Color her red, for confidence Tasteful: Helen Dale feels good about herself in her professional wardrobe.

Candid Closet

July 23, 1998|By Stephanie Shapiro | Stephanie Shapiro,SUN STAFF

Helen Dale is an unstoppable, stylish 65. At heart, the assistant to the deputy secretary for community affairs at the Maryland Department of Transportation says, she is 9 years old. But that doesn't mean that Dale, who works a 40-hour-plus week, and is devoted to many good causes, dresses like a kid. Dale, who once appeared in inspirational films aimed at inner-city youth, is an avatar of "quiet good taste."

When "you're going to work in a predominantly male environment, you don't want to look 'cute,' and you don't want to look like one of the guys," Dale says.

"You want to look like a professional woman."

What is your key to looking like a professional woman every day?

I usually buy suits and I look for something that will not be shocking in corporate or government settings.

What colors do you gravitate toward?

I wear red a lot, because red is a confidence color. I have probably more red suits and dresses, and then oranges, pinks, some blues, and a few navies and blacks.

Do confident people wear red, or do people wear red to feel confident?

If you don't have a lot of confidence, when you put on your red suit, like in the song, "Just hold my head up high and whistle a happy tune," you gain confidence from what you're wearing.

What other professional tips can you provide?

I wear jewel neckline blouses or higher necklines and I don't wear anything sleeveless. I believe a lady's underarms are her own business.

What is your toughest fashion challenge?

My biggest problem is shoes, because different shoe manufacturers size their shoes differently. There's a lot of trying on, a lot of buying mistakes that stay in your closet. It's hard to know if a shoe will fit until you get in the office and walk around, but then you find out quickly.

Where do you shop?

Syms, Nordstrom, Marshall's.

Do you shop at Nordstrom Rack?

I find that the sales upstairs are as good a buy as what you get downstairs and you get more service.

Do you do pre-emptive shopping, or do you shop last minute when you have to have something to wear to a particular event?

I try to shop before I need something. I usually have new things in the closet. This past Sunday, my husband and I went to the baseball game in the mayor's box, and we seldom do casual. But we had never-worn red T-shirts by a designer who once had a shop in Mondawmin Mall, and we jumped into white pants and we were coordinated!

Do you have a church wardrobe?

I wear the same thing to Bethel Church: a suit.

Are you a hat lady?

I used to be a hat lady, now I seldom wear them. When I go to my husband's parents' church, his family is Pentecostal, I do wear a hat. There, it's disrespectful not to wear a hat.

Do you know any snappy dressers? Let us know. Write to Stephanie Shapiro, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278.

Pub Date: 7/23/98

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