Making a splash: Westerly native Libby Castaldi creates
WESTERLY — Westerly native Libby Castaldi may have staged a protest over a detested dress as a child, but her eye for fashion and sophisticated taste in clothing have served her well.
Earlier this month, Castaldi, 25, launched her new website, Elizabeth Apparel RI, thus introducing her line of swimwear that features her own painted prints, with each design being inspired by a different section of Westerly.
“There’s one called ‘Weekapaug Wayside,’ one called ‘Town Beach Blues’ and another called ‘Bluff Avenue Bubbles,'” said Castaldi, the youngest child of Sandra Castaldi of Westerly and the late Raphael Joseph “Ray” Castaldi, who was a well-known ordained deacon in the Catholic church who died in May.
The Weekapaug design features blue hydrangea in full bloom, Town Beach Blues features pairs of seagulls and the Bluff Avenue features tiny bottles of Veuve Clicquot champagne, said Castaldi, who graduated with the class of 2015 from Westerly High School.
Hydrangea, of course, are plentiful in the summer months in gardens by the ocean, those pesky seagulls are plentiful on the beach and the “bright and bubbly print” is inspired by Ocean House, where “only the best champagne is served” and where Libby and her mom like to enjoy “a secret getaway.”
“She’s always been a fashionista,” Sandra Castaldi said of her daughter one afternoon last week as she recounted the tale of Libby and the dress she so disliked.
The story goes that when Libby was a student at Central Baptist Nursery School, she refused to get out of the car and go into school because she didn’t like the dress she was wearing.
“Who does that?” Sandy asked with a chuckle. “She was 3 years old.”
“I used to watch ‘Project Runway’ all the time too,” Libby added, “from the time I was like 4.”
Mother and daughter shared a laugh as they walked along the beach in Weekapaug one afternoon last week accompanied by Sophie Read, Libby’s friend from Westerly High, Mia Castaldi, Sandy’s daughter-in-law and Libby’s sister-in-law, and Mia’s son, Enzo, who is Sandy’s grandson, Libby’s nephew and who will turn 2 in September.
The troupe was looking for the ideal spot to model Libby’s swimsuits — and to place a few of her colorful matching towels down in the sand — while Enzo and his grandmother splashed in the waters of Block Island Sound.
“She was so creative in high school,” said Reed, 25, who works in the finance/recruiting world and who was wearing the bikini version of Castaldi’s Town Beach Blues. “She was always drawing … and writing.”
When she was at Westerly High School, Libby was not only “very involved” in the art program, but wrote for the school newspaper, “The Barker.”
“She was the best dressed in high school,” Reed added with a smile. “The halls were her place.”
Reed said Libby’s pals all knew she’d be in fashion and design one day, and they knew she’d shine.
The two friends shared a laugh as they recalled Libby’s Instagram page, which featured “an outfit of the day.”
“She introduced Instagram to the high school,” Reed noted.
Libby said she learned quite a bit during her high school years and credited art teacher John Tedeschi as being a strong, positive influence.
“He took my art from good to where I am today,” she said.
“Libby has a great fashion sense, amazing work ethic and positive attitude,” Tedeschi said in an email Thursday evening. “It is an inspiration to see her following her dreams.
“Congratulations on her new line of swimwear!” Tedeschi added. “She is going to make a lasting mark on the fashion world.”
After graduating from Westerly High, Libby headed off to study at Lasell College in Newton, Massachusetts, where she was a fashion design and production major. While she was a student, Libby participated — as one of 38 students — in a team-oriented semester-long project under the mentorship of noted fashion historian Edward Maeder.
According to Jill Carey, her professor at the time, Libby teamed up with classmates to research and produce paper dresses in the Rococo style using handmade textiles after visiting the “Casanova’s Europe” exhibit at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts and immersing themselves in “the intricacies of 18th-century culture and style.”
After college, she worked as a designer for Kiel James Patrick, the popular Rhode Island-based company, for a while and two weeks ago she officially launched Elizabeth Apparel at a popup shop at the Hotel Viking in Newport.
Back on the beach in Weekapaug, the entourage arranged the towels in the sand before plunging into the cold ocean waters.
“There are so many styles of bathing suits too,” said Mia, “low-waist and bikini, two-piece … “
“And I have a kids’ line coming too,” added Libby. “And a men’s.”
“If you want to be part of greatness, follow Elizabeth Apparel from Westerly,” said Sophie. “She’d make her daddy proud.”
“Ray was one of her biggest fans,” added Sandy.
Starting her own business has been a huge undertaking, Libby writes on her website, “emotionally, physically, creatively and of course financially,” but, she adds, she “persists through it all to honor her late father who LOVED the beach.”
To learn more about Elizabeth Apparel, visit https://elizabethapparelri.com.