Masked galas, themed costume parties, and art scavenger hunts welcome to the world of 39-year-old Francesca Piper Koss. A wealthy socialite? Nope, just a hardworking fund-raiser who serves as chairwoman of the Medici Group patron society at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and a board member for Save Venice Boston. So while Koss gets to plan and attend delightfully decadent balls, she's on a Cinderella-like wardrobe budget. Lacking a wand-toting fairy godmother, the Newtonville resident relies on her real mother for help. "We typically start with an inspirational fabric for the period, hunt down a pattern, and then search for trims and embellishments," says the Rhode Island School of Design graduate. "All this while my mother travels back and forth to her home in Connecticut with her sewing machine!" Koss's 3-year-old daughter often joins in the fun, loving to "dress fancy" herself. Family bonding, balls in Venice, raising money for the arts: Sounds like Koss lives a fairy-tale life.
Where She Shops
FOR FABRIC Koss says upholstery remnants often make sensational costumes and gowns. She has great luck at the Franklin Mill Store (305 Union Street, Franklin, 508-528-3301, franklinmillstore.com) and Zimman's (80 Market Street, Lynn, 781-598-9432, zimmans.com).
FOR TRIMS "I'm a little hesitant to let this secret out of the box," says Koss about her all-time favorite spot for buying beads and findings. "Oh, well, it's Wolf E. Myrow" (46 Aleppo Street, Providence, 401-331-2921, wolfemyrow.com). And for mask and purse decorations, she hits A.C. Moore arts and crafts supplies (1 Worcester Road, Framingham, 508-629-7560, acmoore.com).
FOR JEWELRY Since Koss is always on the lookout for period drama, she never misses one of the seasonal jewelry auctions at Skinner (63 Park Street, Boston, 617-350-5400, skinnerinc.com). She's also a great fan of local designer Maud Cabot (617-694-5517, maudjewelry.com), whose elegant, artistic pieces have been featured in many national magazines and are sold in the area at Louis (234 Berkeley Street, Boston, 617-262-6100, louisboston.com).