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Anna Elyse: Special Occasion Attire

Feb 2, 2014

DSC_0180Anna Elyse is the location of visual and tactile wealth—in the form of colors, shapes, and materials.

Are you going to be a bridesmaid or scheduled to attend a wedding, the Oscars, or an Oscar party? Or maybe you’re having a special Valentine’s dinner for two, hosting the ultimate cocktail party, your daughter is a debutante, or your son is graduating. Annie Sokoloff and her team at Anna Elyse in Old Pasadena are ready to help you find—or create—the perfect “special occasion” dress.

What’s your favorite style? A traditional sweetheart neckline, deep v-neck, or scooped tank? How about an asymmetrical sash, V’ D bateau, or a “tucked tank”? Other bodice options include the capped sleeve, halter, and strapless.

When it comes to the skirt, the “Audrey” is a classic, knee length A-line skirt (also available in mini or long), while the “Clarissa” is a full, tucked knee length skirt, which comes up to the waist, and the “Mia” is a below the knee length circle skirt with hidden pockets. The “Short Jackie O Empire” is a shirred knee or mini length skirt with an empire waistline. Annie’s maxim: “If Jackie would wear it, we’ll make it.”

The style of skirts mentioned above are just three of the 14 different styles that Annie offers clients. She invites customers to mix and match to find just the right combination for one’s body type and personal fancy. Mixing and matching is also available on the Anna Elyse website (warning:  get comfortable; it’s addicting).

Material? Dupioni, silk essence, taffeta, and satin.

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Color? More hues than the rainbow—from champagne, canary yellow, harvest gold, apricot, coral, mauve, orchid, magenta, aubergine, amethyst, to azure, midnight blue, celadon, olive, moss, eton, charcoal, slate, cocoa, umber, ebony, and onyx. Just stepping into Annie’s store is a color feast for the eyes.

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Annie Sokoloff began her education as a fashion design major in 1969 at an all-girls Catholic school in Paolli, Pennsylvania. But the environment—traditional home economics, nuns, etcetera—was not an apt fit, so she transferred to King’s College, which had just turned co-ed. “This was eminently more fun,” Annie admits. The school did not offer a major in fashion design or journalism or law, so she changed to political science and she worked her way through college by working in a dress factory. Annie graduated in 1973 and promptly got married, “because that’s what you did.”

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While her husband was a CPA and worked for the American Stock Exchange, Annie was raising their son and from 1977-1990 operated a travel agency. Eventually, a divorce was in the works and Annie landed in Greenwich, Connecticut. She met her second husband due to a wrong number (yes, you read that correctly).

Some years later, they headed west and Annie was accepted into an advanced “debut” program at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandise. Annie thrived during an intensive nine months, where 10 students out of 150 were chosen to create their own clothing line. She graduated in 2003 and has nothing but praise for the challenges she endured at FIDM and the learning and mentoring she received there.

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Begun in Annie’s house in the fall of 2005 (and eventually taking over her husband’s study), Annie Girl aimed to create dresses “for that very special little girl.…(The) selection…fashioned and perfectly sized, resulting in a one-of-a-kind original dress…styled exactly to exceed expectations for that once-in-a-lifetime occasion.”

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During one of many flights from point A to point B, Annie noticed an In Style magazine. Flipping through the pages, she found information on a bridal show in Dallas. Annie’s immediate thought was “I’m doing that.” Her husband’s immediate response was “How much?” Annie’s reply, “I don’t care.”

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Annie exhibited at the bridal show in Dallas with only eight dresses, but there was some movement as a result and in 2006, she was convinced to do the Wedding Channel’s Couture Show. Some movement became more movement as Annie received a few orders, got her dresses into a few stores, received some press in Martha Stewart Weddings, and was accepted into Isetan, one of the largest department stores in Tokyo. Then in January of 2009, “My Fair Wedding” was filmed and Annie started getting calls from women who were driving on the 210 Freeway asking, “What exit are you?”

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Annie is adamant about using the local work force and not outsourcing. “There’s a need for it and we have the labor force.” Currently, besides Nikki Maynard who is Director of Sales and Customer Service, Annie is joined in her endeavor for creativity and excellence (“We don’t do knock-offs) by Sarah Heagerty, Karina Santos, and Edith Amaya:

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Now Anna Elyse has moved from the second story to a street level store front on Raymond Avenue right across from Amara Chocolate & Coffee and up the block from Copa Vida. If you slow your pace and turn your head, you may see Annie and Nikki conferring with a client, asking questions, gauging tastes, pulling fabrics, and placing lengths of material over a shoulder or around a neckline—trying one then another until a smile dawns and another smile grows, and consensus is reached. The quintessential “special occasion” dress is coming together.

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L-R: Nikki and Annie with client

Anna Elyse, 56 S. Raymond Ave., Pasadena 91105. Phone:  626.396.1900. AnnaElyse.com. Visit their Facebook page here.

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