Betty Davis doesn't abandon style just because she may have to climb ladders

CANDID CLOSET

April 06, 1995|By Mary Corey | Mary Corey,Sun Staff Writer

If you're looking for Betty Davis at this weekend's Rites of Spring event, follow the hat. To be exact, the colorful baseball cap festooned with flowers, birds, berries and wire ribbons that Ms. Davis plans to wear at the Timonium Fairgrounds tomorrow through Sunday.

As the coordinator of the Union Memorial garden benefit, she must be easy for workmen, vendors and guests to spot in a crowd. "People say I'm the woman in the crazy hat," says Ms. Davis, who lives in Roland Park. "That usually does it."

How would you sum up your style?

It's soft and unconstructed. It needs to do many things. As an event coordinator, I have to crawl on the floor, climb on ladders and still look in charge. I like to do things fast, and my clothes have to move with me. Years ago, I was the marketing director for Cross Keys. I learned how to look fashionable while putting up Christmas displays.

How do you strike that balance between style and comfort?

Wearing a suit and shirt and belt and vest doesn't work for me. It's too complicated. I start with a classic dress or pants and top. Accessories are the answer. I love Betty Cooke jewelry. I wear all of it. I'll even pin two necklaces together.

When did you start dressing this way?

For 24 years, I moonlighted at Octavia's doing their visual merchandising. But I actually started off as a "Romper Room" teacher. I realized then I had to buy clothes that let you waddle like a duck. And I never throw anything away. I don't keep clothes to wear them out. I keep them because of their memories.

Which outfit holds the most memories?

The gray chiffon dress that I wore in my son's wedding in 1983. I wore it 22 times after that. It was long-sleeved with a blouson PTC top. I knew mothers of the groom were supposed to wear beige and keep their mouths shut. I chose to wear gray and have a great time.

Is there one outfit you count on most?

I live in Joan Vass. The long knit skirt and top or turtleneck dress. It's really soft, feels good, washes and wears.

What's your most unusual outfit?

My all-time favorite was a pair of ostrich feather hot pants with a silk top that I wore to a museum ball in the '70s.

Where do you shop?

I hate to shop. I go to the Store Ltd., or I walk into Nordstrom and holler "Rebecca!" She's a lovely girl who gets me anything I want. I also make some of my clothes. I'm now making a black lace cocktail dress with satin ribbons.

What's been your most embarrassing fashion faux pas?

I was in these pinstripe menswear overalls at a 7:30 a.m. Mass, and apparently I hadn't taken out the pantyhose that were inside from the last time I wore them. I was walking all around with one leg of the pantyhose dragging behind me. I went to the deli for breakfast afterward, and a woman came up and said, "Excuse me, I think you have something sticking out of your overalls." She was fascinated because she thought I had put one leg in and left the other out. I just laughed and laughed.

You're also a hat collector?

Yes. Every time you see a woman in a hat, someone says something nice to her. I have fedoras, big sun hats, bowlers. I was a Catholic at the time you had to wear a hat to church. I was complimented so that I think it stuck. That's the saddest loss in women's wardrobes today.

What in your closet will you never wear again?

A raspberry silk dress by Hino and Malee. It was on sale. It's such an anathema that it will never go on my back, but I'll never give it away. Isn't that silly? But it's just too Mickey Mouse for me.

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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