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Bold colors are superintendent's trademark; Candid Closet: Nancy S. Grasmick says professional wear does not have to be somber and boring, and her wardrobe proves it.; Fashion


State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick never mistook somber dress for professional dress. Every day, Grasmick, who lives in Phoenix, is abloom in brilliant colors and clothing themed to holidays and special events.

Her reasons are twofold: One, she doesn't want to get lost in a crowd. And two, she knows kids love bright hues and fun clothing. For instance, she has a green suit with frog buttons that really go "ribbit" when you touch them.

This Saturday, she and her husband, businessman Lou Grasmick, will escort long-time civic leader Walter Sondheim Jr. to a celebration that honors him and benefits the Maryland chapter of Juvenile Diabetes Foundation.

The "Hats Off to Walter!" black tie gala takes place at 7 p.m. at the 5th Regiment Armory and includes a silent auction and a profusion of hats created by area artists, decorators and students. Tickets are $250. For information, call 410-823-0073.

The superintendent will be resplendent in a strapless fuchsia evening gown. "I don't want Walter to miss me in that crowd," Grasmick says.

Talk about the outfit known as your "Good n' Plenty" suit.

It's a suit in pink and black that reminds me of my favorite candy. Everyone who knows that gives me Good n' Plenty, because it has no fat and is high in sugar content. That keeps me moving.

Your days are so long; how do you find time to shop?

I don't, that's the interesting thing. I get probably 100 catalogs a month, and I do almost all of my shopping through those catalogs. As a matter of fact, I've learned through this process which ones I can trust, what catalogs show colors and clothing true to reality. Also, looking through those catalogs you can find very clever things that you would never find all together in a single store. And I have another strategy.

What's that?

I designate friends as personal shoppers, and when they're going to other places in the country, they're given authority to find things. I give them a credit card and let them shop. I have friends who go to Orchard Street on the East Side in New York, and they really get some lovely clothes for much less.

What catalog do you like the best?

For real casual, I like J Crew and for something special, Neiman Marcus. And there are smaller operations like Celebrations, and Michael Simon sweaters based on themes like Valentine's Day.

Why will no one ever see you dressed in the typical way that professional women dress?

I've never wanted to separate my identity as a woman. Even in an executive position, I am a woman. I never embraced the idea that you have to dress like a man. That's why I wear bright colors: I am a woman, and I'm not denying that fact. I don't want to be like a man. And I'm always conscious of how children will react.

Do you have a fashion inspiration?

I really tend to like a Grace Kelly look. I don't think she was as bold with color. But my clothing is tailored as hers was, with that very pale, tailored sort of elegance.

Do you know what hat you will wear at the "Hats Off" benefit?

I'm still working on that.

Do you know any snappy dressers? Let us know. Write to Stephanie Shapiro, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278.

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