Teacher's style lesson: tailored elegance


For English teacher Thomasina Porter, being organized is the secret to fashion success.

That's why the closets of her Northwood home are meticulously organized with suits, dresses and slacks each hanging in a separate space. In her car, she keeps spare pantyhose for emergencies. And if a button falls off during the school day, she doesn't panic: She's stocked her sixth-grade classroom at Roland Park Middle School with a sewing kit.

"I'm standing in front of 175 people every day," says Ms. Porter, 48. "They don't deserve to look at the worst."

Her attention to detail and natural flair have earned her the admiration of other teachers. The highest praise, though, comes when young girls arrive for school wearing a Thomasina Porter-inspired outfit.

"It's cute to me," she says with a laugh. "They're at that stage where they're trying to find their own identity. If I'm setting a positive example, that's great."

How would you describe your style?

Conservative. I don't wear anything outlandish. Let's put it like this: I'm 5 foot 7 and a size 6. I'm a mannequin. I don't have to worry about styles. I usually can wear anything and it looks all right.

Are there looks you prefer, though?

I love tailored double-breasted suits. I'm partial to Ellen Tracy, Dana Buchman, Anne Klein and Calvin Klein.

When it comes to dressing, what's most important to you?

Soft materials and clean simple lines. I love wool gabardine, crepe and silk with a passion.

What effect does being a schoolteacher have on your wardrobe?

There are some things I don't wear to school. They're either too revealing or too sheer. I'll never wear sleeveless things. And I really feel when a lady has on a dress and pumps she should have on nylons, unless it's a sun dress.

I used to do a lot of scarves, but then I stopped. The kids had seen this movie where a lady wore scarves and her head fell off. They thought if I took mine off, the same would happen to me.

What have you learned about dressing from your students?

These children have shown us you can relax 100 percent in your clothing with things that are five or six times too large and hanging down. It doesn't present a pretty picture, but I don't mind: You're only young once.

What in your closet will you never wear again?

A white wool dress that looks like a robe. I don't know where I got it, how I got it and, least of all, why anyone would buy it. I've never worn it. It's terrible looking. I discovered it in my closet last year. I took it out, and I've been questioning myself ever since.

What outfits can you always count on?

A Dana Buchman black suit with a square collar and split skirt and a striped Christian Dior suit with shades of red, turquoise and gold. They always look good. You don't have to worry about them. They hang right and feel right on me.

What are your favorite shops?

I like all of them: Nordstrom, Macy's, Hecht's in Towson and Jones & Jones in Cross Keys. I love shopping, particularly any place that's having a sale.

What celebrity would you most like to take along on your next shopping trip?

Phylicia Rashad, Cloris Leachman or Princess Diana. Their clothes make a statement without screaming. They're conservative yet high fashion.

How does your look change on the weekends?

I bought my first pair of jeans about three weeks ago. I never fTC found a need for them before, but I decided I wanted some denim. I like clothes that are comfortable and fun.

Do you know some dressers? Let us know. Write to Mary Corey, The Baltimore Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278.

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