`There is beauty in height'


Candid Closet: Dera Fuller, program and events coordinator at the Banneker-Douglass Museum in Annapolis and a former full-figure model, wears her wardrobe with confidence.

July 15, 1999|By Stephanie Shapiro | Stephanie Shapiro,SUN STAFF

In every realm of her life, Dera Fuller stays busy in joyful, proud and well-attired ways. Program and events coordinator at the Banneker-Douglass Museum in Annapolis, Fuller, who lives in Coldspring Newtown, is also director of music at John Wesley AME Zion Church. Fuller, mother of two daughters, is also the wife of Chris Fuller, Morgan State's basketball coach.

Within each of those realms, Fuller, a former full-figure model who stands at 6 feet, knows how to dress in ways that are at once tailored, flattering and comfortable. It helps to have a personal shopper in North Carolina, the mother of her pastor, who combs warehouses across the country for vibrant suits and accessories that Fuller can wear on the job, to gospel music conventions and basketball games.

"There are more people who look like me than look like people in the magazines," Fuller says. "When I do motivational presentations for full-figured women, I always tell them, `Madison Avenue is projecting an image they feel is going to be profitable. We are not profitable, but that does not mean we're not beautiful.' "

How did you cope with being so tall when you were young?

As a young girl, I learned how to sew, and I was fortunate to have a mother who was a seamstress. She made all of my clothes, often with Vogue patterns. And my father was a little ahead of his time. He saw what I was going through and forced me to go to finishing school.

That got me into modeling and created this kind of confidence in me. It helps so much to understand there is beauty in height. Then, as I got older and having had children, I've picked up weight. I went into full-figure modeling about 15 years ago in Buffalo.

How do you cultivate a sense of style?

I've always had my own style. And I know my limitations and how to work with them. So I wear clothing that flows, but is tailored enough for work and church and being the coach's wife. I like to be comfortable and I like things that complement my attributes.

Where do you shop?

A lot of places. Lord & Taylor has a wonderful full-figure shop. And I love Ulla Popken [which just moved to the Shops at Kenilworth.]

And I love Nordstrom. I'm a shoe fanatic. I wear a size 11, and Nordstrom has great shoes in large sizes. And there's another great place -- the Aerosole shoe stores in Annapolis and White Marsh. I bought all my sandals for summer from them.

Talk about your personal shopper.

Her name is Carrie Bell, and she lives in Charlotte. She's also full-figured, and she finds the most fabulous suits. I was on the phone with her yesterday. I'm getting ready for the Thomas Dorsey Music Convention in Orlando, and she's been there. She told me, "You've got to have this, and I'm going to look for this for you." She is hilarious. She sent me the most fabulous black wool crepe suit, trimmed with black fox and rhinestone buttons. I am her special project. So is her new daughter-in-law.

When it comes to dressing for church, is there a difference between here and Buffalo?

In Buffalo, people kind of wear whatever. But here, they have a real sense of style.

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

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