Nilsa Wheatley

Glimpsed At Baltimore Fashion Week

August 16, 2009|By Sloane Brown | Sloane Brown,Special to the Baltimore Sun

Fashion consultant Nilsa Wheatley, 36, is moving here from Atlanta. To get an idea of Baltimore's fashion scene, the fashion expert headed to the War Memorial Building to catch Baltimore Fashion Week's opening night. Wheatley describes her style as "bohemian with a modern edge," which developed when she returned to her native Virgin Islands after attending design schools in London and New York. "I found my creative voice while living in the islands. It was good to leave New York, where everyone tells you how fashion is supposed to be, and go somewhere where you can find your own voice and be yourself."

The look: White lace dress with brown silk chemise underlay by Gasp. Brown strappy-heeled Enzo Angiolini sandals. Brown Elliott Lucca satchel. Gold-tone bangle bracelets. Multicolor, multistrand necklace.

Where it came from: Her dress, shoes and handbag came from boutiques in the Virgin Islands. Her necklace was a gift. She found her bangles at Rugged Wearhouse.

How it began: "I've been interested in fashion since I was a little girl. I used to do a lot of sketches while my mom was watching 'Dynasty.' My mom couldn't afford dolls, so I made paper dolls and made clothes for them. I spent a year in London studying fashion design and merchandising at the American College in London. From there, I went to New York and studied fashion at Parsons School for Design."

What she wears: "I'll figure out different ways to wear a specific item. Like, if it's a skirt, I'll figure out how to wear it as a top. Or, as a contrast of ideas, if you were going to wear something sexy ... you'd wear something with it that was old lady."

It's all about accessories: "What I like to do is accessorize in a way that's unpredictable. When you live on a small island, you always fear that someone will show up wearing the same thing you have on, because everybody shops at the same place. You always want to make [your outfit] different by accessorizing."

Her fashion passions: "I love shoes. A lot of times, I'll start with a shoe in building an outfit. ... I love bangles and bracelets. And I love earrings. Because whatever you're wearing, you can change by adding earrings and bracelets."

Back to basics: "You definitely have to have some basics in your closet in order to make your interesting things work. You need a black cardigan, a black skirt, black pants, some T-shirts - basic ones with nothing on them. I love black because it's so easy to mix into your wardrobe. I have this black dress that's right above the knee, it fits loosely like a baby doll style. ... If I want to go to a cocktail hour, all I have to do is put on a pair of heels, bracelets and lots of necklaces. Or I can put it on with jeans and belt it to make it a bit shorter and blousy."

What not to wear: "I think a [fashion] don't is to match too much."

She's well-balanced: "Balance is really important. ... If you're wearing something that is really tight and shiny and short, you need to wear something with it that's understated."

Sloane Brown can be contacted at

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