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She dresses to rise above her stature


Lynda Ames has given up trying to dress tall. She's accepted her stature -- five feet exactly -- and favors an unconformist style that tells onlookers she's short and proud of it.

Now if only fashion designers understood that. "At this height, it's tough to find clothes -- whether you're size 2 or 22. And I'm somewhere in between," says Ms. Ames, 56, who lives in Mount Washington.

As the board president of Lifesongs for AIDS Inc., she'll be dressing with particular flair on Oct. 22 when Tony Bennett performs a benefit concert at the Meyerhoff. (Call (410) 837-1818 for more information.)

What sets your style apart?

Living in a tall world, I've had to really search to find a style that works for me. I've found two designers that don't make me look short and dumpy: Hino and Malee, and Joan Vass. Their clothes are proportioned for me, and I don't see myself coming and going. Their styles are asymmetrical, their shirts are sometimes longer than their jackets. I put one of those outfits on, add accessories and I feel ready to go.

What kind of accessories do you add?

Jewelry designed by my daughter Beth. It's whimsical.

Describe your favorite ensembles.

I have a Hino and Malee three-piece suit. It's one of the few things I own that's not black. When you open up my closet, it looks like someone turned out the lights. This outfit is unusual because it's royal blue. The jacket, skirt and blouse feel elegant and understated.

My black-tie outfit is a long flimsy tunic over palazzo pants. It's the thing I put on when I don't know what to wear. I add a beaded collar to dress it up. It's been to Lifesongs, Zoomerang, several weddings. That outfit owes me nothing.

What will you wear to Lifesongs this year?

A black suit. I kept going in and out of the store because I didn't want to buy anything else black. But I finally gave in when the salesperson suggested I add a fabulous metallic scarf.

What would you wear on a date with Tony Bennett?

Probably that outfit.

What kind of impression would you hope to make?

I would hope he'd look at my clothes and think they're classy-looking but conservative.

Baltimore has this reputation as a conservative, somewhat casual town. Have you felt that?

With the exception of a few events -- including the Opera Ball -- people don't get very dressed up here. Mainly I see people underdressed. But I think that can be good. Clothes don't scream at you here.

How has your style changed over the years?

I grew up in the '50s with cashmere sweaters, bermuda shorts and poodle skirts. Everything was charcoal gray, pink or blue. It was total conformity. When I got older, I tried the wool blazer, wool slacks and white shirt. That wasn't me either. In the last 10 years or so, I've gotten more self-confident. I dress for myself now.

Where do you shop?

The Store Ltd. and Cole Porter. You get very good service there. I've been told: "Take that off. It doesn't look good." I like that kind of honesty.

Do you have a funny clothing story?

A friend of mine, Nan Rosenthal, picked me up one night years ago to go to a party. We were both wearing the exact same winter white coat. But she's 5 feet 10. I took my coat off and went in without it. I wore it after that but never when she was around.

L Rumor has it the two of you have teamed up on other outfits.

A few years ago, we went to a fund-raiser when you had to dress as something Italian. We came as meatballs and spaghetti. We wore green tights, rope and colored foam. People were hysterical when they saw us.

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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