Her wardrobe is tailored to a changing lifestyle

Fashion Closet

December 31, 1992|By Mary Corey | Mary Corey,Staff Writer

Julie Schwait's closet chronicles the changes in her life -- from single career woman to stay-at-home mom to working mother.

It's a Ruth Shaw-meets-the-Gap kind of existence for Ms. Schwait, 42, director of alumni activities and annual giving at Park School.

While her former profession, accounting, required a more corporate style, she now turns up for work in trousers and a sweater, an outfit that also works when she's in her Homeland home with her husband and 3-year-old son.

How did having a child change your style?

First there's the washability factor; then there's the what happens if he grabs and pulls it factor; the how much can I crawl around on the floor in it factor; and the how fast can I run across the street to catch a runaway kid in it factor. So much for high heels, so much for tight short skirts, so much for silk blouses. The other thing is you can't wear long earrings. Basically I used to have a working girl's wardrobe. Now I don't.

What was your wardrobe like before?

I was a CPA. You know how CPAs are. It was an act of defiance wear red stockings. I used to get these personnel evaluations: "You're very smart but about your socks . . ." I wore loud colored hose. Now I wear black a lot because it doesn't show the dirt as much.

You recently went back to work. How did you deal with the transition of needing professional clothes again?

The advantage of working at a school is that it's a good in-between. I wouldn't wear sweat pants to work, but corduroy trousers from the Gap are perfectly acceptable.

What's a typical work outfit for you?

A long gray flannel pleated skirt that I bought years ago from Ruth Shaw. It always fits, and it goes with everything. I'll wear that with a sweater or shirt and sensible shoes.

Do you feel you've lost your style?

I don't think I lost it, but I don't know where it is anymore. I wish I could be one of those women who always looks put together. But the clothes that I like are frightfully expensive. And I work on a school campus in Brooklandville. The need is different. I'm delighted to not have to dress up every day.

How do you keep from feeling, well, frumpy?

A little mascara always helps. The other thing is no matter how bad I look, I can always find someone else who looks worse.

Where do you shop?

When I was single, I shopped at Ruth Shaw. I think the clothes are beautiful. I do still shop there and the Gap. But I also like my mother's closet. She periodically divests and I gratefully accept.

What do you wear when you're in a funk?

Navy blue Donna Karan sweat pants. It sounds terribly extravagant, but after I had my son Daniel nothing fit. I bought this wonderful pair of really sturdy sweats. I'll wear them with a cotton T-shirt or a turtleneck.

I understand sweaters are your signature.

I have been knitting for so long that I made them all for myself. I like things with lots of patterns in them, and everything has a little bit of purple. But I also wear hats. It started in college. I had this very curly hair, and the style was Cher hair so I hid it under a hat. I don't wear hats like the queen or those bonnets, and I don't wear huge eyeglasses or big earrings. You can't have a lot of stuff around your face when you wear a hat.

What's your most embarrassing clothing event?

This tennis sweater I made for my father with arms that would fit a gorilla. He wore it for years. He rolled up the sleeves so many times that the cuffs were 5 inches thick. It was hilarious.

What's been your best buy?

A Claude Montana coat I bought 10 years ago from Ruth Shaw. It still looks great. It's warm, and it fit even when I was pregnant. It's olive drab, heavy canvas with a flannel lining. It wasn't too haute. I wear different scarves with it. It's one of those things that just works.

If you could choose anyone, with whom would you most like to go shopping?

I'd go with my mom. We used to have the best times shopping at Hutzler's. We have very similar tastes. On more than one occasion, we have been in different stores in different cities at different times and bought the same thing. And not jeans from the Gap but weird imported things.

How do you get through the winter clothing doldrums?

You wear a hat or buy new underwear.

Do you know some dressers? Let us know. Write to Mary Corey The Baltimore Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278.

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