MINOT — Chappy Windsor said women wage war against their clothing every day.
They tug, they pull, they tuck. They deal with bulges where clothing and straps shove and cut flesh instead of smoothing it.
They end up with wardrobe fatigue, not because their clothing is old and worn, but because they are tired of doing daily battle.
Windsor got tired, too, of rearranging bunched-up panties and pulling her top and jeans back into place every time she bent over and stood back up.
She created a solution that has led to several signature pieces made exclusively for her and sold at her Minot store, Dakota Chappy.
Windsor, 36, is well on her way to running what she describes as a multi-million dollar clothing line and has had offers to dress celebrities with her signature pieces.
She said she isn’t interested in celebrities who have all the money and resources in the world to take care of themselves.
Her heart is with the everyday woman, the young mom, the grandmother, who struggles not only with her clothing but her self-image in a world where those aforementioned celebrities have set an unrealistic and impossible bar of beauty.
“I’m a Dakota girl, and my total vibe is with the women here: They have genuine taste, and they know quality and function. The brand name doesn’t matter,” she said.
A trip through Dakota Chappy starts with those signature pieces and that first creation is the Total Tight.
The one-piece tight is supported with shoulder straps, has a formed and darted bodice and ends near the ankle. She searched a long time for the special “milli-skin” fabric, a breathing, moisture-wicking Spandex that shapes and supports.
Depending on a woman’s comfort zone, it frees her from wearing a bra or panties, which Windsor said are about as archaic as Grandma’s apron.
“This is both inner and outwear. Why should you suffer?” she asks. “But the bra support situation is very, very personal. The push-up bra pushes tissue into the décolletage and takes the dance out of the collarbone. With too much push, most tops don’t drape right,” she said.
Windsor said she has sold 4,000 Total Tights, one at a time, not by the dozens at wholesale, to the astonishment of the fashion and textile experts in Los Angeles and New York with whom she regularly works.
These are onesies, so a bathroom stop requires shifting what’s worn over it in order to slip the tight straps off the shoulders. Or, arrangements can be made with a store-associate seamstress to have a zipper retrofit.
She put the same basic concept to work for a Total Jean and Total Jegging product, too.
Next is her trademark “Sleeve Solution,” a piece that cups the bodice and slips under sleeveless tops and dresses.
This takes care of the dreaded “bat wing,” that loose skin on the back of the arm that Windsor said is a body issue only in the upper Midwest.
“Other women don’t even think about that. Here, we’re so modest and so covered for 10 months out of the year, that uncovering induces anxiety,” she said.
The final piece is the “Benny,” a longish tank-style top that provides support and coverage and is usually worn under something that floats above the legging silhouette.
“I’m always looking for mobility and utility. No one should be tortured by their clothing, but a lot of women are,” Windsor said.
For a weekday afternoon, the Dakota Chappy store is busy, with women coming and going. Besides her signature pieces, the store’s inventory is what she calls “a fusion of Scandinavian and Nature American culture through fashion.”
Windsor keeps a lot of staff in the relatively small store because she wants each customer to get plenty of personal time and attention.
“We dress the body they have, not the one they will have some day if they lose 20 pounds. We see tears (of happiness) in the dressing room every day,” she said.
One customer, Alicia Lacher, of Bismarck, said she was back a second time after buying the Total Tight.
She said she loves the tight and the way it gets after that “pooling of the flesh,” problem, also known as the “muffin top,” or back fat that’s unattractively pushed under the arm by a bra.
Lacher — who’s in terrific shape after dropping refined sugars and flour from her diet and doesn’t have flesh that pools — said it’s great to sit down and not have a clothing gap on her backside.
“I wear it all the time. I’m not worried about my butt hanging out,” she said.
Windsor said her signature pieces are so revolutionary they will eventually change the way women dress all over the world. Her long-term plan is to ramp up production, so that Dakota Chappy is sold everywhere.
“When I’m in Los Angeles or New York, people are surprised that North Dakota can support an independent fashion designer. They’ve never seen anything like this, or anyone like me. I’ve never had investors and I’ve never gotten a loan, but I’m not doing anything that’s not self-sustaining,” she said.
Her message to women is that beauty is subjective and, in many ways, is a meaningless ideal.
After listening to the many sad comments women make about themselves, Windsor said when they understand how to balance and support their silhouette, the tears of happiness she sees in Dakota Chappy’s dressing rooms every day are even more rewarding.
“Here I have the venue, the voice and the product that can truly change that dialogue. I have to be a good steward of that opportunity,” she said.
The store is located at 813 N. Broadway and is open Monday through Saturday, with extended Thursday evening hours.