Pentimento is an Italian artists’ expression meaning things from the past coming back to the present. It’s the perfect description of what Elizabeth Carlisle has achieved in her Wicker Park store of that name, which opened last April.
The store showcases the work of local up-and-coming clothing designers, as well as an eclectic collection of handmade housewares and decorative objects. While most of the merchandise is contemporary, much of it utilizes vintage fabrics and trimmings and has a distinctly nostalgic feel. About 80 percent comes from the Midwest, Carlisle says.
A designer herself, Carlisle incorporates antique fabrics into her one-of-a-kind creations. For example, a priest’s embroidered white linen vestment is remade into a delicate blouse; a piece of 1930s tapestry becomes a gorgeous, richly colored jacket.
Pentimento also carries items by Alice Berry, whose sportswear includes tailored reversible jackets; Lucy Domino, whose understated separates and dresses are strong on details like top-stitching; and Beth Cahill, whose flower-trimmed, witty little dresses are sold under the label “Like My Dress?”
The store’s gifts and housewares range from the quirky, such as a pair of shoes covered in moss, to the luxurious — a handpainted velvet tablecloth.
Carlisle, who has a degree in textile design from FIT in New York and spent five years as home furnishings fashion coordinator for Marshall Field’s, says she has a sixth sense for finding new design talent.
“I really enjoy working with designers and artists and helping someone develop their ideas,” she says, adding that she can help with practicalities like how to sell a product. “I want them to go beyond my store,” she says.
The average gift costs $50 to $75. Apparel prices range from $40 for a scarf to $450 for a coat, with the average outfit about $300 to $400. Carlisle said she hopes to add some more moderate price lines next spring.
Carlisle’s taste is the common denominator that helps everything hang together. “I have a passion for all this stuff,” she says. “It’s what I find interesting, beautiful and, hopefully, salable.”