A little conservative, with a -- of funkiness


June 16, 1994|By Mary Corey | Mary Corey,Sun Staff Writer

She designs jewelry, but Jill Beninato says clothes matter most to her.

Whether she's plying metals in her Northeast Baltimore studio-home or working at Tomlinson Craft Collection in Towson, she first considers what outfit to wear (Will it be the ribbed tuxedo jacket, crocheted tank top or baby doll dress?) and then selects her accessories.

She describes her collection of modern pins and earrings carried in 130 galleries across the country (including Tomlinson) as "nature inspired, primitive and sophisticated."

Finding the right words to sum up her wardrobe is a bit more difficult.

"I guess," she says, "I'm on the edge of funkiness."

How has your background affected your style?

It's really refined a lot of things for me. I grew up in Virginia Beach and everything revolved around the sea. I saw how things were affected by the elements, and I grew to love anything that had texture, was weathered or rusted.

How has that translated into your wardrobe?

I'm not a flashy person. I've always been into wearing dark clothing. Art school had that effect on me. One of my favorite designers is Betsey Johnson. Everything she designs is way out but still comfortable. I guess I'd call my style artsy but conservative.

Where do you shop?

Nordstrom, Betsey Johnson in Georgetown and boutiques in Virginia Beach.

Do you wear your own jewelry?

Sometimes. Some of the things I design are too busy for the clothes I wear. I'm fairly small -- I'm 5-foot-1 and weigh about 95 pounds -- so some things are too big for me.

Is it tough finding clothes?

I'm a size 1 or 2. Even in some petite stores, the clothes aren't small enough. But it probably saves me money. I'm such a clothes horse that if I had everything I liked, I'd have three closets by now.

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

One thing that always bothers me is that they think everything has to be a set. That can be monotonous. People should take more risks -- mixing gold with silver, wearing textures, plastics. Your body can be a wonderful way to display art. People tend to be a little conservative about that.

What in your closet do you most regret buying?

Linen. I love the way it looks, but it drives me crazy. The minute you sit down it looks like you've been rolling around in bed all day.

What do you most regret not buying?

More shoes. I never seem to have the right pair: They're either too weird or too conservative.

With whom would you most like to swap closets?

Meg Ryan. I've bought several things I've seen her wear in movies. She has a natural chic. Her things aren't flashy, but they look stylish.

What comes closest to being your uniform?

Guess? jeans, black boots, a white cotton T-shirt and a vest. It's comfortable, and it feels like me.

What in your closet is cutting edge?

I have a gray baby doll with black hieroglyphics all over it.

What do you long to own?

More Betsey Johnson clothing. But almost everything she makes starts at $100; my budget only allows a few pieces a year.

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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