Ellen Richardson takes a bargain seriously. A discount shopper, she still revels in once buying a thousand-dollar ball gown for $100.
The Hunt Valley mother of two, who is married to a Hopkins doctor, has found her niche at the Johns Hopkins Women's Board Best-Dressed Sale at the Evergreen Carriage House, 4545 N. Charles St. (Call 955-9341.)
During the sale, which begins today at 9 a.m. and runs through Saturday, she'll be volunteering in the children's department. But once she's off duty, she's making a beeline for the women's department.
How would you describe your style?
I don't like to pay full price for expensive clothes. That's a passion for me. I do a lot of bargain shopping. I can't stand to spend a lot for something I'm going to wear once or twice. I'm most comfortable in casual clothes -- straight-legged pants, sweaters, blue jeans, leggings and loose dresses.
Can you describe some of your best buys from this sale?
I bought a Dana Buchman black linen cocktail dress for $30. If it had been worn, I couldn't tell. I also bought a black satin long evening skirt with the tags still on it for $40.
Do you have places in mind where you'll wear these things?
No. I tend to wear them when I travel. I need a variety of cocktail clothes. My husband and I were in New Orleans last week and had four different dressy events. Around here, there are people who may see me in things I've bought. You never know who owned them first, so I have to be careful.
What was the total you spent on your purchases at the sale last year?
What advice would you give novice shoppers?
They need to know what they want. There's a lot to choose from: women's size 2 and up. Infants, children, teen-agers, dress clothes, casual, designer. At a minimum, leave two hours to shop. There are people who take vacation days to come to this. My sister is coming from Virginia.
Where else do you like to shop?
Nordstrom Rack, Trillium in Green Spring Station and Nordstrom. Nordstrom's clothes aren't terribly exciting, but you can always find good basics.
You recently moved here from Seattle. How has that changed your style?
We're dressier here. I think more about what I wear, even if I'm just going to the grocery store. In Seattle, people would go to cocktail parties in jeans. Baltimore is more conservative, but people dress beautifully here.
What's your favorite outfit now?
Brown silk pants with a mandarin jacket. I feel comfortable in that. I bought it at Barney's in Seattle.
What in your closet will you never wear again?
Lots of things. I have a handmade dress with a Peter Pan collar and an embroidered heart on the front. It sounds silly, but it's not. It's just huge on me now. But I packed it up and brought it from Seattle.
What's your all-time best buy?
A ball gown I got at Nordstrom Rack. It's green, strapless with pearl beading across the top. It was originally $1,800 marked down to $100.
And your biggest splurge?
I can't say I'd spend $5,000 on anything. I bought a periwinkle silk jacket that was $350. I didn't need it, but I bought it. I love the color and fabric.
Is there one thing you'd most like to add to your closet?
I have always thought it would be wonderful fun to have a full-length fur, but I have a child who is violently opposed to raising animals for their skin. They look so warm and elegant.
Do you know some dressers? Let us know. Write to Mary Corey, The Baltimore Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278.