As a young woman, Sue Blankinship earned a fashion design degree from Parson's School of Design, then spent several years working for designers in New York.
It was Mecca for a girl raised in a little Missouri town on the Lake of the Ozarks.
"I was happy to do anything," she says, "model in the showrooms, take orders and sweep floors."
Over the years, other jobs, including interior design, helped pay the bills.
But she always drew upon her Seventh Avenue fashion sense.
"Because of my fashion background, I tend to look at things differently," she explains.
Now, at 51, her children raised, she has launched a clothing line out of her Palm Bay home.
It's all made from one fabric, a processed silk that can be thrown in the washer and dryer, and worn with no ironing. The line includes skirts, tops, jackets and pants. Items are available in 220 colors.
Each piece can be custom ordered. Jackets come with long or elbow length sleeves, shirts with collar or no collar. Skirts are knee-length, mid calf or long. She was inspired by Ikea's home furnishing line, which allows customers to add to existing pieces for a coordinated look.
"Everything is engineered to be as flattering as possible," says Blankinship, who favors a bias cut in her designs. Because the fabric is so versatile, skirts can be worn with T-shirts and flip-flops or paired with a sequined top and Manolo Blahniks "to go to a black tie affair."
Prices range from $155 to $245.
Blankinship, who has lived in Tampa for 29 years, was inspired to create the line last summer after many an ill-fated shopping trip to mainstream clothing stores. Her first fashion show was low key _ in a rented room at a plant shop in South Tampa.
So far, word is spreading through friends and customers.
She has enlisted the help of a marketing expert and hopes to get her designs into local stores.
"I'm a young 51," she says. "I found that nothing in the stores was exciting for any age. Clothes today have little in the way of detailing and are made from the least amount of fabric yardage possible."
_ Blankinship's clothing line can be viewed by appointment. Reach her at (813) 855-1994 or by e-mail at sueblankinshipyahoo.comLine is overdrawn
Sue Blankinship, 51, of Palm Bay has launched a colorful line of washable silk clothing that can be custom ordered and adapted to different figures and heights. The line includes skirts, tops, jackets and pants.