They've Got The Look

Four women who know fashion share their secrets

April 01, 2007|By Tanika White | Tanika White,SUN REPORTER

You know a confident woman when you see one. There's something in her stride, in her lifted chin. Her complexion glows, her posture commands attention.

Something about a confident woman makes you want to know her, or at least know more about her.

Mary Kay Ash, the late founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, once said, "While clothes may not make the woman, they certainly have a strong effect on her self-confidence - which, I believe, does make the woman."

Which is exactly why we wanted to get to know the four fashionable women profiled below. After hours of interviews, we now know that these local women are not just attractive but smart, not just poised but ambitious and successful.

But before we got to know them, all we knew was that these women had style.

From daytime to eveningwear looks, denim to diamonds, Felicia Jackson, Carla Hayden, Lorayne Thornton and Sonjay DeCaires never miss an opportunity to show off their confidence with a fashionable flair.

Felicia Jackson

Designer Diva

If the girls from Western High School, class of 1987, could see Felicia Jackson now, they'd never believe she is the same woman who had an inexplicable tendency to dress like a punk rocker.

"I loved Converse high-tops. I wore cleats to school," says Jackson, now 38. "I had a mohawk! My mom had a fit."

These days, Jackson may still add a little rock 'n' roll to her outfit choices, but she is far more Paris than punk. She's traded her Converses for Chanel and her cleats for stilettos.

In her Pikesville closet, in fact, the director of business operations for a local law firm counts 284 pairs of shoes and boots, by such designers as Gucci and Christian Dior. And what would a great shoe selection be without a complementary handbag collection? Fortunately, Jackson wouldn't know - she's got 82 designer purses, with big names such as Fendi, Louis Vuitton, Jimmy Choo and Clara Kasavina.

"I have so many pairs of shoes and bags, I don't even know I have them until I'll flip through a magazine and see a pair and say, `Oh, I have those shoes,' " says Jackson, who has to be helped to her car from the shoe department at Neiman Marcus every season, so loaded down is she with new, up-to-the-minute purchases. "My size is so popular, if you don't get them when they come in, they're going to be gone," she says.

But quantity isn't the key to Jackson's success in the style department. This woman knows fashion. She not only keeps up with the latest trends, but also knows good quality. And more important, she knows what looks good on her.

Her carefully-thought-out style is a mixture of "business casual," she says, and "chic." During the workday, she favors smartly tailored suits and funky shirts from local boutiques such as Katwalk and the Doll House. And she's almost always in a pair of pricey pumps - the higher the heel the better.

"My favorite [heels] are a pair of Gucci boots that I got five years ago in Chicago. They come over the knee," Jackson says. "They're black, they're sexy, with a 4-inch heel, maybe 5. Now that's a stomper, honey. Oh, it's so serious."

Jackson does take her fashions seriously. After all, fashion is not just about aesthetics; it's a major part of her life.

Three years ago, Jackson and a business partner started an online boutique of unique accessories and stylish gifts for women. The Web site,, was so successful that last fall Jackson opened a bricks-and-mortar building on Park Avenue where she sells the same kinds of high-end, high-fashion accessories and separates she often finds herself in: cheetah-print leg warmers, crystal-covered clutch bags, black leather pumps and fabulous hats.

"I always wanted to present myself nicely," says Jackson. "Whether it's at the grocery store or the laundromat, it doesn't matter. You never know who you're going to meet."

Carla Hayden

Changing the Look of Librarians

In the February issue of the Library Journal, the publication's editor-in-chief pondered the prevailing image of librarians: hair in a bun, severe little glasses, dowdy outfit and sensible shoes.

The article compared the stereotype with the real-life look of Carla Hayden, director of the Enoch Pratt Free Library - a woman the author called "attractive" and "sharp."

This is high praise for Hayden, and also very true.

Hayden, who is in her 50s and lives in Homewood, isn't fussy about her clothes, but she is cognizant of the bad reputation librarians have gotten, and she tries every day to counter it.

"Stereotypes can sometimes be negative," says Hayden. "And [the prevailing image] is not the reality. It might have been some years ago. But it's not today. The statement I get a lot is, `You don't look like a librarian.' If I had a quarter for every time I heard that, I wouldn't have to worry about parking meters. We don't want that stereotype of the librarian to carry over to the image of the library."

After all, these days libraries are happening places, with computers and reception rooms and major events going on.

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