Denver designer/seamstress Jil Cappuccio lives by a credo of constant reinvention; it's how she lives her life, makes clothes and runs her business: by trial and error, the occasional epiphany and a wild imagination. Her trademark designs - yoked shifts and blouses, retro-inspired shirts for men, sassy carpet bags, easy wrap skirts and one-of-a-kind coats - are simple and timeless and impeccably sewn, designed to fit well and feel comfortable.
But her real secret is that she's hoarder of fabric, which she's been collecting for years. It's possible that only her husband knows how deep her collection goes. And anything from the pile is fair game under her scissors and bobbin: mid-century curtains, stray vintage or cut-rate bolts and scraps, roadside unicorn tapestries, upholstery fabric, upstyled Goodwill finds - you name it, Jil's got it.
Everything about Jil's shop, Jil Cappuccio, One of a Kinds, Limited Lines, is friendly and cozy and a little bit messy, reflective of her fabric fetish and love of putting things together. "I love my store," she says. "It's like my living room." Right now, she's investigating ways to widen local recognition of her shop and the clothing in it: "I want to put my vision of everyday style for everyday people out there." To that end, she's having her website retooled and working the gift shows; her clothing can also be found at Pome on South Gaylord Street, Fancy Tiger on Broadway and YesPleaseMore in the Denver Pavilions.
Jil's amazing coats are possibly her crowning glory as a designer, and now is the time to get one. "This year," she says, "people really did come back in for their coats." Some are tweedy and conservative, coming alive once you look at a capricious lining; others are a bright patchwork of color, pattern and texture on the outside. More than a few customers have worn one out of the store proclaiming, "It's like you made it for me!" Jil doesn't prod customers, but she does believe in fate: "If it was meant to be for you, it's yours. I love it when a coat finds its owner."
I have to confess that I own a Jil coat - a sturdy, hooded and zippered car-coat confection of felty fake-medieval unicorn rug and soft black corduroy - and that my story went just like that: I saw it hanging on the rack at a gift market, but didn't buy it until I went to the shop later, tried it on and looked in the mirror. It just felt good, and it made me feel good, too. "But will you wear it?" Jil asked; it is, after all, a little bit out there. But there was no question in my mind. It was already a part of me, and I loved it, and yes, I will probably wear it to death.
Jil almost exclusively wears her own clothes, along with a few pieces from friends - upstyled sweaters and skirts by Kirsten Coplans of Pearl Clothing and folkloric sweaters by Debra Belk's lele knits, both of which she carries in her store, for a couple of reasons. "I rarely make outfits, and this year, I'm beginning to design with layering in mind" she says, noting that she prefers to see people make their own combinations. "Kirsten and I have different styles, but they work together well. They complement each other, just like our personalities." At shows, Jil and Kirsten often merchandise as a pair. And Jil is a firm advocate of buying local.
But economics are another reason why Jil wears her own stuff: That leaves her more leeway to spend money on shoes, the one style area where she likes to indulge. She will often base her seasonal wardrobe around some favorite shoes. "I do recycle my closet. I'll put some things away and bring them out later," she explains. "All I have to buy are the shoes. And I'm never afraid to try something new. I'll go and lock myself in my closet sometimes and just try on different combinations that I've never worn before."
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Today, Jil is wearing a loose Jil Cappuccio shift in a floral print, with a ruffled black a-line slip peeking out under the hem. "I love the way it fits, because it gently floats away from the parts I don't like," she says of the dress. She's also wearing her favorite Pearl sweater, a thrift store necklace, Swear Jar earrings, a mass of silver bangles she's been wearing since high school and this season's shoe find, a vintage pair of used Frye boots in natural leather. First and foremost, Jil's look is a cameo of her whole style philosophy at work. Boy, does she look comfortable with who she is and what's she's wearing.
Visit Jil Wednesday through Saturday in her shop at 1433 Ogden Street, or shop for her clothes at Pome, Fancy Tiger and YesPleaseMore. She'll also be out and about with Pearl Clothing December 3 and 4 at Fancy Tiger's Holiday Handmade Craft Fair and December 10 though 12 at the Firefly Handmade 2010 Holiday Market in Boulder. Jil hopes to launch her new website at the end of December.