Mall à la mode

Elizabeth Kerin, Staff Writer

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Name: Dr. Kathryn Davis, English Professor

EK: Can you tell me more about your friend who you say was so influential [in your style]?
KD: So, when I was in graduate school my roommate, Ruth Ann, was a few years ahead of me in the International Philosophical Seminar program, in philosophy … Ruth Ann has this beautiful, elegant sense of style. I remember really admiring her style and she offered to take me shopping, maybe 10 years ago … first year of graduate school for me. And I was, on the one hand, really excited to go, but also was like, “Oh it’s so embarrassing not to be a good shopper or have a good fashion sense.” But over the years she’s helped me think about fashion and think about dressing oneself in a way [that] suits the body type and all these different things, complexion. So, I owe it all to her … I think her M.O. is my M.O. for teaching, which is [to] find someone you really like and imitate them and that’s what we do in writing. That’s the thing that connects for me. Imitation in writing leads to better writing, and imitation in fashion, if you know who to imitate and how to imitate, then that skill set transfers over.

EK: That’s so interesting. So, who are some of your ‘influencers,’ some of your icons?
KD: Oh man, I don’t know … I’d rather broaden that to say “Who ought one [to] possibly imitate?” Just because I’m still thinking about that for myself, but to broaden it, it’s easy to say: those elegant women of the past. Audrey Hepburn in “Roman Holiday.” Her costumes were designed by Edith Head … she was a costume designer … She did “Rear Window” with Grace Kelly, some of those exquisite dresses that Grace Kelly wears. Katherine Hepburn, in her way. More recently, the Duchess of Cambridge, naturally … “Your dress should be tight enough to show you’re a woman and loose enough to show you’re a lady,” said Edith Head. I think that’s good advice and very funny.

EK: Do you have any sort of advice about silhouettes? Or any observations, if you don’t want to make yourself the authority on such things …
KD: Thank you for letting me qualify — I’m really not the authority on such things. I think that goes along with what I said before. The only wisdom I have is this: I can admire the Duchess of Cambridge but if I don’t have her shape it might not be the wisest move to imitate her because she has a very particular body type. So Adele, in her way, is really fashionable and has a really different body type than the Duchess of Cambridge … My advice is: If you don’t have an eye yourself, make a good friend who has one. Give that person honor when that person has the opportunity to earn it. When you’re told that you look great, make sure you tell your friend “Oh thanks! Because you helped me look really great today.”

EK: I think there’s some difficulty to applying that advice to professional garb … as we transition into the work world, do you have any tips or any things that you think of as you look for your work wardrobe?
KD: Yeah, that’s a great question. I have thought about that a little bit. I want to say this delicately … I think some professional women might feel the need to dress more like men in order to be respected by men in the workplace, and this is something we know. But that’s not my style, that’s not my way. I think if we’re talking about being women of dignity and being proud of our dignity as women, we should really embrace our femininity.

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