Shop owner's sense of style suits her fine

CANDID CLOSET

November 25, 1993|By Mary Corey | Mary Corey,Staff Writer

In a material world, Beverly Matthai values the basics.

Clean lines. Unfussy fabrics. Lots of beige.

That style suits the owner of Femme clothing store, who at age 31 is already considered a survivor in the world of local retail.

Shortly after buying her shop on North Charles Street six years ago, a plumbing accident ruined her entire inventory. She moved a few doors down -- to a prime storefront in Brown's Arcade. And then came a recession that swallowed up many of her colleagues.

Such adversity has its rewards, namely making her more confident about herself -- and her style.

"Let's put it this way," she says. "There are people who change their pocketbooks to go with their outfits. I'm not one of them."

People must expect more of you -- and your wardrobe -- since you own a store.

I imagine they do. I'm not sure that's realistic. There are some clothing store owners who look immaculate whenever they leave the house. I admire that, but I'm more relaxed. Looking perfect isn't a high priority. It's not real life to me.

But being in your field does give you an advantage, right?

Part of being in this business is knowing trends. You go to showrooms and see what's hot and what's not. I spend the majority of my time dressing people. I see people who can work with their own shape, who understand their colors.

How would you describe your style?

I'm not flashy. I don't like drawing a lot of attention to myself. I'm more understated. One of my favorite designers is Armani. I like muted colors, clean lines. My mother is always teasing me that I always wear beige.

I prefer wearing pants; I don't like tight little skirts. At work, I'm climbing up by displays, opening packages, crunching numbers. Retail is not glamorous.

What separates your look from everybody else's?

I'm not a trendy person. I won't wear a granny dress just because it's in. But I definitely have my eccentric side. On the weekends, I like to wear hats and cowboy boots. And I sort of have this shoe fetish.

Other than your own store, where do you come up with good finds?

My store is my closet basically. If I buy jeans, I'll go to Banana Republic. And I like Barney's in New York.

Whose style would you trade yours for?

Lauren Hutton. She looks comfortable. I would never want to look like Vanna White or Ivana Trump. They look great, but they don't look real to me.

When it comes to your wardrobe, what do you wish you were better at?

Since I'm in the business, I sometimes wish I would be a little more trendy. And sometimes I wish I weren't so lazy. I shouldn't run out in my sweat pants on the weekends. I should try to make more of an effort.

What's the biggest mistake you see women making with their clothes?

Not developing their own style. Some people get too dictated by fashion. They get confined. The one thing that upsets me most is hearing a woman say, "I love this, but my husband would hate it."

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

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