A good body is key. If the average person looks at your thin waist or toned figure with envy, hip huggers might be for you.

According to fashion magazines, such as February’s issue of Self, hip-huggers actually have a slimming effect. If your tummy is less than toned, they recommend tucking in a shirt and adding a blazer.

Otherwise, hippy chicks and those whose abs of steel are more like abs of flab should probably just say no to this low-slung design.

Depending on your fashion taste, some styles are cut lower in back than others. But even if the refrigerator-repairman look is what you’re going for, remember that others have to look at you too.

Like thong swimwear, few men or women can successfully wear hip-huggers – the right way. But if you can, indulge yourself.