Vida Roberts, 56, Sun fashion editor who began career at News American in 1966 PTC

June 10, 1998|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Vida Roberts, The Sun's fashion editor whose enduring sartorial advice was that black works every time, died yesterday of cancer at Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care. She was 56 and lived in Bolton Hill.

A woman of striking features with silver hair and Lauren Bacall-like voice, Ms. Roberts wrote with wit and grace.

In a 1995 profile of designer Isaac Mizrahi, Ms. Roberts wrote, "He's the fashion designer who punches sequins from Coke and Seven-Up cans and recycles them into glamour. He's the designer Roseanne doesn't keep waiting. He makes fashionable women applaud pink babushkas."

On Baltimore hons: "They are a marvel. Their style may be pink-collar, blue-collar, or house dress, but, hey, who cares? Under those festive double-knit, stretch tops beat hearts of gold. But big hair alone does not a hon make; a real hon has a generous spirit as big as her beehive. It's her willingness to scrub, hug, scold and help family members and her neighbors that singles her out."

In a review of a carry-out restaurant, she admonished readers never to trust "dining recommendations from sports writers. Their taste buds have been ruined by too many gray-roast-beef-and-gray-peas platters on the sports banquet circuit."

She concluded the review with "Drive right on by this one."

"She was an extremely talented fashion writer who had a zest for life and that came through in all that she wrote," said Stephen R. Proctor, The Sun's assistant managing editor for features. "She was a real pro who could make her work available to a broader audience. She really was a big talent."

The former Vida Misiunas was born in Lithuania and emigrated to Germany when she was 2. In 1949, the family settled in West Baltimore.

She graduated from Edmondson High School, where she edited the school's newspaper and yearbook. She earned a bachelor's degree from the College of Notre Dame of Maryland in 1965.

In 1966, she began her newspaper career at the Baltimore News American, where she edited and designed pages, and later became fashion editor. After the paper closed in 1986, she took some time off, then joined The Evening Sun as fashion editor in 1988.

She later became fashion editor for the combined newspapers, a position she held at the time of her death.

A talented seamstress and needleworker, she brought to her work a knowledge of fashion and the industry -- her mother

worked in Baltimore's garment industry for 30 years -- and an uncanny intuition for what might make it onto the backs of Baltimoreans from the fashion runways of New York.

Ms. Roberts had a theory that despite the glitzy creations of New York and European couturiers, most fashion originated from the young and the streets.

"Fashion treats them very shabbily. They'll come up with a look they assume their mothers would not dream of wearing and as sure as God made little green apples, four years later someone will put it on a runway in an expensive version," she told Style in a 1995 interview.

At the end of 1989, she mused on the previous fashion decade and wrote in The Evening Sun: "Fashion slid into the '80s on its derriere. There was hardly a fanny in America that didn't sport a jeans pocket with a famous label. For the first time in fashion history, a designer signature was affordable and accessible to the doctor, debutante and the delivery boy. It wasn't uncommon see grandmother, daughter and granddaughter in varying degrees of firmness and girth sashaying down Main Street in their Calvins and cowboy boots."

Ms. Roberts pointed out that shopping bags from such trendy department stores as Saks Fifth Avenue or Neiman-Marcus had become fashion accessories and gave their bearers instant upscale fashion credibility.

In addition to visiting the traditional fashion venues, like New York's Seventh Avenue, she also observed the latest creations of the hip Maryland Institute College of Art students, who &r frequented the Mount Royal Tavern.

She was a regular at the Johns Hopkins Hospital Carry-On Shop, and at nearly new and yard sales, where she found classic clothes and accessories from the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s that she later modified in her sewing room, which was piled high with material and patterns.

Her wardrobe tended toward black, navy and beige clothes. She preferred being comfortable in sweat pants and a T-shirt at home. She did not wear earrings, preferring bangles and rings.

One piece of fashion advice was to have at hand a leopard-skin creation of some type because "every three years, it pops up again," she told Style.

"She always had a sense of style. When the rest of us were wearing skirts and blouses, she was wearing tailored suits and heels," said Joanna Cox of Northwood, a college friend.

"Her one rule was never, never buy red shoes," she said, laughing.

Her husband, Byron Roberts, whom she married in 1968, died in 1996.

A memorial service will be conducted Friday at 11: 30 a.m. at Corpus Christi Church in 100 block of W. Lafayette Ave. in Bolton Hill.

She is survived by her parents, Kazys and Aldofina Misiunas of Cub Hill; a brother, Marius Misiunas of Hartsdale, N.Y.; a sister, Roma M. Chesonis of Indianapolis; a niece; and two nephews.

Pub date: 6/10/98

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