Her budget has limits, but not her style

Candid Closet

September 18, 1997|By Stephanie Shapiro | Stephanie Shapiro,SUN STAFF

Mary Ellen Koontz is one resourceful woman. She adheres to a strict clothing budget by frequenting yard sales and consignment shops and holding clothing swaps. Her self-imposed allowance allows for nothing less than quality clothing, shoes and accessories. My "limited budget forces me to look for the good stuff," Koontz says. So even if the 35-year-old case manager for EverCare, a division of United Healthcare, admits she could do a lot of damage at Saks, her shopping boundaries force her to make hard choices. The result: An imaginative sense of style.

Where do you go consignment hunting?

At Carousel Consignments and Leading Ladies in Rockville and Rave Reviews in Columbia. I donate a lot to them too, because proceeds go to Howard County General's neo-natal unit.

Describe your style.

Over the years, it's become more conservative. But I think that's probably because the best quality things tend to be a little more conservative.

What is your weakness?

Hats. Thanks to Kit's Millinery Salon and Supplies in Pikesville. She's wonderful. I'll just put something together with a great hat, like a derby.

When do you wear hats?

I sometimes wear them to and from work. Grocery shopping, weddings. They're always appropriate.

Why are you so comfortable in a hat?

My sisters bought me my first one when I was 10 or 11. And my grandmother put me in them when I was 4 or 5 for warmth as well as style. I always looked good in them.

Describe your favorite hat.

It's my vegetable hat. Kit tuned it up last year. It's somewhat like a derby, almost a square derby and in front, it's got a stuffed RTC tomato, strawberry, eggplant and purple cabbage.

Talk about your clothing swaps.

I started having them about 10 years ago. I would do an inventory of everything I haven't worn and invite my friends to bring everything they haven't worn in a year. Every time I donate something, I get it back tenfold. I've given things I've still liked, but I'm really ruthless. When that happens, I always come out with a diamond, like a suede jacket or leather skirt. The spirit of giving is really important to me.

Do you just dump clothing around the house, or is it a science?

It's really organized; that's the key. We usually limit it to two hours and everything is sorted according to category. And then everybody tries things on.

Do you do many alterations on your finds?

I had my mother's stroller-length natural mink coat that I cropped to a length that I'm seeing in magazines right now. I used the rest to make a headband and I had mink mittens made by Hanna & Demetrios Fur in Timonium.

Are you into jewelry?

I'm learning. I'm really not inclined to buy things even if I see them on another woman and see they look good. I would almost be afraid to buy them. But I'm teachable. I love the jewelry at Zyzyx.

How do you handle hair care?

I spend a lot on my hair. I go to Georgetown. I don't skimp on a good haircut. I wear it short, modern. It's naturally curly.

Do you have any sidelines that require a certain wardrobe?

I work out ... several times a week at the Colosseum Gym here in Columbia. That requires sweats. No Spandex. I left a gym once because of too much Spandex. It was too bright in there!

Pub Date: 9/18/97

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