Eclectic style, from trendy to vintage to bohemian

CANDID CLOSET

March 03, 1994|By Mary Corey | Mary Corey,Sun Staff Writer

It's not easy to pin Joan Marie Conway down about her style.

She's not "a clothes horse, fashion queen or shopaholic." And she doesn't look the same every day. The closet of her Federal Hill home is filled with different looks: Wool shorts from a Tweeds catalog hang near a faux leopard coat from a Fells Point thrift shop.

What's most important is that her wardrobe express her personality, says Ms. Conway, 34, the executive director of the Mid-Atlantic Cancer Research Foundation in Silver Spring.

"I don't think clothing should be so serious," she says. "I want mine to say that I'm not a rigid person. I don't like a lot of rules."

If there's one word that sums up your style, it seems to be eclectic. Can you describe some of your looks?

I can look trendy in my black suede fringe jacket. But I'll wear it with a classic merino wool sweater. Then I have a lot of vintage clothing: floral dresses I'll wear with granny boots. They're very feminine. Or I can look bohemian in a brown crushed velvet dress that's very long. I'd burn out if I wore the same thing all the time.

How do you decide what look you'll put on?

It depends on my mood and whether I'm meeting people that day. If it's Friday, I'll do more bohemian. On Mondays, I'm more conservative.

Which style comes closest to the quintessential you?

Vintage dressing. I would have loved to live in the '20s, '30s or '40s. I absolutely hate the current baggy look. It's so anti-feminine. Women are almost making a statement that they don't want to look like women.

What most influenced your taste?

I grew up in a conservative family, and I went to a Southern conservative college. The men would wear orange corduroys. My style is a rebellion against that.

Have you tried other looks along the way?

For a while, I tried to wear a lot of suits. But I discovered I'm not a suit person. Everything has to be exactly so when you wear a suit: your shoes, stockings, blouse. You tend to feel you have an outfit on. To me, it's more interesting to throw on a dress.

With so many different styles, how do you pull it all together?

Some days I mess up. I bought this dress from Victoria's Secret catalog. It was knit with a scooped neckline and a slit halfway up the thigh. I wore it one night when I went out to dinner, but the slit was way too high for my comfort level. The dress kept sticking to my tights and riding up. I looked foolish, and I felt self-conscious the whole time. I didn't go to the ladies' room all night because I didn't want people to look at me.

How has your style changed?

The older you get, the more you learn not to buy things that are fashionable but impractical. I hate really sheer hose and things that have 500 buttons. And I've gotten more hard-core about not buying uncomfortable shoes for the sake of fashion.

Where do you shop?

For classic clothes, Ann Taylor. I go to Cignal for funky clothes. For vintage and bohemian, I'll go anywhere.

If you could trade closets with anyone, whose would you most like to have?

Geena Davis. She always looks terrific. She always has this flair. She's done, but she never looks like she had to try hard.

By this time of year, most of us are completely bored by our winter clothes. How do you cope?

I'm bored, too. I've worn all my sweaters at least three times. All I can do is think spring. I have made several of my own batik scarves.

What's been your biggest fashion violation during this ice- and snow-filled winter?

I came home one night and looked down at what I had on. It was this nerdy-looking outfit. Corduroy pants with an elastic waist that are 10 years old. Two pairs of socks. Black snow boots and an old sweater. The whole day I felt matronly -- but warm.

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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