Photographs by Bob Rozycki
Art to Wear Too in Cold Spring isn’t your everyday fashion boutique.
Sure, it’s got a wealth of options, ranging from tops to skirts, jackets to pants and earrings to necklaces to scarves.
But it’s the distinctive looks of those pieces, things not found in every mall or department store, and how they are displayed that together create a most fashionable Hudson Valley destination.
And it’s all by the creative design of owner Marilyn Heberling, whose vibrant personality is what ties it all together.
Hers is a most individual approach to fashion. She considers the often one-of-a-kind designs works of art and then displays them amid other artwork, including photographs, ceramics and sculpture. Oh, and lampshades. Heberling creates the quirky “ladies” that cap many hangers and form de facto mannequins.
“Some of them are for sale, but some of these I can’t give up,” she says of her stable of beauties who fit right into the charmingly feminine surroundings.
Look closely at the hardwood floors dotted with throw rugs. They’re not real but rather painted on. And that sense of whimsy is echoed in fanciful patchworks of sheets draped about, the dressing-room area that seems to recreate a country cottage and the whitewashed branches perched overhead.
“People walk in and think I’m an artist,” Heberling says. “They want to know if I had an art background… no.”
Heberling says she has not formally studied art but her parents were active in community theater when she was young. She was certainly influenced by that, though the shop also reflects her own life and travels.
An Ohio native, Heberling came to New York in the 1980s from Michigan when her husband, a builder, had a job opportunity in Beacon. They settled in Cold Spring where Heberling worked in the region’s school systems.
“I’ve had like six careers,” she says, noting she used both her master’s degrees – in psychiatric social work and theater – over the years.
“I made a very good living as an artist-in-residence in schools,” she says. Throughout, she says, she was also “using theater as a tool for teaching,” while also doing set and costume design.
Art to Wear Too also has deep roots in Cold Spring, as Heberling was a part of Staley/Gretzinger, a fashion company featuring Heberling’s neighbors Meg Staley and Jerry Gretzinger. Heberling was involved in everything from trade shows to the eventual retail shop.
When those original designers decided to close the shop, Heberling and four other employees bought it and opened Art to Wear.
BRANCHING OUT, SOLO
Four years ago, Heberling became the sole owner and transitioned to Art to Wear Too, which expanded the inventory and fine-tuned the look.
“I haven’t bought anything for the space that was ‘in style,’” she says. “I buy things that I hope will fit people’s bodies.”
And her customers appreciate that. On a recent afternoon, Zanne Stewart of Garrison is checking out the new fall fashions along with perennial favorites.
Stewart, who moved nearby some six years ago, was the longtime food editor for the former Gourmet magazine before retiring. She thought the move from the city would prove a style-killer.
“I said, ‘I guess it’s going to be khakis and sensible shoes now.’ I thought it was going to be boring,” she says.
Discovering Heberling soon after, though, changed Stewart’s outlook – and she’s loved what she’s seen since.
“The clothes look whimsical, but they are practical,” she says. “I love the fact everything is easy.”
And, Stewart adds, fun.
“The ambiance here – it’s a little Pee-wee Herman, a little Ethel Merman. I love the sensibility.”
Heberling, who over the years has served as the president of the local chamber of commerce, appreciates such comments about her business.
“It makes people happy, which is good.”
Art to Wear Too’s customer base includes plenty of locals but fans also travel from Manhattan and New Jersey to shop. Heberling has developed a strong core of regulars.
“What my theory is, also, it’s only nice people that come in here,” she says with a laugh. “They’re a fantastic group of wonderful women.”
Those women have come to rely on Heberling’s affinity for cultivating a select group of designers that together create a certain aesthetic.
“Comfy (U.S.A.), Niche and Christopher Calvin. They’re my staples,” Heberling says of her go-to brands, as she walks a visitor through the selling floor.
She points to a Calvin design, a button-down top enlivened by an angular edge.
“It’s tailored but it isn’t,” she says of the shirt’s appeal.
Dip-dyed pieces and floral prints, abstract designs and bold textures are at every turn.
She stops to admire the funky tunics from Lior, a company she playfully notes is “from Paris, France, Europe.”
Most collections, such as the finely detailed pieces from New Jersey designer Yolanda Kwan, are created closer to home.
“One thing I am very proud of – I think 95 percent of them are made in the USA,” she says.
Every brand seems energized by the art that surrounds the fashions and accessories, which also include Joli Jewelry. Another nod to local, the handmade, limited-edition work is by Jody Lyons of Cold Spring and Brooklyn.
The more traditional art, also for sale, is a vivid example of Heberling’s vision. She points to the paintings by Imogene Drummond, whom she calls “one of my best customers,” and notes “the color and the round lines” of her work help create a mood.
Mindy Véissid’s photography, Heberling says, was chosen for its unique perspective, turning the ordinary into something more.
Judith Rose’s ceramics also add flair, while Michelle Clifton’s soft sculptures, which have ranged from a life-size mailbox to an oversize sneaker (a popular photo op, especially during the special events Heberling often holds), signal something decidedly playful.
Again, it’s part of the multilayered appeal.
“The fun of this – that is what I wanted,” Heberling says.
For many, a visit to Art to Wear Too will result in finding something both effortlessly fashionable and often fanciful, pieces they’ll end up wearing again and again.
A prime example is the white Oxford shirt that Heberling pulls out. It seems nice, if straightforward, until she turns it around to reveal a set of the tiniest pleats, a detail as flattering as it is unexpected.
And that’s how it goes here. Hems can be asymmetrical. A basic tank can have a notched neckline that makes all the difference.
“I guess that’s what my signature is – it’s almost normal but not quite,” Heberling says, bursting into an infectious laugh.
For more on Art to Wear Too, at 75 Main St. in Cold Spring, visit arttoweartoo.weebly.com or call (845) 265-4469.