Addressing a shortage of dresses

CANDID CLOSET

Candid Closet: Sarah Klinefelter of Ruxton couldn't find clothing she wanted to buy, so she opened a store.

September 16, 1999|By Stephanie Shapiro | Stephanie Shapiro,SUN STAFF

Sarah Klinefelter believes in dressing appropriately, whether for dinner or travel. But that had not been as simple as it sounded in the years since the city's department stores vanished. While Klinefelter's first foray into retailing was a garden gift shop, her business evolved to cope with what she recognized as a chronic shortage. Baltimore, says Klinefelter, a former nurse, "had no place to shop for dresses."

So when the 51-year-old Ruxton resident moved Littlefield's to Lake Falls Village, Klinefelter added clothing to her inventory. Klinefelter's endeavor intertwines nicely with Sunday's opening of "Wallis: Duchess of Windsor," an exhibition at the Maryland Historical Society exploring Wallis Warfield Simpson's life and style.

Not only is Littlefield's an exhibition sponsor -- Klinefelter's husband Stanard is president of the Maryland Historical Society's Board of Trustees -- the store also carries the costume jewelry of designer Kenneth J. Lane, a favorite of the Duchess of Windsor's.

What is the store's signature style?

They are fairly updated classics, traditional and very clean for the most part.

Is there a discrepancy between what you see in fashion magazines and what women actually wear?

Fashion magazines tend to focus more on the designer things rather than the every-day things most people wear. Usually the clothing you see is much more on the cutting edge than what I have. Generally,I don't go in for trendy things. What I buy is pretty much what I would wear, although there are colors and styles I like that I wouldn't necessarily wear myself.

How has your wardrobe changed over the years?

It definitely has changed. I have two ways I used to dress, one classic and the other way was artsy with really bright colors and lots of bright prints and things. I've pretty much gotten away from the prints and the loose clothing. Now, I might accent a black suit with a really pretty bright scarf.

How does Lane's jewelry fit in to your inventory?

He has some very basic things and he also has really off-the-wall things, very large with lots of stones. He makes a small leopard pin with a diamond collar and little earrings that go with it. It's eye-catching but it's not gaudy.

What was Lane's allure for Wallis?

The duchess was very simple in the way she dressed. She would only wear a little bit of jewelry. Lane would would make special things for her that she asked him to do. He also did copies of some of her fine jewelry.

Has pride in appearance changed since your childhood?

Life is much more casual than it once was. I remember when people would get dressed nicely to go on an airplane or on the train. Now, T-shirts and blue jeans are acceptable anywhere, which is horrible. I love to wear blue jeans as much as anybody else, but there's no reason why people can't be attractively dressed when they go out in public.

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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