This time of year, Lauren Kelly, a 28-year-old English teacher in Notre Dame Prep's middle school, is usually in serious holiday-mode, perhaps planning how to accessorize her New Year's frock, found in Georgetown with her mother.
But this year, the Federal Hill resident will be far away from the party circuit, in a place where the millennium is virtually insignificant. Instead of a dress, she'll be in a parka, wool sweater, jeans, boots, trying to take the chill off the lives of mistreated Romanian orphans, as part of the Romanian Challenge Appeal. Kelly is returning to the program at the country's Siret orphanage, where she stayed for three weeks two summers ago.
"The new year is a big event for me," Kelly says. "Picking out just the right New Year's eve outfit; it's really exciting to do that." But this year, she confesses, not having to stress about the festivities is "actually kind of a weight off my mind."
Even when she is focusing on fashion, Kelly is a pragmatist: "I look through my In Style magazine and try and replicate the outfits I see. I'll get the skirt at Target and the shirt at the Gap, and shoes on sale at Hecht's and other major department stores."
When shopping, do you look for specific items that you see in a magazine?
Yes, I do. Usually, it will be a certain item to add on to an outfit.
Do you stick with certain hues?
My wardrobe is black, grays and brown. When I do wear some blue, people really are shocked that I have color on.
What is your style?
My clothes are probably "conservative funky." I don't consider myself trendy. Trends go in and out, and I have to watch my budget. I can't spend all my money on clothes. Also, for practicality's sake, I'll find outfits that are appropriate for school and for Saturday nights when I go out with my friends.
Do you spend a lot of time shopping?
Yes, I do. It's the way I relax. I go shopping about once every two weeks.
Do your students talk to you about your clothing?
Since I am younger, they tend to relate to me. They always comment on my outfits. They give me fashion advice, too, and tell me about all the sales.
When you travel to Romania, what is the response to your Western appearance?
At first, they take one look and they know we're from America. They scream, "America, America!" and they grab us. They love to touch our clothes, and they say, "beautiful, beautiful," over and over again. They know we're from America. They think it's paved with gold. Once that's over with, then we're just their friends.
Do you know any snappy dressers? Let us know. Write to Stephanie Shapiro, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278.