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Less Is More

Susan Wiegand blinds us with science.

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It's been a long day at work. Traffic's down to one lane (again) on Main Street, and there aren't any parking spots left in front of our apartment building -- thank you, Shakespeare in the Park. After picking up the latest stack of third-notice bills, trudging up three flights of stairs in heels and partaking in the daily battle between our bent key and a most unforgiving lock, we can concentrate on only one thing.

Getting out of these goddamned clothes.

This would never happen to Susan Wiegand. As the Ideal Garment and Scientific Panty designer, Wiegand takes a refreshingly organic approach to fashion. Comfort comes first and foremost, but never, thankfully, at the expense of fit. Her clothes aren't restrictive -- she uses no zippers -- but they're still snug. And more important, they're still sexy.

"My clothes require a willingness to show the body, but in a way that shows it off without dishonoring it," Wiegand tells us.

Her studio sits on the second floor of a rehabbed firehouse on Troost. It's a huge, sunlit room with tall, rounded windows and worn rugs; piles of fabric litter every available surface, and a large sewing table rests just south of center. Wiegand has done most of her business in this room over the past couple of years. But that's all about to change.

This weekend marks the grand opening of the building's latest incarnation. The first floor now houses an actual store, with an actual dressing room and racks of ready-to-wear. In addition to the stretchy skirts and tops by Ideal Garment -- as well as the Gamelan-inspired wrapping dresses we want, we need, we have to have -- there are selections from Movie Monster, a line of fantastical concept pieces by Kris Devlin.

"They're surprisingly wearable," says Wiegand, nodding toward the Judy Jetson number displayed near the door.

Selling these dresses isn't the biggest challenge she faces, however.

"I finally got men in skirts last week," Wiegand says. She hopes the trend catches on. "They've already got plenty between their legs -- they don't need anything more. My guy won't wear anything else."

And how will she convince men whom she's not dating that they should wear one?

"Well, you and I, as girls, know how nice it is having a skirt, feeling your legs against each other, how cool they are in summer. For the guys, I think it's even doubly so, because they're so prone to getting hot. I mean, the expression 'hot as balls'?" Point taken.

Wiegand is even making new underwear to accompany the skirts, as well as a variation on the original Scientific Panty: a lighter, seasonal version called Summer Science. (We're wearing a pair right now, and they're quite nice.)

We discuss the proliferation of custom-made underthings in KC right now.

"As a panty purist, I look at this stuff, and I know it's cute, but I know it's not wearable under clothes or for any length of time. It's going to go up your butt or fall apart, or it's only for a specific body type," Wiegand says. "How can underwear be so demanding? You're supposed to put demands on the underwear, not the other way around." It's a philosophy that encompasses all of her designs.

And that's not science. That's just common sense.

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