ATLA September 2013 : Page 106

Best DresseD AtLANtA Meet five enviable women who navigate our city’s sartorial scene better than almost anyone. Here, our first annual Best Dressed Atlanta list. By Stephanie Davis Smith Photography by Derek Blanks Hair by Steve Hightower and makeup by Ashlee Harris for Steve Hightower Hair Salon and Day Spa Shot on location at Roche Bobois Who are you wearing? Blouse and skirt by Zac Posen, heels by Manolo Blahnik, pearls from Migliori Jewelers and crocodile clutch by Jada Loveless Your personal style? Old-school with a twist First big style splurge? I bought myself a black Chanel jacket in my 30s, and I still have it and wear it.

Features Best Dressed Atlanta

Stephanie Davis Smith

Who are you wearing?<br /> <br /> Blouse and skirt by Zac Posen, heels by Manolo Blahnik, pearls from Migliori Jewelers and crocodile clutch by Jada Loveless <br /> <br /> Your personal style?<br /> <br /> Old-school with a twist <br /> <br /> First big style splurge?<br /> <br /> I bought myself a black Chanel jacket in my 30s, and I still have it and wear it.<br /> <br /> JOANNE CHESLER GROSS<br /> <br /> The Classicist<br /> <br /> As a lobbyist who works in community and public relations, the diminutive Joanne Chesler Gross manages to cut a grandiose figure. However, it hasn’t always been that way. “My style evolved over time,” she admits. Growing up in Connecticut, the bohemian Chesler Gross preferred Indian print skirts and huarache sandals to Valentino and heels. In fact, throughout boarding school, she was an easygoing and earthy youngster. “My mother was always into fashion, and she tried her best to get me into it, too,” she recalls. “I remember I decided to get my ‘fashion’ act together when it was time to go to college at Emory [University] and I asked her if she would mind taking me shopping. She literally broke down in tears she was so excited.” Over the years, Chesler Gross honed her sartorial savvy in stylish cities such as Chicago and Washington, D.C., before returning to the South. She’s cultivated a look that combines classic style with edgy surprises. You never know—a feminine Marc Jacobs A-line skirt may get paired with an edgy Rick Owens suede motorcycle jacket. One thing that is certain? Her signature hue is ‘greige,’ a shade she sports down to her nail polish. “I rarely wear anything but grey and beige neutrals and then pop a few colors off them.” Any tincture often comes via an enviable Hermès and vintage scarf collection. “I have a few 100 now.” For evening though, elegance still rules. Chesler Gross is often seen wearing a Valentino number at the Ballet or Swan House balls. “Although I love dresses, it’s a harder fit. So I see Emily at Shanghai Alterations,” she counsels. “After all, my husband loves to see me in dresses, too.”<br /> <br /> Who are you wearing?<br /> <br /> Top by Giambattista Valli, pants by Stella McCartney and shoes by Giuseppe Zanotti <br /> <br /> Your personal style?<br /> <br /> It changes with my mood. I tend to put on bright colors to lift my spirits. Color makes me happy.<br /> <br /> First big style splurge?<br /> <br /> It was in high school and on shoes at Garfinckel's in Georgetown. I went to Catholic school, so it was shoes and bookbags that showed off our style.<br /> <br /> CYNTHIA MORELAND<br /> <br /> The Chameleon <br /> <br /> Cynthia Moreland doesn’t adhere to many specific style rules, except her own—which she uses to suit the tempo of her life. As executive director of the Nsoro Educational Foundation, an organization that increases education opportunities for youth in foster care, Moreland could very well spend one week in flats taking a group of pregnant teenagers in foster care on a college tour, and the next in heels asking major sponsors for fundraising dollars. “I like to dress appropriate for the moment. My style switches up for the occasion,” she says. In fact, occasions are when she picks up her favorite pieces. The tanzanite necklace she’s wearing here was bought by her husband of 25 years while on vacation. Her gorgeous cuff was another gift from a Hamptons trip. “We were going to a party, and I had on a casual dress and needed to dress it up.” While she likes pieces with a story, one of her favorite wardrobe staples is patterned pants. “I have a very wide pair of silk pants that I wear for garden parties, a pair of floral jeans that I love and tons of embroidered pants. I’ve got a 20- and 23-year-old daughter, and they influence me to get a little funky,” which may explain the fabulous Giuseppe Zanotti heels she’s sporting. “His designs are amazing and totally impractical. But that doesn’t matter! There’s something about a heel that makes a woman walk differently. We sit up a little taller.”<br /> <br /> Who are you wearing?<br /> <br /> Vintage '80s dress by Oscar de la Renta and shoes by Miu Miu <br /> <br /> Your personal style?<br /> <br /> Vintage, vintage, vintage. But my style is more complex than just a few words! How many pages do you have for me to explain it?<br /> <br /> First big style splurge?<br /> <br /> Gucci suede clogs I bought in Miami at 12 or 13 years old. They were blue and had a gold horse bit and that iconic red and green grosgrain ribbon.<br /> <br /> KIM LAPE<br /> <br /> The risk-taker<br /> <br /> Every day is dress-up day for Kim Lape. Va-va-voom glamour has been her modus operandi since her teenage years. “I’ve always loved ruffles, sequins and anything that shines!” she exclaims. But don’t expect much in her wardrobe from this decade. “If I had the choice all I would wear is vintage,” she admits. Lape has amassed an incredible collection of retro gowns. She confesses that she can never wear all the dresses she owns. “They’re like art. I just go in my closet and sit and look at them. My mom will call me, and I’ll say I’m rearranging my closet. She calls it my therapy.” The software marketing executive by day is a true fashion addict who treasure hunts the Web for unique pieces by night. “Once I had collected a ton of Halston, I realized it was time to go onto something new. Now I’m obsessed with old Oscar [de la Renta]. I get in a phase over an era. I had a ‘70s disco Bianca Jagger moment, and now I’m on an ‘80s kick.” The opulent era suits her well. Audacious and adventurous when it comes to style, Lape goes by Coco Chanel’s motto: “Fashion changes and style remains.” And, she doesn’t take it all too seriously. “I believe you can wear anything if you own it and are confident.” That shines through whether she’s in a bold Nina Ricci gown with a large canary bow at the Opera Ball or toting a mini Chanel handle-purse at a Saks Fifth Avenue fashion show. “I don’t think I have just one style.”<br /> <br /> Who are you wearing?<br /> <br /> Necklace and earrings by Lisa Stein, dress and jacket by Norman Ambrose, ring by Piranesi and heels by Manolo Blahnik <br /> <br /> Your personal style?<br /> <br /> Classic, sophisticated and comfortable <br /> <br /> First big style splurge?<br /> <br /> It was my first designer cocktail dress I bought my in my 30s. I don't have it anymore. Its time was up!<br /> <br /> SANDRA BALDWIN<br /> <br /> The stylesetter<br /> <br /> Sandra Baldwin is an equal opportunity fashionista. “I am all over the board,” she explains. “I’ll throw Theory pants on with a Chanel blouse, and voila! I like to mix and match separates.” The stunning Ellen Barkin look-alike adores Brunello Cucinelli for his monochromatic looks, Vince for when she’s working on real estate projects and Avenue Montaigne chinos in all colors as they are “great little skinny pants that are perfect for travel.” But if you look through the society photos from the High Museum Gala or A Meal to Remember, you’ll find Baldwin is not afraid to rock a floor-length gold-sequined Oscar de la Renta gown, too. Think: lady who lunches with some originality and flair. Her tastes have been colored by a globe-trotting existence during which she spent many years living in New York City and all over the country. It’s hard to believe that when the wife and mother of two first arrived in Atlanta 22 years ago, she didn’t know a soul. Now she easily casts one of the most chic displays on Atlanta’s bright social scene. “It’s so important to have a stylist,” she advises. “To have someone really work with you, looking out for great pieces, knowing your fit and style—it’s invaluable. I’m big on fit. I see so many people that wear clothes that are pulling here or buttons pulling there.” Her trick of the trade? “I wear three different sizes. I buy the size I need in that outfit. I have no ego about it.”<br /> <br /> Who are you wearing?<br /> <br /> Dress by Emilio Pucci, shoes by Jimmy Choo and simple vintage black gloves <br /> <br /> Your personal style?<br /> <br /> Contemporary classic, 1950s, sexy <br /> <br /> First big style splurge?<br /> <br /> My first pair of Manolos. I still have them. I saw them and fell in love. I walked away for like a week and came back and said I have to have them. I still have them and Mr. Blahnik has signed them since.<br /> <br /> LOVETTE RUSSELL<br /> <br /> The Diva <br /> <br /> ”I’m not afraid of a short hemline,” says Lovette Russell, giggling. “I like to show off my legs!” But for most of her life, this Atlanta native and Spelman College grad covered them up with jeans. “I got married, had two children and was in this non-stylish baby phase,” she divulges. Then, about 10 years ago, something clicked. “I started attending more [society] functions with my husband and really paying attention to the details of dressing, and my style evolved.” Now, you rarely see Russell in jeans… or even pants! “I wear dresses 99 percent of the time,” she says. The 5-foot-7 statuesque beauty wears heels and gloves about as often. “It’s a throwback to another era,” she says about her signature accessories. “I own hundreds of pairs of gloves and rarely wear flats—unless I’m at the beach.” The sartorial perfectionist admits she “must look in the mirror a million times a day to make sure everything is on point,” but reveals her fashion weapon is good tailoring. “Spend that extra little bit to get your clothes taken in and they will look fabulous!” She’ll need that added something now that she’s back out in the professional world. The longtime stay-at-home mom and recent empty nester accepted a position with Coxe Curry & Associates, helping nonprofits raise money. She’s taking her own advice about how to dress at the office: “You have to know how to present yourself. Dictate your style—don’t let your style dictate you.”

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