Museum educator is draped in the past

August 12, 1993|By Mary Corey | Mary Corey,Staff Writer

Amanda Ohlke DiPaul may have been born in the wrong era. One look at her wardrobe confirms that. There are Art Deco accessories, 75-year-old smoking jackets and housedresses from the '30s.

A vintage approach to dressing suits the 29-year-old educator with the Maryland Historical Society, who says she's inspired by the past.

But when she's in her Hyattsville home, she's strictly a '90s woman dressed in T-shirts and shorts.

"If there's no one to look at you," she asks, "why bother?"

How did you first get interested in clothes?

Through my mother. Her side of the family always kept things. I always played dress-up with clothes that belonged to my great-aunt. I still have a black dress with turquoise and silver beadwork that's from the 1920s. My mother wore it, then passed it down to me.

How would you describe your style?

I like to have my clothes recall another time or place. I like to think of themes when I get dressed. I'll wear velvet cherries pinned on the neck of my blouse with a grape pin and say I'm a fruit salad. I just kind of amuse myself. I have scraps of my great-grandmother's wedding dress, lace my great-aunt made and embroidery by my grandmother. I also have this collection of costume jewelry that I began collecting when I was in junior high school.

Does working for a museum make you more conscious of fashions from the past?

It definitely does. We have a good textile collection here and wonderful accessories. Even the costumes in the paintings are divine. They inspire me if I'm going out in the evening or to a costume party. But in day-to-day life, I can't wear a satin dress.

If you could choose any period to dress from, which would it be?

I wouldn't want to be cinched into a corset, but I love the way the Gibson Girls looked. I like the curve of the lines, and the fact that there was a little bit of practicality entering their clothes. I like interesting clothes, but I need them to be useful. I love pockets. I always have a zillion things I want to carry around.

What period do you detest?

The '70s are too easy to take a shot at. There's a little good in everything, but there are things I don't care for from different times, like Jackie Kennedy's pillbox hat or the Brady Girls' dresses. Those are bad. There was no artistry to those dresses. The clothes Jackie wore were great on her, but they were so rectangular. They were unflattering for most people.

Where do you shop?

I love antique and vintage shops. On my lunch hour, I'll drop by the shops on Antique Row. For new stuff, I love Lord & Taylor and the Polo outlet.

What's the hardest dressing decision you make in the morning?

Whether I want to make the commitment to iron or not. I look at the clock and take my emotional temperature and ask myself, "Am I up to this?" If you're dealing with a skirt with a lot of fabric, it's 10, 15 minutes' work there. But it's nice that I have a job where I don't have to wear heels and hose and a suit.

Does your style change from day to day?

Sometimes I feel really sporty, other times I want to be very sophisticated. But there are times when I think I look one way and not everyone agrees. I once had on this white skirt with a Ralph Lauren men's shirt and white oxfords. I thought I looked like I belonged at a lawn party. Somebody told me I looked like a country-western singer. I was deeply hurt, but it was kind of funny.

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

I have a couple things. One is a black cashmere V-neck sweater I got from a thrift shop for 25 cents. I've had it for 12 years. The other is a man's smoking jacket in amethyst with satin lapels. I'll wear that with a black turtleneck and black skirt. I think it's really glamorous. When I got it, I wore it with rhinestone pins. I thought, "Wow, I'm the coolest thing there ever was."

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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