Pumpkin Wentzel had never been pregnant when she began designing maternity clothes in 1997. She was on tour with her rock band, Guv'ner, and listening, via overseas phone calls, to her sister and friends -- who were getting pregnant at a rapid rate -- complain about maternity fashion. Wentzel had no design background, but she was sick of the touring life, so she decided to come home and stitch up samples. A few months later, she put together a mail-order catalogue featuring herself on the cover wearing one of those goofy "sympathy suits" favored by sitcom sex-ed teachers. The clean, simple basics caught on with stylish women who, when they're not pregnant, shop at places like Martin, Mayle, and Hedra Prue. Now Wentzel, who had a baby of her own in May, has opened a bright, airy shop at 407 Broome Street (212-334-1809), where nervous dads-to-be browse Spiritual Midwifery beneath a giant mural of animal families -- suckling pigs! -- while women comb the racks. "I think I need to get pregnant again," Wentzel says with a laugh, "so I'll have something to wear!"
Big Bang Theory
Almost every girl once had bangs. Big, embarrassing bangs that took a few awkward years to grow out. Once they did, the girls hid their prom photos, exfoliated their foreheads, and swore not to go back. But then, earlier this year, Christy Turlington got snipped for a Louis Vuitton campaign, and suddenly every cover girl had bangs: Gwyneth Paltrow on Elle, Penélope Cruz on Interview. "After I saw Stephanie Seymour in W, I was obsessed," says East Village rocker Marnie Stern. "I walked into some random place and said, 'I need bangs!' " Karla Newgarden-Takahara at Space salon in SoHo says she's snipping overtime: "I've been doing a lot of 'Mia Farrow' little bangs -- they have such a mod feel." Mod, that is, until it's time to stock up on bobby pins and start growing them out all over again.
Now that the whole nasty shahtoosh mess -- oh, those subpoenas! -- is so last season and pashminas are selling at the Port Authority for $9.99, the market for all things warm, soft, and just exotic enough to still be legal is wide open. Ruth Huffman, a Texas knitter, has a collection made from the fleece underlying gnarly, knotty bison fur (booties $45, full-length coat $2,990; available at www.ruthhuffmandesigns.com). Fibre Tibet trains Tibetan nomads to follow yaks around and wait for them to shed the soft wool under their chins (sweaters $225, blanket $670 at the Jill Platner Gallery, 113 Crosby Street; 212-324-1298). Anything missing in texture is made up for by the assurance that your scarf won't be pried from your chilly fingers on the courthouse steps.
The Verdura suite on the twelfth floor of a Fifth Avenue office building is a pretty, chintz-cushioned place that just happens to be filled with a blinding collection of emeralds and diamonds. For the "thanks, I'm just looking" set, the elevator ride up to those well-appointed rooms can be a little intimidating. Now, for the first time in the company's 65-year history, Verdura has gone ground-floor with a 350-square-foot boutique at Bergdorf Goodman that carries a selection of Verdura classics (prices range from $6,500 for three-stone candy-colored rings to $120,000 for a wrapped ruby heart brooch) as well as pieces designed exclusively for Bergdorf. And there are no elevators involved -- perfect for a little inconspicuous daydreaming.