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Housewife Chic

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Kelly McCants, a homemaker on her tax forms, is knee-deep in retro prints and polka dots, handcrafting aprons and tablecloths and oh-so-much more -- adding a little kitsch to the kitchen in a collection she calls Modern June. She's updated the classic '50s-style apron, preserving the bold rickrack trimmings, the rounded edges, the wipeable oilcloth and the charm, while incorporating the 21st-century preferences for form-fitting, low-waisted clothing. June Cleaver would be proud.

And in a way, she is. Tucked away in a bathroom-turned-workspace is a mannequin McCants named Modern June; she overlooks an empire of rolled-up cotton and oilcloth fabrics so colorful they probably inspired her permanent plastic smile. McCants' work space overflows into a converted basement of her North Side home, and her textiles, patterns and finished products share the space with a folded-up treadmill. Take one look at the organized chaos, and you can tell that McCants understands the modern woman.

"I'm trying to make being a housewife chic," she says. Her designs range from "cherrylicious" diner-style aprons to those adorned with stitched-on cupcakes and ice-cream sundaes to red-and-white-checked styles, all of which make you want to make apple pie and set it on the windowsill to cool. She makes potholders, too, in case the pie pan gets too hot. And there are mother-daughter sets as well, to encourage the little ones to play house instead of Halo.

McCants is inspired by authentic aprons from the days of Cleaver. She used to collect them, but then started selling them at local craft markets because, as she reluctantly admits, "A girl can only have so many vintage aprons." Still, it seems a girl can make as many vintage-style aprons as she wants; McCants took to creating her own after the originals sold so well. "Everything I do is very nostalgic," she says.

And also comfortable. McCants' products are so wearable, you might forget to take them off, even after the casserole's been ingested and the dishes scrubbed. "I've embarrassed the hell out of my kids forgetting to take [my aprons] off at Ukrop's," she says. Well, isn't that part of being a mother?

Mothers are a logical demographic for Modern June, but not the only one. McCants' products attract hip 20- and 30-somethings and, curiously, Bulgarian men. McCants' first Eastern European customer found his apron through Google. "If you type in 'plus-size oilcloth apron,'" she says, "I'm at the top of the list."

Modern June products are available at local craft markets and stores, including William Byrd farmers' market, House of Lukaya and Strawberry Fields, and online at www.modernjune.com.

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