- Drape, first and foremost. MLR (that's Mary Lou Rankin, the owner) designs these patterns to have 8-10" inches of ease. Yes, really. And with that much ease in a garment, it absolutely cannot be made out of a stiff fabric like quilting cotton. The fabric needs to have drape. One of my most favorite garments was an Audubon Park jacket that MLR was wearing as an overblouse. It was plain white or cream, she wore it over a matching tank top and black pants. I'm not sure what the fabric was, but it was drapy and very flattering to her.
- Color choices. Many of the garments were more muted in color than you'd think. I already mentioned the white Audubon blouse. The Griffith Park skirt was made up all in black too--you couldn't see the gores but it had great movement, and it would be a flattering staple. The Woodstock skirt, which is a pieced skirt, was made up of related prints that blended with each other.
- Fabric choices. MLR is not a fabric snob. She mentioned that she has been using a lot of fabrics from Jo-Ann's, including the polys, because that's what's easily available to most people that are buying the patterns. True, there were also some pieces in 4 ply silk crepe. But I liked that she was trying to be where her market is, and Jo-Ann's fabrics have never looked so good! As long as it has the necessary drapiness, she'll use it.
- Embellishments. Denver City Park includes a super simple jacket, but one version was made up with a double layer effect with fabric tubes trimming the opening. Balboa Park's jacket has a seam that can be finished off as a seam or made as an opening into which fabric tubes, trims, etc. can be inserted.
The overall impression of the sample garments was of boutique ready-to-wear. Granted, this is not a line that works for everybody since its focus is on easy dressing for women of "a certain age". The patterns aren't graded so that's out of some people's comfort level. And if you need highly detailed guidesheets, you won't get them here. Personally, Park Bench's styling is way too relaxed for my work environment, but I can see using these patterns for items to wear during my downtime on the weekend.
MLR mentioned during the show that she will be putting pictures of the sample garments on the site. It may take a while, as she admits she's not web-design savvy. I hope so, because the current gallery page leaves a lot to be desired--what's on there now is extremely limited. It would be great if some professional-type photos of the garments were added.