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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014

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In Marketplace

Red hot t-skirt.

In Marketplace

"Go team" t-skirts.

In Marketplace

Alice t-skirts were a hot item for this year's Summerfest show.

Tigerlily "t-skirts" fit the bill for cool, upcycled fashion


Hollie May-Ipsarides isn't cut from the same cloth – so to speak – as a lot of other folks.

"I like to do things uniquely. I always have, whether it's my house or my hair – I have always been different," says May-Ipsarides.

Case in point: a year and a half ago, lacking a sewing background of any kind, she decided she was going to construct skirts out of T-shirts. Without consulting patterns or You Tube, she created her first "t-skirt" made primarily from one of her husbands' outgrown Harley-Davidson T-shirts.

The couple, both motorcycle riders, have traveled all over the country together on motorcycle trips, and May-Ipsarides had so many fond memories of her husband wearing the shirt, she didn't want to get rid of it.

"So I cut it up and made a skirt out of it," she says.

Since then, May-Ipsarides has made hundreds of t-skirts under the business name Tigerlily Gallery & Boutique, which was the name of a gallery she operated in Mineral Point, Wis. a few years ago.

Today, she creates the t-skirts from her Germantown home. She sells at festivals but mostly takes orders from customers through her Facebook page.

May-Ipsarides will use her own T-shirts – she has "bins and bins" of them – or special shirts provided by the customer to construct the skirt. Many of the shirts she repurposes are embossed with sports team or musical group logos. The t-skirts are made from panels of reused clothing and have a draw-string waist.

She also makes skirts from old leather jackets and other articles of clothing, including boots, halters and coats.

Leather t-skirts cost $75 ($89 if postage is required) and it's $55 ($65 with postage) for a t-skirt. She also sells kids' t-skirts for $30.

Recently, May-Ipsarides' brother-in-law passed away from cancer and her sister had a difficult time parting with his belongings.

In an effort to comfort her grieving sister, May-Ipsarides took his favorite Brewers shirt and made it into a skirt. Her sister wears it often and even has a double frame with a photo of her husband wearing the shirt next a photo of her wearing it as a skirt.

She has also created t-skirts for the bands 33 RPM and Spoiled Rotten.

May-Ipsarides says she wears a t-skirt every day, mostly because they're so comfortable. Her favorites are her t-skirts made from Harley-Davidson or Marquette shirts. She graduated from Marquette in 1997 with a degree in dental hygiene / health science.

Today, May-Ipsarides continues to work as a dental hygienist and has no plans to leave the profession even though her t-skirt business has really grown. She enjoys the success but has no interest in mass producing her t-skirts.

"They all have to be one-of-a-kind. You will never see the same one twice," she says. "Even with Tigerlily's significant growth, I will ensure the highest quality craftsmanship and the personal touch my skirts have become known for. I feel like I opened a door and I'm running through it."

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