Julie Mercer's wardrobe starts and ends in black

Candid Closet

September 05, 1996|By Vida Roberts | Vida Roberts,SUN FASHION EDITOR

A woman can have a life, or a perfectly color-coordinated wardrobe. Julie Mercer has decided in favor of living. She has simplified dressing to basic black with a few accents. Black works for her on the job as an executive headhunter for Columbia Consulting Group. Black also fits into her social calendar, which may include up to a dozen black-tie events every year.

She's on for the first gala of the season, the symphony's BSO Struts Its Stuff. As president of Top Brass, the volunteer group responsible for boosting ticket sales, she has invested time and heart in the orchestra.

Magic Me, Planned Parenthood, the Greater Baltimore Committee Leadership Program and other projects also get her attention. With a crammed work and volunteer schedule, party plans that include music and dance are a festive way to catch up with fellow toilers, Mercer says.

How do you keep track of what you're wearing where?

I had a coat closet converted to one for storing only black-tie clothes. Throughout the year, I find things that I like and put them away. That's better than shopping the day, or week, before a special event comes up. It also eliminates the possibility of running into somebody with the same dress who has shopped the same stores in the same season.

What's your daytime style all about?

It's business/professional. I spent years in advertising where dressing was pretty free-wheeling. As an executive headhunter I had to get out the suits again.

Do you see major changes in corporate dress now that the idea of business casual is being promoted?

Some things have changed, certainly. Suits with slacks are now acceptable for businesswomen. That covers the whole range from office to dinner. However I'd rather be considered too conservative than too kooky. Everything I wear is black because it's easy to travel and if I spill a cup of coffee all over myself who's going to know?

Are you loyal to particular labels?

St. John knits are one of my basics. They're good career choices because they shake out and don't wrinkle and they last forever. I do a lot of road and train and plane stuff going to interview job candidates, so I need clothes that stay in shape.

Where do you shop?

Since I wear only black, Noir in Cross Keys is one of my stops. Whenever I get wild and feel a need for a little color I look in at Mondi. When in New York I shop at Bergdorf or Henri Bendel.

How wild will you go?

Everything I have is fur trimmed. I have four cats and they shed. I started with a black one and that wasn't a problem with my sea of black, but then started adopting. Now I have cats in every color so I have to wear them. I do, however, love animal prints and when I'm feeling risky I put on leopard, zebra of giraffe.

Any particular accessory obsessions?

I used to be shoe obsessed. I had an accident and broke an ankle, but that didn't stop me from buying fashion shoes. Then I broke my right foot and decided to stick to something safe. I also love belts. One of my favorites is sculpted leather embedded with rhinestones. Any time a black-tie affair comes up and I'm not sure what to wear I throw that belt on something black and it works.

Do you carry black into your casual clothes?

When I can, but it's not always possible. I went to Israel in May and it is a very informal country. I had no casual clothes to speak of and had to go to Banana Republic to buy all this khaki stuff. It was a painful shopping experience.

Have you found the perfect handbag?

No, and if you find the answer I'd love to know about it. I have friends who change bags every day to match an outfit. I thought I had the answer by carrying a tote with a small, dressier purse inside but that just got too complicated.

Do you have a signature accessory?

They go in phases. I used to buy a Hermes scarf every year, but that got tired. Right now I love big flowers to pin on a jacket. I also love Betty Cooke's jewelry. My newest obsession and creative outlet is with eyeglasses. I have about 12 pairs in various styles and colors. I never did like metal frames and now that plastic frames are coming back there's a great variety of styles. They're expensive accessories, yes, but they are a daily necessity and I can't imagine having to make do with one pair.

Pub Date: 9/05/96

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