Look rock around the clock

Rockabetty offers rockabilly fashions suitable for work and for play

Kaitlyn Emslie Farrell
Kaitlyn Emslie Farrell

Rock this town – in style.

Osborne Village shop Rockabetty deals in rockabilly and retro fashions, the kinds of clothes and accessories that are guaranteed to add a strut to your step.

Founded in 2011 by owner Cheryl Scott, Rockabetty started as an online store (www.rockabetty.ca) but bricks and mortar soon followed, with its 121-B Osborne Street location opening approximately a year and a half ago.

After working in retail for 20 years, Scott decided it was high time to venture out on her own. She says she had the Rockabetty concept brewing for awhile, although she didn’t naturally consider herself a Bettie at first.

“It was one of those growing things that I didn’t recognize as a genre until I was pegged as being in it,” Scott, 42, says.

“It was probably about 12 years ago that someone referred to me as a rockabilly girl,” the shop owner, who is also co-chair of Winnipeg rockabilly festival River City Rumble, says. “I was like ‘What?’ It hadn’t occurred to me that some of the music I listened to and the way that I dressed and my bangs all fit into this genre, so it peaked my interest and I looked into it a bit more. It was just a natural progression for me to begin designing clothes around that.”

Yes, Scott designs the Rockabetty line, the label which accounts for about half of the shop. Much of the Rockabetty line is locally manufactured, with Scott buying fabric from Winnipeg textile company Siltex Mills and employing local seamstresses.

Rockabetty’s local focus means the store can offer customized clothing and alterations, catering towards customers of all shapes and sizes. And when it comes to retro clothing, that’s entirely the point.

“A lot of the clothes cater towards women’s curves, which was really prevalent in the ‘50s,” Scott says. “That mix of pretty, feminine, curvy clothes with modern fabrics that have give and stretch is the perfect marrying of elements.

“Women buy dresses and separates that fit, that they can wear to work or wear out. It doesn’t have to be a ‘rockabilly costume’ type look, you can deconstruct everything. Put on a pencil skirt with a great little cardigan and wear it to the office.”

That being said, Rockabetty offers some garments that might be more appropriate for a club than a cubicle.

“When you think about current rockabilly, there’s that punk rock infusion. There’s rockabilly and then there’s psychobilly and horrorbilly,” Scott says. “Here (shows me a dress) you’ve got a classic swing dress with Frankenstein and Frankenstein’s bride and blood spatters everywhere. It’s that marrying of styles that makes it fun.”

Rockabetty doesn’t just cater towards dames. The store offers babies’, kids’ and men’s wear too.

“This summer was the summer of men and wedding parties,” Scott says. “I did three this summer, from leopard print ties to custom-made mechanic style shirts with individual embroideries for the groomsmen.”

Scott says there’s a real wide age range in the hep cats and kittens that make up her clientele.

“The Fabulous 50’s Ford Club of Manitoba and the Forever Young Club – who are primarily seniors – come in and revisit their youth by buying clothes that fit the ‘50s and their cars,” she says. “I think the oldest woman that shopped here was 78.”

Published in Volume 68, Number 4 of The Uniter (September 25, 2013)

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