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story.lead_photo.caption Augusta Fitzgerald's designs include twirly miniskirts and jumpers. - Photo by Stephen B. Thornton

Unlike many Arkansas girls her age, Augusta Fitzgerald is not giving much thought these days to the exorbitant price tags or vexing scarcity of Hannah Montana concert tickets. And, although middle-school style is much more her forte - the 11-year-old recently gave up soccer to spend more time sewing - she can't even bring herself to contemplate the showy, sparkly garments from the Hannah Montana clothing line, or any of the body of work from the current sorority of 'tween stars turned flash-in-the-pan fashion entrepreneurs.

"I really like Audrey Hepburn," Augusta said recently. Augusta was standing near the Kenmore sewing machine she puts to use turning out tweedy, twirly miniskirts under her clothing label, Fitzy, and, true to form, an image of Hepburn in full glamour-girl, Holly Golightly guise was pinned to a bulletin board overhead.

"They're simple things," she said of Hepburn's style, "but they always had a modern twist."

Suddenly, Augusta thought of one more style icon to add to her list of influences: "And Tim Gunn, of course," she said, as if stating the obvious.

That an 11-year-old girl is under the sway of a silver-haired, avuncular fashion-design-professor-turned-reality-TV-style-guru like Gunn, by way of Project Runway and Tim Gunn's Guide to Style, perhaps says more about the unlikely mass appeal of Gunn than it does Augusta's precocious and discriminating tastes.

But that she is applying the kind of live-to-design gumption showcased on a competitive reality show and turning a profit from it poses a larger question: Has marketing to the demographic known as 'tweens - generally regarded as kids too old for toys but too young to drive - become so pervasive that it's now breeding entrepreneurs from among its ranks, an evolution of the species in which some shoppers are naturally selected to become the shopkeepers? Or is Augusta, like each of her skirts, one of a kind?

Read tomorrow's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

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