Gwendolyn Rose gets her love of clothes from her mother, who always cut an elegant figure no matter how hard the times.
"My oldest sister always wants to say clothes aren't important, but they are," says Rose, 44, of North Baltimore. Clothes can be spiritual, they can be frivolous, but they "express you" and "are connected to your being."
Rose, a program assistant technician in medical media at the VA hospital downtown, remembers the rabbit coat her mother bought her, even while she wore the same wool coat every year. "Keeping your children beautiful is a part of love," Rose says.
How do you balance dressing appropriately and playfully?
The word is "current." That's what you want to be aware of, not fads. I want to age gracefully and stay well-maintained. One day, if I could afford it, I'd get a face lift, if only because of maintenance. I don't want to change who I am. But I don't want to look dated.
Do you think women in their 40s dress as they please?
We've had a lot of freedom that a lot of generations of women never had. At the same time, if you were old enough to wear something like hot pants the first time, you're too old to wear them now. On the other hand, something like capris, which came out long ago, you can always wear.
What's the trick of developing a look?
I want to create a style that's not so predictable that if my friends saw something they would automatically think, "That's just like you." I like to throw in a curve sometimes. My curve this winter would be my new leather suit. That was fun.
Where do you shop?
Hecht's, Burlington Coat Factory, Fashion Bug, the Bead, Casual Corner. It's kind of hard. I got the Oprah thing going on, I go up and down in size. I once got down to my high school size 7, but I couldn't eat. I was driving my family crazy. I didn't do it for a man, but so I could wear halters and coat dresses. I wanted to see that look again on me.
Do you have an old staple in your closet that you can always wear?
I've had my raincoat for almost 20 years. It's got to be older than my daughter. I've worn it every season. I love polyester; it doesn't breathe like cotton but looks wonderful. But usually, I don't want my clothes to last 10 years.
What's your latest acquisition?
My mother's taking us on a cruise in September, and I found a dark tropical print bathing suit with a little flouncy skirt.
What colors do you gravitate toward?
African-American women have more freedom in terms of style, color. We dress with a little more color, and not as much in pastels. You don't see too many black women in a sweater with flowers embroidered on it. I look good in hot pink. I've got a hot pink jump suit that's not too tight.
What would you tell your daughter and other teen girls about learning how to dress?
Covering up can be much more alluring that revealing everything. You can look sexy, but you have to be careful. Do you really want that kind of attention?
Do you know any snappy dressers? Let us know. Write to Stephanie Shapiro, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278.