Six With Style
You know who they are, busy confident women who seem to have an innate gift for effortlessly orchestrating a look that is totally right for them and an inspiration to others.
Our six stylemakers unanimously agree that social and civic purpose, family commitment, friends and health are far more important than clever dressing. They say clothes can never make the woman. But a smart woman can always maximize her assets-and her unique sense of style is surely one.
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ABC-TV news personality Jena Eschbach knows that her lifestyle is informed by her job as Naples' lead reporter for Channel 7, which basically puts her on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. She even lives across the street from the station. People know her from the tube and recognize her in the supermarket. She's comfortable with that. An early high school grad (16) in Pottstown, Pa., she took advantage of a Rotary International offer to study in Spain before going to the University of Maryland, majoring in political science and journalism. The 26-year-old pro has been a White House intern and broke into TV journalism in Western Maryland. She arrived in Naples in 1999.
What's your plan for putting together your wardrobe and keeping it fresh?
My clothes constantly get ruined from fire, water and things like trekking through the Everglades on a story assignment. I'm not going to be wearing Prada shoes on the job. My basic approach is a good pair of black or gray slacks, a crisp white blouse and a blazer. I must have 40 blazers in all colors, except brown. I get most of my clothes at Casual Corner, because their things are contemporary, comfortable and stylish in a way that's not intimidating. Naples is a pretty conservative place for fashion. I'm always aware of that when I travel to Miami. I love silk, but synthetics are usually the more practical choice for me.
How about accessories?
On the air I wear my grandmother's pearl necklace which dates from the 1920s and a mixed metal wristwatch that was a gift to me. The same with my rings. My favorite accessory is sunglasses. I must have at least 10 pairs at any time. One of my best is a cat's-eye pair that belonged to my mom.. I never leave the house without a pair of sunglasses. I'm also crazy about knee-high boots and leather, but those are northern things I seldom get to wear anymore.
Exercise and fitness routine?
I have an animal shelter beagle named Casey and I walk him. And I'll frequently get together with friends to exercise but I have no specific regime. I eat natural foods, never any fast food and not much bread. My job keeps me moving all day long, but I'm really strict about getting eight hours sleep a night. A lot of people would look and feel better if they slept more.
I love to garden, to jog and to freshwater fish. I do all my hobbies alone. I spend so much time with so many people in stressful even tragic situations when I'm on the job, I need the solitude.
Any advice on style?
Posture is important. How you carry yourself makes all the difference in how you look in clothes. I make an impression because of who I am and what I do, not because I'm fashionable in any sense. But I know that because I carry myself with self-confidence, I convey an attitude of stylishness.
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Melinda Roy has led a fantasy life, albeit one of consuming passion and non-stop striving for artistic perfection. At age 12, she left her home in Lafayette, La., for New York where she was admitted into the New York School of Ballet, the official training ground for the New York City Ballet. For the next 18 years she toured the world as a principal dancer with the prestigious company. Six years ago, a knee injury and several subsequent operations forced her retirement. So she cut her waist-length hair and formed a successful country & western dance company that's rarely without a gig. Two years ago, Melinda accepted an Optimist Club offer to come to Southwest Florida to teach ballet. Lately, however, she's been traveling to Manhattan to finish up her co-choreography of "Urban Cowboy," a Broadway bound musical in which she has a dancing part. Recently, Melinda and her boyfriend bought a home on Sanibel Island and Florida is now where Melinda calls home. She is co-director of Gulfshore Ballet. At 41, this trim dancer is pirouetting into a new career and a radically different lifestyle in Southwest Florida.
How is your style evolving with your move to Sanibel?
I was a fashion wild-child when I was touring with the ballet. I'd shop in Paris in strange little boutiques and put together pretty interesting outfits. Now, I'm a much more conservative dresser. I want simple comfortable clothes that allow me to change several times a day since I'm in leotards for teaching and practicing. In New York, I never wore open toe shoes. Now, I crave sandals and I'm painting my toenails bright colors in spite of my bumpy ballet feet.
Anything in your wardrobe that you will never part with?
Absolutely, my cowboy boots. I have 15 pairs or more and I'll never get rid of them. I also collect vintage cowgirl shirts. I haunt places in SoHo when I'm in New York and have great luck at Rags A Go-Go and a place called Buffalo Chips. And my collection of rings made the move to Florida.
What are you adding to your Florida closet?
More white cotton draw-string pants and skimpy tops with spaghetti straps, tons of sandals and yummy pajamas. I'm trying to move away from black. I'll probably be buying neutrals and a few red things because I love that color. And I have a wonderful salmon-pink Escada outfit that's going to be great for Sanibel days.
What's the oddest thing in your closet?
That would have to be my 20 or so original hats. When I was recovering from my knee injury, I took a millenary course at the Fashion Institute of Technology. I made some truly wild hats, most of them with feathers. I wore them a lot when my hair was long, not so much any more. But I love to look at them and I had a ball creating every one of them.
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Dr. Lily DeBlieux's professional wardrobe is shaped by her job as Dean of Students at Seagate Elementary School in Naples. She wears a suit every day. Lily grew up in New York and at 15 moved to Puerto Rico (the home of her parents) where she completed one of her college degrees. She came to Naples from Biloxi, Miss. nearly three years ago after she and her husband picked the city by Internet research. The educator believes her cultural heritage is responsible for her love of clothes and her compulsion to always look smart. This 44-year-old mother of a grown son and daughter has a Ph.D. in education, this fashion-loving size-eight definitely a master's in shopping.
How do you shop?
I drive by Steinmart on my way home from work. At least twice a week I stop and go through the boutique department. Shopping is a delight for me and I'm constantly adding new and weeding out the old. When I choose a suit, I always buy all the accessories right down to handbag and earrings. I want the convenience of looking complete right away.
Favorite labels and colors?
I tend toward classic looks and collect a lot of Ralph Lauren and Donna Karen. My closet is full of black, navy blue, white, green, burgundy and shades of blue. You'll never see me in bright yellow or wild patterns, but I do dress seasonally. In December I wear a lot of red. Kids notice. For jewelry I'm a sterling silver and white gold woman.
How do you stay fit?
I exercise three times a week in the gym at the Vineyards where I live. I indulge in a monthly facial, massages and little luxuries like seaweed wraps. I'm high maintenance without apology. I intend to be an in-shape grandmother when the time comes and I need to keep my energy level high, as anyone in education does.
Is your closet organized?
As much as it can be since I fill my own walk-in, half my husband's and the two in the guest bedrooms. I hang dresses on one side and jackets above blouses and skirts. When I buy something new, I recycle an outfit I'm tired of so things are always coming and going. I don't horde.
Anything you cannot bear to retire?
Now that you mention it, yes. It's a 10-year-old black velvet jacket with ivory satin pockets and denim collar and cuffs. Just a fun thing I bought for a lark, yet I reach for it often. One of the children at school told me I'm always in a good mood when I have that jacket on. When you feel good in your clothes, you act like it. So, never buy anything that doesn't bring you joy.
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Sunny (no one calls her Sonia) Lubner has two wardrobe challenges that determine her style. She is a size-two petite and she's forever suitcase dressing because she travels constantly with husband Clive who owns the Robb & Stucky furniture store empire. The couple's primary residence is in Fort Myers, but they spend a week of every month in Scottsdale, Arizona and in Dallas where they keep an apartment. Sunny needs to dress for business meetings, socializing and also for community galas that R&S helps to sponsor in cities where there are stores. "No matter how well I pack or how thoughtfully I buy for my closets in other cities, I will invariably be standing in front of a mirror in Dallas realizing that what I need is in Fort Myers," she admits. "My only recourse over the years has been to overpack." The Lubners are South African and came straight from Johannesburg to Fort Myers 24 years ago when Clive left the family furniture business to strike out on his own. The 54-year-old brand new grandmother describes her style as "whatever is available in my size and whatever I can have altered," which is a nice way of saying she has to work hard to get the simple, classic and tailored look that most reflects her informal but also appropriate-to-the-occasion style.
Where do you shop?
I have my best luck at Neiman Marcus in Scottsdale because a wonderful sales associate there will put things aside for me and call me when I'm out there. I also love to wear Chico's clothes, which I buy locally and have altered to fit me. When we are abroad, my favorite places to buy are Cannes, London, Venice and Florence.
What are your preferences?
I love pantsuits in neutral colors or in black. I avoid patterns because I'm so short and I never wear red, yellow or orange. For accessories, I can never get enough shoes or handbags. I've stopped counting how many I have.
Anything in any of your closets across the country you'd never part with?
Oh, yes. It's a black Emanuel Ungaro cocktail pants suit with a beaded band across the torso. I haven't worn it in two years, but I will again and when I do I'll feel great in it. It's a classic and won't go out of style. But even if it did, I'd wear it anyway. Trends don't mean anything to me.
Where does your sense of style come from?
I'd say from observation and by simply growing up and growing older. Style is an interior thing and it's all about self-confidence and being comfortable with yourself. I get better at it as I go along.
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Kathy Prutos, the 43-year-old CEO of Prutos Public Relations Inc. in Naples is a direct, high energy woman who has made a big-city fashion attitude (she's from Chicago) work in a tropical resort city. At 5-foot, 91/2- inches, she wears French and Italian spike heels that she buys at Marissa's and dresses for success every business day of her life. Because she is in and out of her car so often, Kathy long ago gave up linen and selects tropical weight wool, microfibers and silks that won't wrinkle. But she says her biggest and best fashion secret is a personal shopper, a sales associate at Saks Fifth Avenue who selects clothes and accessories and phones Kathy when it's all put together. That service, along with a personal chef, means that fast-track Kathy has the time to do what she's really good at, while letting other pros do the same.
What does your personal shopper know about your tastes?
Roz knows that I love classic Escada, Ann Klein for suits and Dolce & Gabana for blouses or bodysuits. She knows I can't get enough black and that I wear it every day with some little accent color. And she knows I am partial to a certain shade of blue that has a lot of violet in it.
How about accessories?
That's the personal touch. Accessories say who I am. There are the high heels, of course. I've been this tall since the ninth grade and while I hated it then, I'm quite comfortable with it now. My favorite accessory is a gold bracelet that my husband Dean gave me for my 35th birthday. I wear it every day. But, I'm choosy about all my accessories. It's how you freshen up an outfit, dress it up or down.
Is your closet as organized as your buying habits?
Pretty much. I organize by seasons-hot and hotter-and by color. That means rows and rows of black and a few other shades.
What's your health and fitness routine?
The personal chef sees that we eat right. I see that I do an hour of aerobics three times a week in the morning as soon as I get up. I pop in the videotape and get moving.
What informed your sense of style?
Living and shopping in Chicago when I was younger. I've always been drawn to that sharp, crisp, slightly cutting-edge look that goes with big cities. I lived and worked near Michigan Avenue close to Neiman Marcus. I've been influenced a lot by that store. When Dean and I moved to Naples in 1988, I brought that influence along with me.
What will you be buying for spring/summer?
A new black leather briefcase.
Anything you can't part with in your closet?
Not really. Once a year I go through all my clothes and take boxes to a local woman's shelter. I believe in recycling my clothes.
She was born Suzanne, but her brother named her Sass and Sass Edwards is how she is known today. An indefatigable volunteer, the 57-year-old Sass is apt to spend mornings at the Edison-Ford Estate working on Gala 2002 (coming up April 6), afternoons at a bank board meeting or on a Lee Health Care Resources Board project, and dinner out with husband John and friends. She doesn't have time to go home and change. So, she's worked out a wardrobe that will see her through the many roles she has to play. Originally from Ohio, Sass spent winters in Fort Myers as a child and was a neighbor of young John Edwards, a seventh generation Floridian who would become her husband. Thirty-three years ago, when they wed, she moved to Fort Myers permanently and has become a force for good in her community.
How is your fashion sense shaped by your lifestyle?
Usually, I'm out all day doing different things so I need to wear something all-purpose. For me, that's St. John knits. I buy coordinated jeans, top and jacket and then I mix and match. Just add loafers and I'm ready for the day. I'm a one-look person and that's my look.
How about colors?
Like most women, I wear a lot of black. But I enjoy pastels, too. Never red. And I don't do orange even though I'm a huge Florida Gator fan. I wear the UF blue instead.
Has anyone influenced your style?
Probably, my mother Margaret. We shop together and we both buy St. John. Sometimes, we buy identical outfits and then we have to check with each other to make sure we don't wear it to the same family event.
Where do you shop?
Right here in Fort Myers at Jacobson's and Saks Fifth Avenue.
How about accessories?
I wear a gold watch, two rings and a pair of gold heart-shaped earrings that were a gift from my husband. I wear the earrings all the time, except when I'm playing tennis.
I play tennis three times a week in a league. I've done it for many years, it's more fun than exercise. My life seems to keep me running ragged and provides most of my exercise. I love to cook and do it often. My specialty is chicken pot pie, a recipe from my mother-in-law. But, my proudest hobby is baby-sitting by granddaughters who are 7 and 5. I drop everything to spend time with those little girls. And nice for me, they love to shop.