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In Search of Style

Is there really a "Dallas Look"?
By Jessica Lerner |

F. SCOTT FITZGERALD had it. “If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him,” he wrote in The Great Gatsby. His flamboyant wife, Zelda, had it. Wallis Simpson, the American who became the Duchess of Windsor, had it. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis brought it to the White House. Katharine Hepburn and Clark Gable captured it on film.

What is that magic aura that makes heads turn when certain people enter a room? It’s instantly recognizable but hard to define. So, rather than consulting Webster’s, we’ve decided to ask people who have it.

What follows are comments from Dallasites who have style. They aren’t necessarily the people who’ve made the “best-dressed” lists, nor are they the people who always fill the society columns. But they each have an individual, undefinable something.

In our interviews, we also asked for their impressions of the “Dallas Look,” which, aside from being the title of this special section, is often used to describe a certain chic, an air soigné that’s said to abound in this city. We’ve discovered from some of the following comments ’ that it’s quite a controversial subject among Dallasites.



Karen Denard, host of kera-fm’s Evening Talk Show:

“A person with style has an openness, an approach-ableness. I don’t think it has very much to do with clothing.

“Dallasites are more concerned with how they look than people in Seattle, where I lived for 11 years. Seattle folks live in their jeans. Dallas is much more manicured and coiffed. Personally, I like to be comfortable, but I think it’s nice to be in a city where people make a little effort and spend some time on their appearance.”



Jason Armstrong, recently retired president of the Theatre Three Guild who has worked with the Public Opera:

“Style is feeling secure in what you’re doing or wearing at any given moment. I don’t think it’s something you attain. My style? Well, I’m an artist. It’s reflected most in the parties I love to throw. Is money a requisite for having style? You don’t have to have it, but you can’t deny that it helps. I couldn’t throw all of my parties without money, but if I had more money I might not live in Oak Cliff-and living there is part of my style.

“Dallas definitely has its own style. There’s a freshness here, a nice blend of new and old. One thing people aren’t afraid of here is being new.”



Barbara Womble, director of marketing and public relations at the Galleria:

“Style is the ability to take what is ordinary and give it qualities of imagination and flair that are indicative of a particular individual. It escapes the boundaries of wealth. There are little break-dancers with plenty of style. And style is definitely not innate. Environment is extremely influential.

“All you have to do is jump on a plane and go to New York or the West Coast to know that the ’Dallas Look’ exists. Last year when I was in Italy, I really felt it. The Italian women have such a zest for life; they were so free in their loose clothes. Dallasites are well-manicured, squeaky-clean, fairly conservative.”



Stanley Marcus, chairman emeritus of Neiman-Marcus:

“You don’t have to have style to enjoy life, but it certainly helps. It’s a sense of relativity of objects, activities and personality. People life; they were so free in their loose clothes. Dallasites are well-manicured, squeaky-clean, fairly conservative.”



Stanley Marcus, chairman emeritus of Neiman-Marcus: “You don’t have to have style to enjoy life, but it certainly helps. It’s a sense of relativity of objects, activities and personality. People who have a sense of style know how to put all those things together in a unique combination.

“As far as the ’Dallas Look’ is concerned, I would hate to think that Dallas was so provincial that it had its own unique style.”



Lisa Blue, assistant district attorney in the organized crime section of Henry Wade’s office:

“My own style is greatly influenced by my job, because that’s what is most important to me. Style is highly related to self-esteem. It’s the way you present yourself and your ability to communicate with others. Clothing is merely the expression of style. And personal appearance is especially important in today’s society, where first impressions mean so much.

“Dallas has a lot of style. It’s conservative and very professional. I think that’s one of the reasons Dallas was chosen for the Republican Convention.”



Jan Barboglio Feldman-McDonald, designer of women’s wear with her sister and partner, Cristina, for Barboglio-Cristina & Jan:

“Style is a sense of grace, proportion and balance. It’s unstructured and uncontrived. This may sound funny, but I’m thinking of Miss Ellie. She really had style, and she’s not the type that changed the way she dressed each season. My own style has a sense of humor, a leaning toward the bizarre but hopefully not to the extent to where I lose the grace and the proportion. “I think the ’Dallas Look’ has more to do with fashion than style. People with true style aren’t really guided by that look.”



Daria Retian, vice president and fashion director of Neiman-Marcus:

“Style is an attitude. It’s a self-expression without being too concerned about what other people will say. You have to be comfortable in your own skin. It’s something that you develop through the years with living and finding how to express yourself with your clothes and attitudes. Young people with style are rare.

“Ten years ago, when fashion was only for the very few elite in Dallas, maybe there was a distinct ’Dallas Look.’ Now there are so many different people in Dallas. And because of the tremendous spread of the media, people all over the world are leading similar lives. Look at the influence that MTV has had on fashion. We live in a vital, energetic and very eclectic city where you are never going to see just one thing.”



Drew pearson, all-time leading wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys:

“Style has to do with caring about how you look, going to the right places, doing the right things. It’s important in this city to consider with whom you’re seen. I do think style is something you can acquire, but not overnight. When I got here from Tulsa after college, I didn’t have as much class as I hope I have now.

“This city exudes class, and to fit in you have to have it. In Dallas, you can’t get into most clubs if you aren’t dressed right. I think that’s great, because those are the kind of places where I like to be.”



George Toomer, free-lance writer. TV personality, novelist and general man-about-town:

“A person’s real style is what he does when he’s by himself. And someone who has great style is a complete unit-is consistent with his own personal code. I’ve worn Hawaiian shirts since ’69, when I left college, and I’ve never seen any reason to do anything else. And I haven’t shaved off my beard, either, even though I know it’s a living Rolex-it probably costs me $15,000 to $20,000 a year. It’s my style.

“I despise the term ’dressing for success’ because the idea is absurd. Another absurd idea is the dress code. It only serves to kill style.”



Caryn Halpern-Sechrest, pediatrician:

“Style is the way a person’s inner self comes forth in society.

“I don’t know what the ’Dallas Look’ is now, but I do know what it was when I moved to Highland Park from New York 10 years ago. It was frosted hair, lots of makeup, frilly things, too-short skirts. And the men had no idea how to dress. Dallas has matured since then. There’s more of an eclectic mixture of people. It’s no longer only graduates of Highland Park High School and SMU that count. But that need to conform still exists in Dallas.”



Gaile Robinson, original art director of Dallas Life, the Sunday magazine of The Dallas Morning News:

“Money is definitely not a requisite for style. Dallas is a perfect example of that. This city is filled with people with loads of money and no style.

“The ’Dallas Look’ exists to a certain extent. It’s conservative, not flamboyant, quietly tasteful, very demure. Dallas is less ethnic and less experimental than other cities. There’s much more of an ’off-the-rack’ look.”



Martin Aimes, dress designer:

“Style comes from within. It’s something that clothing and accessories can certainly add to but cannot create in themselves. I work in this business because it’s so exciting to see my style come to life in the dresses I design. My personal style is very understated. I definitely don’t dress for the seasons, and I hate to look like everyone else.

“In Dallas I’m seeing more looks that a few years ago would have been considered unconventional. If I were designing in New York or L. A., I don’t think I’d be designing differently.”



Didier Calvez, director of food and beverages at the Westin Hotel:

“Having a French accent helps. In my case, style is to be conservative, subdued and not flashy. You can’t come to a first-class hotel wearing a yellow shirt and red trousers. It’s not necessarily to be extremely wealthy. It’s more a matter of education and family.

“I have been in Dallas for two years, and people here definitely dress well. I think they are very conscious about being from Dallas. It’s amazing to see what they wear just to go shopping.”



Jalaane Levi-Garza, president of Women in Communications:

“We live in a proud city and a proud state, and this is reflected in our style. Dallas doesn’t have that much of a ’me too’ attitude. There’s a certain freedom of expression and flexibility. Dallas did go through a period when there was a small nucleus of people who had to go to the right places at the right times, but that’s less evident today.”



Stall Miller, co-host of PM Magazine:

“Style is simply doing your own thing and being confident about it.

“Dallas definitely has a lot of class, probably more than in any other city. Dallas’ style shows in everything-the buildings, the fashion, the sports teams. People here do things right or they don’t do them at all.”