It's all too easy to assume that Carol Mason, director of membership for the Naval Institute, a professional association for the sea services that presents seminars and publishes magazines and books, dresses with the uniform consistency of a naval officer or midshipman. Not true. Mason, a 46-year-old mother of three sons, has a loose, unpredictable style, long on comfort and big on black and white. At defense industry exhibitions, Mason, of Annapolis, says she wears "what passes for me as a suit." That would be an Eileen Fisher ensemble composed of a loosely constructed long skirt and a top. "I like to enjoy my clothes," Mason says.
Where does Eileen Fisher fit in to your wardrobe?
I sort of see her stuff as a foundation for my wardrobe.
How do you build on that foundation?
I love Ahni. She's a designer who lives in Annapolis and has sample sales four times a year. She sells all over the country. When I wear an Ahni dress to an exhibition, invariably someone will say, "Is that an Ahni?" -- no matter where I am. She was trained in Japan and in France and her signature is a little Japanese-looking character. Eileen Fisher functions as the clean line and the Ahni surprises you.
Describe an Ahni piece.
Last year right before Christmas, I tried on one of her tunics, made of wonderful, shimmery silver rayon with tight-fitting sleeves up to the elbow. It was just beautiful and perfect.
At the Naval Institute, would you consider yourself a fashion iconoclast?
I guess only in the way that I think of my clothes as architectural and that I like very clean lines.
Do you have an iron-clad fashion law?
I never buy anything with a pattern. I much prefer the interest to come from the lines of the clothes and their texture.
What lessons have you learned?
To keep it simple and to stick with certain colors, which essentially are black and white and periwinkle.
Love that periwinkle.
My hair is silver, and it's really perfect with it.
How did you dress when you were a spokeswoman for the Naval Academy?
I had to dress so that at big events, reporters could find me in a sea of black and white. I had to have a color. Those were my pink days. Now I'm happy I can wear black and white again.
Were you a hippie in the '60s?
No. We all wore bell-bottoms. My favorites were orange with royal blue flowers. My mother and I would go to Loehmann's together and she had a really good eye. When she said, "You'll love this," she would be right, and that was because she hated it.
Do you know any snappy dressers? Let us know. Write to Stephanie Shapiro, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278.