In style, confidence is key Secret: It's not how much you spend on something, it's how long it lasts, says Mary Ann Lundgren. It can be as simple as a wonderful designer scarf.

Candid Closet

August 27, 1998|By Stephanie Shapiro | Stephanie Shapiro,SUN STAFF

Mary Ann Lundgren knows clothes. A former fashion director for Neiman Marcus, she's worked with Bill Blass, Emanuel Ungaro and other top name designers. While she likes high-end clothing, she believes women need to have confidence in their own style. "The biggest mistake is to let fashion dominate," she says.

Since 1996, Lundgren, executive director of Women of Achievement in Maryland History Inc., has been on a quest to find exemplary women throughout state history for a book about their achievements.

To raise money for the publication, she's organized a gala preview party for the Baltimore Summer Antiques Fair from 10 a.m. until noon tomorrow at the Baltimore Convention Center. (Women of Achievement will sponsor several other events during the show, including a talk with manners expert Letitia Baldrige and a silent auction. For information, call 301-949-8997.)

What are the origins of your sense of style?

When I lived in London as a newlywed, I developed an interest in fashion.

I went to Mary Quant when she had her own little boutique, and Sonia Rykiel was there. At the time, they owned tiny, tiny boutiques and you weren't intimidated by them.

I still own two scarves by Rykiel that I bought in 1959. They have seed pearls around the edges and are imprinted with a pearl design. I have one in lilac and one in beige.

In brief, what was your professional initiation into fashion?

When I finally decided I wanted a working career, I ended up being fashion director for Lord & Taylor on the East Coast, from 1971 to '77. Then, Neiman Marcus came to Washington and I opened that store as fashion director. I founded my own business in the middle '80s, which brought together the retail industry and the nonprofit community.

When I finally decided to retire to travel more, Mrs. [Frances] Glendening grabbed hold of me and asked me to spearhead Women of Achievement, a two-year project. The book will be published we hope at the end of the year.

How did your retail work define your style?

As fashion director at Neiman Marcus, I was able to work with all the top designers, and my wardrobe reflects that. The designs were so classic, I can still wear them.

For example?

I have a wonderful evening dress by Bill Blass that I bought to open the store at Western Avenue in Silver Spring.

I love that dress.

It's very simple, off the shoulder, made of fine silk fabric with glints of gold.

What personalizes a classic outfit?

One of the most wonderful accessories of all times are scarves. I have a wonderful designer scarf that I spent a fortune on.

You can wrap yourself up in it and feel so elegant.

That's the secret to shopping wisely.

It's not exactly the money you spend, it is how long the piece lasts and how you feel in it.

How do you build a solid wardrobe?

Watch the sales. Discount malls and store sales are wonderful.

And it's good to build a relationship with a salesperson.

Do you always have to spend money to look good?

It doesn't have to be high end to look terrific.

Recently, I was walking down the street in Maine and I had on black leggings and a T-shirt from the Pink Coyote in Santa Fe and a man said to me, "You look expensive." It was a hoot.

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

Pub Date: 8/27/98

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