The spare room in Charlene Brown's Northwest Baltimore home isn't filled with books, furniture or even assorted clutter. It's brimming with her favorite things: hats.
Straw boaters, feather caps and fedoras all have a place in the wardrobe of this 32-year-old businesswoman.
Since she was a child, Ms. Brown has been wearing hats, at first shyly, and now with greater confidence.
In an era when many contemporaries regard hats as outdated, she disagrees.
"When I put a hat on, I know my outfit is complete," says Ms. Brown, an owner in the Joseph H. Brown Jr. Funeral Home in West Baltimore.
When it comes to dressing, what's most important to you?
Hats. To me, hats, scarves and gloves complete an outfit. You can take a suit from last year, add a hat and make it seem new again. When I was younger, I wouldn't wear them all the time because they attracted attention. But now that I'm in the funeral service profession, they seem more appropriate, especially since I'm in church a lot during the week.
How many do you have?
Probably 30. They mostly are large-brimmed, straw for the summer and felt for the winter. I first buy a hat and then try to find an outfit to go with it.
Which are your wildest?
I have one hat that's black with ostrich feathers hanging down from it. At $300, it was my biggest splurge. I just had to have it. It was so different. Then I have one with a crown that looks like a soft ice cream cone. I've only worn that once.
Many woman feel silly in a hat. What's enabled you to pull off the look?
It's all in your attitude. There was a time when career women dressed like men. Now women are relaxing. They realize that it's OK to dress like a woman. Hats are part of that.
How would you describe your style overall?
A mix of contemporary and classic. I usually wear suits. But my suits aren't boxy. I like jackets and skirts with more feminine styling -- fancy buttons, soft lapels, fur cuffs.
Who are your favorite designers?
For hats, I like Frank Olive. For clothes, I like St. John knits.
How is your weekend style different?
When I'm not working, I make an effort not to wear black. I tend to try things that might be considered daring, like a leather dress.
Easter is prime time for hats. Have you selected yours?
I'll probably wear a pale blue straw hat with a large brim that I bought last year. I'm now looking for a pale blue suit to match.
Do you know some dressers? Let us know. Write to Mary Corey, The Baltimore Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278.