Fabulous look starts at the top

Candid Closet

September 21, 1995|By Mary Corey | Mary Corey,SUN STAFF WRITER

Bernadine Smiley believes a woman's never fully dressed without a hat. With 50 in the closet of her East Baltimore home, she has plenty of ways to stylishly top off an outfit.

The 51-year-old merchandise representative for Evan-Picone Hosiery believes it's her job to look fashionable, but she also enjoys seeing how others react to her ensembles. "When I walk into church, people tell me they've been waiting to see what kind of hat I'll have on," says Ms. Smiley, who belongs to Union Baptist Church. "I just love that."

How would you describe your style?

I got it from my grandmother. I wear a hat and a suit or dress every day. Dressed like that, you demand the respect of a lady. Men of all ages hold the door for me at malls.

What's the best fashion advice your grandmother gave you?

She said good basics always stay in style.

Which hats are your favorites?

A purple straw hat with flowers all around and a gray silk fedora. People always come up and ask about them.

I first started wearing hats when I was 5 or 6 years old. I remember going to Hutzler's Tea Room in my gloves and a hat with my grandmother.

How has being in the fashion business influenced you?

I try to keep up with the new styles and colors. I feel like my job calls for that. Years ago, when I worked at Saks Fifth Avenue, I sold silk scarves. I could never afford theirs, so I started making my own. My husband is a flamboyant dresser. I make them for him now, too.

Where do you shop?

I like the outlets by the Bay Bridge. I also like Macy's sales and Nordstrom's shoe department.

What one outfit makes you feel your best?

It's a dress I died for and watched until it went on sale. It's a black coat dress with a gold clasp. Originally, it cost $400. I waited until it was down to $197. I have a bad black hat I got at Saks that I cock to the side and a pair of Bruno Magli shoes I wear with it. That outfit speaks for itself when you walk into a

room.

What purchase do you most regret?

Hats that didn't fit. I bought a round fitted one that was the right green to match an outfit I had. I wore it once, but it was odd-shaped. I didn't like it.

How do you cope with how hats mess up your hair?

I don't like it. That's why I tell the beautician that I don't want too much curl. But hats are a great cover-up for those bad hair days.

What do you think your wardrobe says about you?

I hope it states that I care and I'm enjoying what I'm doing.

What celebrity would you most like to take along on your next shopping trip?

One of the older girls. Lana Turner, Katharine Hepburn or Liz Taylor. They have flair.

Any purchases you're thinking about for fall?

I'd love to have a red hat. The new red for this season is great. It's called lipstick red. I also may make myself a black wool crepe suit. Good wool suits are hard to find.

What's been your best buy?

A Carole Little skirt that I bought at a thrift shop for $1.50.

JTC And your biggest splurge?

A full-length mink coat I bought after I sold my house. It cost $5,000.

If money were no object, what would you most like to have?

I'd like to get my husband a full-length raccoon coat. He deserves it. He's a good guy.

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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