Beauty and the Blizzard Fashion: The snowstorm blows away the office dress code and replaces it with a touch of the lumberjack.

January 11, 1996|By Stephanie Shapiro | Stephanie Shapiro,SUN STAFF

As the storm-battered work force that was non-essential on Monday and Tuesday became essential again yesterday, the slushy streets of Baltimore filled with lumberjacks and snow goddesses in their post-blizzard finest.

Suits and boots. Briefcases and jeans. Turtlenecks and wingtips. Stirrup pants and pearls. The city's legions had to return to work, but full corporate regalia was mandatory only for those with the most ceremonial of responsibilities and the warmest of heated garages.

The rest of the workaday world resorted to fashion fusion, which kept up corporate appearances but acknowledged the impracticality of pinstriped business as usual. Hey, if sweaters are OK for Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, Gov. Parris N. Glendening and other public officials under snow siege -- not to mention scores of newscasters -- then they're OK for the average working man and woman.

Attorney Thurman W. Zollicoffer Jr., for one, was muffled in Timberland, head to toe. He had no court appearances scheduled so instead of the usual three-button suit, Mr. Zollicoffer wore rugged hiking boots, insulated ski pants, two wool jackets, a wool shirt, a turtleneck and a Timberland baseball cap. Instead of his attache case, he carried a knapsack over his shoulder. He looked fine but did not feel so.

Mr. Zollicoffer could not dig out his car and had just completed a "long, long bus ride." His seven-mile commute took nearly two hours. He wasn't happy about that. At least, he said, before heading into the office, "I'm very warm."

Deborah Callard, a fund-raising consultant who usually dresses the part in tailored suits and dresses, was on her way to a meeting at a downtown law firm in hiking boots, a sporty, no-wrinkle pants suit ("the kind you wear on airplanes"), and a blue, purple and magenta scarf draped elegantly over her shoulders "to give a little oomph" to her winter ensemble. Ms. Callard's makeup was just so, she wore chunky gold earrings, and bifocals rested on her shortly coiffed hair. Ms. Callard's Army-green canvas bag, which she has toted around the world, held her purse and portable telephone.

"I love the snow," said Ms. Callard, a stylish and animated woman who lives in Roland Park. "It's a great relief to be able to dress practically, more according to conditions than to standards," she said.

Yesterday, as Tina Urquhart, co-owner of Charm City Concierge, attended a meeting at the Greater Baltimore Committee, she looked impeccably dressed. From the conference table up, she wore a white turtleneck sweater, a pearl necklace and a houndstooth checked wool jacket. No one could tell that she also was wearing informal tan stirrup pants and a well-weathered pair of boots -- the better for digging her car out.

Other members of the business community at the meeting, whom Ms. Urquhart usually sees in suits and ties, were dressed down in jeans. But Greater Baltimore Committee staff members, to a person, were dressed in suits and ties. She wondered if the fashion divide was defined by those who owned heated garages and those, like her, who didn't.

At the Maryland Commercial Insurance Group, casual Friday has been expanded to casual week. Employees who ordinarily dress conservatively in suits and proper shoes are working this week in boots, pullover sweaters and corduroy slacks, said Nancy Tabor, communications consultant for the insurance company.

Ms. Tabor was wearing "green construction boots with yellow shoe strings," loosely fitted black stirrup pants and a long, bright red wool sweater, "something you can move in," she says.

Yesterday, "I wore makeup," Ms. Tabor said. "Today, I didn't have a chance to put it on, so I'm 50-50 on that."

Others who usually don't abide by business suits and pumps still had to modify their wardrobes to brave the snow-blown world. Ordinarily, Kim Hunter Clark, 27, favors pairing vintage finds and contemporary clothing for her job as public relations coordinator at the Walters Art Gallery. But yesterday, she ditched her sophisticated look for two pairs of long underwear and two pairs of socks before driving from her home in Shrewsbury, Pa., to Timonium, and then taking the light rail downtown.

Ms. Clark bundled up in a vintage jacket with fake fur trim, ear muffs and a long green, knitted scarf wrapped around her head. "I sort of look like my great-grandmother," she said. "The babushka look."

But Ms. Clark wore no boots and her feet were soggy upon arriving at work. Her only pair of boots had been left at work.

Suzan Rouse, a Baltimore artist and chef, works from home, but that doesn't mean she has surrendered sartorial pride to the weather. On Tuesday, she set out for the Rotunda shopping center in a chocolate brown fedora with a wide brim that caught the snow, a wool gabardine trench coat, sweat pants and combat boots. She looked like Julie Christie, dreamy yet sturdy, adrift on the tundra in "Dr. Zhivago II."

And at some locales around Baltimore, appearances must be kept up, regardless of the weather. Neither snow, sleet, nor more snow could alter the Prime Rib restaurant's dress code for guests. Jackets, no matter what the weather, are required, the restaurant reported.

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