TIMES NEWS couture
KAREN CIMMS/TIMES NEWS Betty Johnson pats her daughter's 6-year-old Vietnamese pot-bellied pig, Stella Dora Von Swineburg, at her Lehighton home.
Move over New York, London, Milan and Paris. There is a new fashion capitol on the horizon.
As fashionistas flocked to the runways of the world recently to find out what the glitterati will be wearing next spring, couture wear was being unveiled right here in Carbon County.
But instead of pencil-thin models in sky-high stilettos, one model donned high-top sneakers, while the other, a fresh coat of orange paint on her hooves.
Tecu'Mish MunHaKe of Lehighton and her constant companion and sidekick, Stella Dora Von Swineburg, a 6-year-old Vietnamese pot-bellied pig, are wearing awesome new designs, and the press is all over them literally.
The outfits, designed and created with glue, yarn, duct tape and about a month's worth of TIMES NEWS newspapers, were made by Tecu'Mish's mother, Betty Johnson of Lehighton. The project was for a contest Tecu'Mish found online. She and Stella were the grand prize winners.
"I found out about the contest on an art blog several months ago, and I wanted to do it," says Tecu'Mish who is an artist. "I talked to mom about it. She was game. She's made Stella lots of costumes."
Betty made the outfits, which consisted of hats, dresses with ruffled collars, handbags and earrings all without a pattern.
"I had to think about it for awhile," says Betty, "and design a dress and a hat. I tried to make them both the same. I did a quick drawing of what I wanted them to look like."
Betty made the hat first.
"I knew it would be more fanciful than the dress," says Betty. "The dress had to be simple; for movement."
Betty, a lover of old movies, wanted a spectacular hat, just like you would see on a high-fashion 40s film star.
Although it took her a couple weeks of planning, cutting, gluing and tweaking, she achieved her goal. To keep the same style for her human and porcine models, she worked on both hats at the same time.
"The hats kept growing and evolving," says Betty.
Betty used only black and white newspaper pages to keep the design from clashing with her orange and yellow duct tape a design feature she swears she will never work with again, should the need for newspaper clothing arise again.
"It was hard to work with duct tape," Betty says of the colored tape.
"I was very happy with how it turned out," said Betty. "Tecu'Mish put the table together and was going to use a plastic tablecloth. I figured we made everything else out of newspaper, so I made the tablecloth."
Betty still wasn't finished.
"I took a vase and covered it with newspaper. We had artificial flowers, and after I finished the vase, I thought it would be cute to have newspaper flowers."
When she surveyed her handiwork, she realized something was still missing.
"Ladies at a grand party should have a purse, so I quick made the purses," Betty added.
The two ensembles took about two months to make. When they were complete, Tecu'Mish and Stella modeled them at a backyard "cocktail party." In keeping with the latest trends, martinis were served. While Stella's bigger than life martini glass featured a bigger than life "olive," (made from an appropriately painted empty lemon juice container), she had to settle for grape juice. A fashion-shoot followed, with Tecu'Mish's sister, Linda Nuccio of Lehighton, portraying the paparazzi.
Other costumes Betty has created for Stella include Santa Claus, a Halloween witch and a pink fuzzy coat. She also made a blue denim coat with white fleece, that Stella wears when she and Tecu'Mish visit different venues around the region, collecting money for Soldiers Angels, a nonprofit organization that raises money for the troops and their families.
When she's not designing costumes for her daughter and her pet pig, Betty enjoys sewing, ceramics and mosaics. She has been sewing since Tecu'Mish was born, making baby clothes, play clothes and school clothes for her daughters, and along the way, she says, a little something for herself now and then.
Stella has become a bit of a celebrity around the area, posing for pictures and accompanying Tecu'Mish to galleries where her one of a kind artwork is displayed. As her popularity has grown, friends encouraged Tecu'Mish to create a blog. In it, she tells stories in Stella's "voice," about all of her adventures. Her goal is to someday create a children's book.
Check out Tecu'Mish and Stella's blog at http://stelladorasdiary.blogspot.com.