She's not an old-fashioned librarian

CANDID CLOSET

Candid Closet: Carla Hayden, director of the Enoch Pratt Free Library, easily dispels the frumpy stereotype of her profession.

May 13, 1999|By Stephanie Shapiro | Stephanie Shapiro,SUN STAFF

Knock on Carla D. Hayden's door and you're greeted by an unexpected bonus: Her mother, Colleen Hayden, is visiting from Chicago, and it's amazing how alike the two look. Hayden, Enoch Pratt Free Library director, is dressed for work in a comfortable, but tailored beige pants suit. Mom is wearing a beige pants suit from People United. It's fashionably cut, but made from cozy sweat-shirt material. Both women have on handsome earrings and their hair is cropped.

Hayden, an honorary chair of Monday's Women's Housing Coalition Annual Kitchen Party, has learned volumes about dressing in Baltimore's wilting summer heat. Her boots, long johns and wool scarves are on reserve for her native Chicago. And as Hayden pounds the marble floors of the Maryland State House, she has also learned the beauty of comfortable shoes. All the while, Hayden, 45, works to dispel the frumpy "Marian the librarian" stereotype that plagues librarians everywhere, no matter that they are on the cyber-frontier, and boast skills applicable to any line of inquiry.

"I want people to say, `Oh, you're a librarian!' But they just can't guess it," says Hayden, who lives in Baltimore. With her softly spiky hair, stylish but non-threatening pants suits, and bright-red nails, Hayden, for one, has helped "loosen the strict boundaries of acceptance."

(The Kitchen Party, featuring a night of gourmet food and a silent auction, takes place from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday at the Baltimore Museum of Industry. Tickets are $60. Call 410-235-5782.)

Who are your fashion inspirations?

My mother, although I'm a little more conservative than she is. And my grandfather. My father's father shopped for his wife and he took me shopping. I still have his smoking jacket and my grandmother's little pink platform shoes.

What fashion wisdom did you glean from your mother?

After a career as a concert pianist, she worked on planning and city issues in Chicago. When she went to tenant meetings and other community gatherings, it was important to look approachable, to have a few hairs out of place, so it doesn't look like you spend 90 million hours a day on your appearance.

What do you look for in a suit?

Three pieces -- pants, jacket, skirt -- and fabric that's good for travel.

What works for work and extreme heat?

Very light-weight materials that don't wrinkle. I love the Tamotsu label I find in Jones & Jones.

Does living close to Cross Keys make it all too easy to shop?

I go into Jones & Jones, Joanna Gray, Talbots. I look in the window at Octavia. But in Chicago, Marshall Field's is still the best department store. From ice cream to Frango Mints to furniture to clothing. I go back to Chicago every three or four months and I go to Michigan Avenue to shop.

You appear more relaxed than when you first came.

Exercise helps. I walk half an hour every morning at least five days a week. And nutrition. My grandmother, a former dietitian, gets on me with the vitamins and my five fruits a day.

Have you always known the value of simple, solid classics?

When my grandfather took me shopping, he taught me about very tailored, very plain clothing.

When you were in high school did you rebel against your family's dress code?

I tried, but for a long time, we couldn't wear pants. And then, we weren't allowed to wear jeans.

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

Pub Date: 5/13/99

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