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Fort Wayne women create clothing for baby boomers with Hand Jive

Monday, May 5, 2014 - 7:24 am

Their clothing, is light, comfortable, colorful, uses a unique mix of patterns and textures and is designed specifically for women over 40 who want to look stylish, yet not uncharacteristically young. The brand is Hand Jive and the unique clothing is designed and produced by two Fort Wayne women, Dawn DeSanto and Kenna Jackson.

Hand Jive clothes can't be found in local retail outlets, because DeSanto and Jackson sell their clothes exclusively at art fairs from St. Louis to New York City. This year they'll travel to Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, East Lansing, Lexington, Louisville, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. Local women, however, can learn about Hand Jive by checking them out at to find out how to order.

They'll also get a chance for a hands-on, up close and personal look at their wares at the Covington Art Show June 21 and 22 at Covington Plaza on Jefferson Boulevard. Their show schedule is posted online.

“Hot Flash” (women know all about that, DeSanto said) special discounts are offered a couple of times a month on certain garments. To be able to participate, Hand Jive needs to have the customer's e-mail address to inform them of the sale items. To be on the e-mail list women can sign up online.

The two women have been collaborating for 18 years ever since finding that the clothing offered for women 40 and over was woefully inadequate. DeSanto said they found off-the-rack clothing was not forgiving where it should be and that overall styles were more for women who had basically given up trying something fresh or was much too young-looking. “Our theory is 'life is hard, clothes should be fun.'

“It's difficult to make something that works for everyone,” says DeSanto, “but our garments come close because they're loose fitting and comfortable. They run from extra-small to plus sizes. Nothing is tailored. We both love to shop and we watch the trends carefully and then construct things that are stylish but focused on the 40-plus age group, which is our niche. We hope our creations help women get out of their comfort zone.”

“We're interested in fabrics that are comfortable and light-weight. “We like to mix and match patterns and textures to get different designs. Then we top it off with unusual buttons to give our clothing that unique, stylish appearance,” Jackson said. “We collaborate on the designs, and Dawn, who is an artist, makes the actual working drawings. Doing the designs is the most fun part of our business,” she added.

A Berne native, DeSanto was interested in art at an early age. Her sister taught her how to paint with her left hand after she broke her right arm. She attended the Fort Wayne School of Art, tried her hand at commercial art and settled on fine art. She spent 15 years selling her art at shows around the country before partnering with Jackson and making the switch to clothing. They initially did prints on T-shirts and sweats with stamps they made themselves before moving on to serve the clothing needs of women over 40.

Born in Fort Wayne, Jackson first met DeSanto at a class at Fort Wayne Dance Collective. She was studying psychology at IPFW, they hit it off and she agreed to assist DeSanto at art shows. Jackson completed her Education Specialist Degree (EDS) at Ball State University and works at Garrett Public Schools.

DeSanto and Jackson say they're blessed to have such a great friendship that has resulted in such a successful venture. “We've been through a lot together. In fact, a tornado blew through a show in Evanston, Ill., a couple years ago and this past January on the way to a show in the Washington, D.C. area we hit a patch of black ice on Interstate 70 east of Breezewood, Penn., lost control, rolled the van, scattered Hand Jive creations all over the highway and totaled the vehicle. Fortunately we weren't badly hurt. That didn't stop us from getting to the show,” DeSanto said.