Fashion Forward

by Anna Gaynor
Photography by Andrea Ellen Reed

For many, the changing of seasons means one thing: a new wardrobe. Yet finding a look that will flatter and stand out can be challenging for even seasoned shoppers. Boutique owners from across Peoria are here to help. We talked to these fashionable women about the latest trends, good investments and the must-haves for the fall season!


A Perfect Pear Boutique

Most women wish they could whisk off to Paris or New York as they please for a carefree, day-long shopping spree. Here in the Midwest, some may be afraid that they can't keep up with the latest styles around the globe. If you are one of those people, fear not-you have seriously underestimated women like Libby Koszuta, who co-owns A Perfect Pear Boutique with Debbie Stewart. A Perfect Pear brings the latest fashion trends right to you by offering the freshest looks from the East a nd West coasts and Europe.

What are some of the big fashion trends this fall?
Remember, trends are what you make of them. Not everyone looks good in the "trend of the season." You can update your look by adding in a few key trends of the season, as long as they work with your personal style. We can help you define your personal look by adding a vest, necklace, cardigan, blazer, boyfriend pant, etc. to what you already have in your closet.

What items are good investments?
A pair of great denim jeans, Frye boots, a James Perse basic tee and a Tory Burch cardigan!

How do you hope women feel when they leave your store?
Confident in who they are wearing the clothes-the clothes do not wear them! They always know we are here to advise!

What is your must-have piece for the fall season?
The structured boyfriend blazer in black, Trina Turk. It's a great look from day to night...add a belt on the outside for a chic city look or wear it over a dress or high-waisted skirt for ultra-femininity. A great pair of skinny jeans looks amazing with this look as well.


Elizabeth Stone, account executive

FASHION STYLE: I rely on Debbie and Libby to help me define my personal style.




Lora Laukitis, retired, advertising sales

FASHION STYLE: Mixing my own unique style with the latest fashion trends

FASHION FETISH: Something with a little edge to it

FAVORITE PIECE OF CLOTHING: My rust cashmere tunic (it may have holes in it). I wear it belted and dress it up and down...I will be buried in it!


Jamie Engstrom, IT manager

FASHION STYLE: Polished, tailored, modern chic. I like a clean cut, a bold color and completing an outfit with a statement pair of heels, chunky jewelry or a great handbag.


FAVORITE PAIR OF SHOES: Christian Louboutin black peep-toe heels


Azura Boutique
For those tired of wandering the malls for hours on end, Wendy Sommer of Azura Boutique promises relief for everyone in the family. In one store, you can find pieces for proms, play dates or retirement parties--and the men are not left out, either! A special section of the store with leather chairs and a flat screen TV will keep them occupied so the girls will have plenty of time to browse for that perfect look.

What trend is most accessible for women of all sizes and ages?
The sweater's probably the thing. You have a more youthful cut, and you also have cuts that will flatter most women. The big thing with sweaters is they're starting to look more structured, so they're more like a jacket-they might actually have a collar and be double-breasted...We also have really fun graphic tees called Before & Again, and we're selling those to everybody between 25 and 60.

What's the secret to your boutique's success?
We're all small-town girls, so I think we bring a special warmth to our conversation with customers. I think we have a larger selection. The items that we buy for our store are unique. We have everything from things that are kind of fun and flippant, all the way up to sleek and sophisticated. I think we offer a wide variety of looks and probably the largest selection in Peoria other than a department store.

What classic piece does every woman need in her wardrobe?
A really great-fitting pair of jeans...I think one of our best-fitting jeans is David Kahn...which have this light stretch and is in a dark color...The Original Rise 3500 in the color Newport.


Lindsay Sparrow, student
FASHION STYLE: Sophisticated fun
BIGGEST FASHION PEEVE: Overly revealing clothing
Sue Wong Prom dress from Azura


Pink Sugar Boutique

Sacrificing fashion is often the first thing to go when women face an economic recession. During World War II, women's clothing went from opulent fabrics with every embellishment imaginable, to simple frocks with hardly a pleat. But in these tough times, Cory Cripe and Kristin Kern of Pink Sugar Boutique are keeping money-conscious women happy. With jewelry from local designers to scarves from India, Pink Sugar offers an affordable selection of "fashion-forward" pieces for all women.

What look is on its way out?
This was a tough one...Why eliminate an item from your wardrobe that you still love, just because somebody says it's "out"? With so many great looks for the fall, we love the idea of recycling your older pieces by mixing them with new items. For instance, if you have an old plaid shirt, maybe even your husband's or boyfriend's, try belting it over leggings or jeans and wear it with boots or flats. Or, take the boyfriend tee or tank you have from spring and add it to leggings you already have! Throw on some great jewelry and boots or heels, and you're ready to go! We are often asked if skinny jeans are still "in" and we say this style is here to stay!

How do you hope women feel when they leave your store?
We hope that above all, women feel good about themselves in our clothing, but also, that they feel they had an uplifting experience, that they received the best in customer service, and that their purchase didn't exceed their budget. With the slowdown in the economy, we are confident that both new and established customers can count on us for being the most price-conscious boutique in Peoria.

What classic piece do you think every woman needs in her wardrobe?
A great-fitting pair of jeans-and whether that means skinny, boot-cut, trouser or wide-leg, the fit is key! Always available at Pink Sugar Boutique: Free People, Level 99, AG. New for fall, our newest denim line, Miss Me!


Cory Crusen Cripe, co-owner, Pink Sugar
FASHION PHILOSOPHY: Such a basic and timeless view-if it looks good on you, then it's always in style. And another oldie but goodie to live by: Less is more! Always.
FAVORITE PAIR OF SHOES: Beat-up, worn-in, camel-colored riding boots
BIGGEST PET PEEVE: Fads! If it hits the fashion world in a flash, then you can bet it's going to be "out" in a flash as well.


Kristin Kern, co-owner, Pink Sugar
FASHION PHILOSOPHY: Own your look... if you feel good in what you're wearing, you will exude confidence.
FASHION FETISH: Belts! Cory teases me that I will belt anything!
FAVORITE PIECE OF CLOTHING YOU'VE EVER WORN: I love clothes too much to have to choose just one...but this year for my birthday, I wore a tomato-red, high-neck dress with exposed back zip from Kensie...I felt amazing in it!


Belle Mie

Located in Junction City, Belle Mie offers the latest styles for women too old for teen brands and too young (in body or spirit) for mommy jeans. Jade Venovich, owner of Belle Mie, is set on creating a shopping experience where customers receive helpful, but not forceful service. Prices range from those on a budget to those who would never put a price tag on looking fierce.

What are some of the big trends you're seeing for this fall?
Harem pants are big...jumpsuits are coming around as well. Oversize sweaters are still being shown for fall. As for denim, the skinny jean will always be a staple item to tuck into boots-but look for a boyfriend jean. A little oversized, torn and tattered, but so comfortable and super-cute!

What's the new must-have accessory?
Our local must-have accessory is the Marigold cap! They are designed by a customer of mine (Callie Currin) and are selling like crazy! Perfect for moms who don't have time or want to fuss with their hair-throw on an embellished Marigold cap and go! Proceeds go to breast cancer as well.

What is your must-have piece for the fall season?
I would say Citizens of Humanity Amber Bootcut. Everyone loves a higher, more comfortable rise jean. They are flattering and comfortable-and an investment. They come in many different washes. For fall, I say go with a clean, dark jean. You will love them for years to come.


Monica Yoder, horse trainer/equestrian
FASHION STYLE: I think my wardrobe embodies a lot of different styles. I like to be able to pull off a lot of different looks depending on my mood. That's what's fun about being a girl!
FAVORITE PAIR OF SHOES: My custom-made riding boots. I have made so many memories showing horses in them over the years, and because of that, they are special.


Jade Venovich, entrepreneur/business owner
FASHION STYLE: There is no way I can only pick one! I have many fashion philosophies and enjoy many different styles. Generally, I tend to lean towards trendy.
FASHION FETISH: Handbags, for sure. I can never get enough of a nice mushy leather handbag.
FAVORITE PIECE OF CLOTHING: Nicole Miller scarlet gown. I've never felt more beautiful. a&s