YOU CAN CREATE YOUR OWN WORLD IF YOU REALLY BELIEVE YOU CAN,” says designer Jane Booke. “Women deserve clothing that’s all about fantasy.” A slender 39-year-old with flowing auburn hair, Booke doesn’t hesitate to practice what she preaches. Often, visitors to her Los Angeles studio find her dressed à la Glinda in a diaphanous, floor-length gown and antique tiara. It’s a look that has earned her a cadre of devotees, including Sharon Stone, Patricia Arquette and Melanie Griffith. “Her clothes are so romantic,” says Jennifer Aniston, a fan of Booke’s Renaissance-inspired velvet capes and chiffon dresses. “They make you feel like a fairy.”
While other designers struggle to stay abreast of breaking trends, Booke has built her success—prices range from $600 to $2,000 for such staples as her Castle gowns (eight yards of cascading velvet and silk brocade) and silk charmeuse frocks—on one premise: Even grown women like to play princess. Just ask Aniston, who went slack-jawed the first time she saw a Booke creation. “It was on my manager, and she looked like Rapunzel,” she says. “I thought, ‘Whoa! Where did she get that?’ ”
“Stars love Jane’s designs because they’re lush and beautiful,” says Los Angeles fashion stylist Vivian Turner. “When you wear them, women literally stop you on the street. And men suddenly want to open doors for you.”
The Dallas-born designer’s affinity for fantasy began as a teen. After her parents (father Stephen Booke owns a financial public-relations firm; mother Ruth is a homemaker) divorced when she was 10, Jane went to live with her mother, who married George Kennedy, a renowned geophysicist. The family moved to a seven-acre estate in Bel Air, Calif., where such eclectic guests as Irving Stone, Georgia O’Keeffe and Mae West would often visit. When they weren’t entertaining, Booke’s mother and stepfather were jet-setting. “It was a lonely situation with them always traveling,” says Booke, whose two older siblings were away at college. “So I escaped by painting and playing the piano and guitar.”
As a teenager, Booke began accompanying her father on summer sojourns to France and England, where she began collecting antique chiffon dresses. “They would fall apart the minute you put them on,” she recalls. “So I figured I could start making my own.” Later, at Beverly Hills High, she distinguished herself from her preppy peers by wearing wild vintage duds and platform heels. “By 15, she was hipper than everyone else,” says her sister, Jacqueline Bucelli, 46, a San Francisco agent for hairstylists, makeup artists and fashion stylists.
Despite her sense of style, Booke hadn’t yet found her calling. After graduating in 1973, she formed a local rock band called Sleeping Beauty. The lead singer, she also made the band’s stage clothes, turning herself, she says, into a “rock-and-roll version of Juliet.” But by 1987, both the band and Booke’s first marriage had fallen apart. Three years later she wed Jim Cregan, now 50, a record producer and songwriter, and that same year gave birth to their daughter Camille.
Ironically it was Booke’s decision to be a stay-at-home mom that kicked off her career. With time to sew her own clothes (“I never liked what I found in the stores”), she began stocking her closet in earnest. At a friend’s wedding in 1993, wearing her own silk charmeuse-and-brocade creation, she was asked by another guest—owner of the hip L.A. boutique Comme Des Fous—if she could see her collection. With only her wardrobe to show, Booke landed her first order. Soon, such shops as Henri Bendel and Fred Segal were calling, along with early clients Laura Dern and Anne Archer.
Now living in a three-bedroom cottage in L.A.’s Laurel Canyon, Booke has created a home as fanciful as her clothes. The canopy bed she shares with Cregan is draped in white mosquito netting and faux garland vines, and fairy knick-knacks abound. “My interest started with Tinkerbell and went on from there,” she says. Booke, who recently finished a second, higher-end line of medieval clothes and jewelry, admits her designs can be “over the top” but offers no apologies. “Life would be incredible if every time you walked down the street you saw a princess,” she says. “As far as I’m concerned, that would be a perfect world.”
STEVEN COJOCARU in Los Angeles