BARBARA WOMBLE: A Crescent Role
What’s the daughter of an air force colonel who likes to eat at Mia’s land go waterskiing doing in the swanky management suite at The Crescent, Dallas’s newest paean to creature comfort?
Oh, the usual; preparing press releases, organizing galas, and conferring on marketing strategy while juggling phone calls from a growing list of upscale-and increasingly European-tenants. As she handles each crisis with equal aplomb, she says matter-of-factly, “I’ve had a lot of lucky breaks.”
The road to The Crescent, Lucky Break No. 3, was a smooth ride down the Dallas Tollway from the glitzy north and lucky Break No. 2, the Galleria, where Barbara Womble formerly held court as the marketing director. And before that, she was residing in the P.R. department at the downtown retail address: Neiman-Marcus, her lucky beginning. As Womble explains, public relations and marketing were incidental to her career goals when she graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with degrees in political science and government.
“I moved to Dallas because I thought that Dallas was the place to be,” Womblesays. “I wanted to be somewhere in retail.” After hitting town, she began knocking on doors and wound up at Neiman’s personnel office during the hectic month before the 1976 Italian Fortnight. “The personnel manager at Neiman’s said that I looked like I belonged there. I said that I wanted to sell. She said, ’Can you type?’ “
During her seven years with Neiman’s, first in public relations then as an assistant buyer, Womble made several enduring friendships. “Mr. Stanley and I became immediate friends during that time when Carter Hawley Hale was trying to buy him out. That was incredible training.”
Womble’s career look concentrates on body-conscious styles to fit her size 6 figure. (Mother Nature, however, has temporarily put that on hold until November, when Barbara and husband Craig will become parents for the second time. Their First child, Mad-dox, was born on Christmas Eve, 1984. Barbara went to work at the Crescent just seven weeks after Maddox was born.)
As head of marketing and public relations, Womble often finds herself at black tie functions. She favors short eveningwear because, she says with a grin, “I’ve got pretty good legs.” Nighttime, says Womble, is when Dallas really lets down its hair. “During the day, the look is a bit reserved, almost homogeneous. We look very clean, manicured. If you want to see the Dallas Look, check out the Highland Park Presbyterian Church on Sunday mornings. Grooming is near perfection. We play it safe during the day, but it’s almost peacockish at night-very colorful.”
In a city where fashion knowledge and style are passed down from one generation’s rotating charge account to the next, Wom-ble’s mother gave her insight into human nature, not a preferred customer status. “My mother cares about character-soul, spirit, attitude,” says Womble, who believes her sense of style evolved from her experiences at N-M, where fashion maven Daria Retian, upon meeting the fresh-faced UT graduate, called her “Miss America.”
The best fashion season of all, says Wom-ble, is fall. “The clothes are always wonderful: tweed, wool, silk. All kinds of boots. The colors are great: purple, plum, green, black, red, brights. And lots of scarves.”
But before a fashion expedition, she scouts the stores first for the two to three new outfits she’ll buy each season. “I love Lou Lattimore, Saks, Elizabeth Arden, Stanley Korshak, Cavelletto, Ann Taylor, and Macy’s, but I’ll only go shopping out of necessity,” she says.
“I want clothes to fit. They should be flattering to my figure.” And the best way to get that, says Womble, is to look for padded shoulders, straight skirts, light hose, and flattering hats.
For momentary relief from the demands of a hectic schedule, Womble insists on one thing: a weekly massage. She admits that she’s found a masseuse who makes house calls, but don’t ask her to reveal her name. A facial every sixty days at Dona of Hungary rounds out her beauty regimen. “I don’t like to work out,’1 she says, “but I walk a lot.”
But for extended relaxation, the Womblestake off for Possum Kingdom Lake or Santa Fe. There, she says, “nobody knows ourphone number. Nobody cares about marketing strategies; what’s important is the sun,stars, and the moon.”
CATHERINE CRIER: Judging Fashion
Te best thing about being a judge,” laughs Catherine Crier, “is that they can’t start without you.”
State District Court Judge Catherine Jean Crier, thirty-one, is a third-gene ration Dallasite who took over Judge Dee Brown Walker’s bench two years ago. Before that, she practiced at Riddle & Brown for three years, preceded by a four-year stint as an assistant district attorney in Henry Wade’s office. Attorneys who find themselves in front of Judge Crier say she is not overly formal, but she certainly commands respect. Says one attorney who has argued several cases before her, “she doesn’t try to be one of the boys.” Crier has a good reputation as a civil judge. “She is very receptive to the law. She listens,” adds another attorney.
Being a lawyer, and now a judge, is the culmination of a childhood ambition for this five-foot-eight blonde, who resembles a young Grace Kelly with her high cheekbones and long blonde hair that is classically swept up on the back of her head. No one in the Crier family was surprised when Catherine, the middle of three sisters, chose law as a profession. “My mother says that I’d argue with a fence post,” says Crier, who admits to watching reruns of “Perry Mason” every Sunday night.
For a brief period in high school, Crier says, her ambition toward law wavered. Her father wanted somebody in the family to become a veterinarian, since the family runs an Arabian horse farm in Piano.
She toyed with the idea, but with graduation from Richardson High School behind her and the campus of the University of Texas at Austin ahead, Crier traded in thoughts of horse doctoring for the theories of political science. After UT, Crier followed the law path to the doors of the SMU law school. It was there that she met her future husband, Michael Barrett, now a partner with the law firm of Riddle & Brown.
“It wasn’t until after college that the clotheshorse reared,” says Crier, who has converted one room of her home into a closet/office. “In college, I wore blue jeans. My college wardrobe was very casual. However, at SMU law school, I learned a lot about the notion of ’dress for success.’
“I’ve loosened up a lot,” says Crier, a perfect size 8 who dresses in chic, but conservative, separates for the courthouse. “I choose not to wear pants to work. I don’t believe that they are appropriate for women in court, but I’ve come a long way from the blue/beige/black interviewing suit. I see young women lawyers who continue to dress very conservatively.
“Established businesswomen feel more comfortable in their brighter, bolder, and more feminine clothes. They project a more powerful image. There is a need for women [in the legal world] to move on, to grow beyond the pinstriped suit.”
Crier likes all-natural fabrics and clothes that are not “so fashiony” that they’ll be out of style after one or two seasons. She wants quality pieces and will pay for that quality. There’s no room for sentimentality in Crier’s closet. The only clothes that escape Clotheshorse Anonymous are favorite old workshirts.
“I’m not good at sales,” she says. “I plot out my purchases. I add a couple of new outfits a year and buy separates to mix and match. I buy ’classics’ that I can wear for several years.
“It’s hard to find the time to shop. It’s too frustrating to shop in a big department store. I like the personal service and consistent quality at smaller stores such as The Gazebo. I buy several things early in the season.” Her favorite colors are greens and teals, and she likes the work of new designers Michael Kors and Jimmy Gamba.
“I love fun clothes, but I don’t take it as far as I would want to,” Crier says. She admits that she might be “too conservative,” but that conservatism hardly extends to footwear. “I’m murder on shoes,” she says as she sheepishly points out stacks of shoe-boxes with contents reflecting different colors but basically the same style-three-inch pumps.
Out of court, you’ll find her relaxing in jeans, either at the couple’s home near White Rock Lake or at her family’s horse farm in Piano. “My mare Cynsation just foaled. We named the baby Cynsational. I grew up as a tomboy raising and showing horses. After almost ten years, I returned to the showring this summer and I’m finally learning to ride a cutting horse.”
With a sweep of her arm to indicate the paintings and books on impressionist work in her home, she tells of another long-lost love: “I’m a frustrated painter.” Recently, she got a fix of her favorite genre when she vacationed in San Francisco and saw the touring French impressionist exhibition.
Despite a usually crowded court docket, Crier tries for a hard-core aerobic workout three times a week. “I sweat a lot,” she grins. But when it comes to skin care, she’s out of patience: “I go through a beauty routine at home in ten minutes. But an occasional salon facial is a real treat.”
If there’s any spare time left over, Criertries to catch up on reading and pursuescommunity classes. She recently took amaster of liberal arts course in philosophyat SMU. “I took it for fun, but I took itseriously. And I got an A,” she proudlyreports. “I miss the college routine with anenormous variety of subjects to study. I amhappiest when learning and exploring newthings.
MIM WATSON: Sold on Style buying houses is like having babies. It hall happens after midnight,” says Henry Us. Miller realtor Mim Watson, who for (the past nine years has been selling residential property in the North Dallas, Park Cities, and Preston Hollow neighborhoods.
Miriam “Mim” Watson started her real estate career a decade ago when her two children had flown the nest and she had parted ways with her first husband. She was ready for a challenge. So, at age fifty, she got a real estate license and was soon immersed in the ups and downs of the Dallas house trade, dealing in properties ranging from $75,000 to more than $3 million. Taking time out of a busy day to comment on her career over the last ten years, Watson says with a smile: “It beats bridge,” and adds, “I meet a lot of interesting people. I love to sell Dallas. I like getting involved with the people and the community.”
About the time Watson took the real estate plunge, she took a plunge of another kind-down the aisle with Kimball Watson, a developer with the Oxford Co. Friends call them “Kimball and Mimball.” Together they have four children and one grandchild, eight-year-old Beau.
Although she has lived all over the world, Watson calls Dallas home. Bom and bred in North Dallas, she went to Highland Park High School during World War II and attended the University of Texas at Austin. During those years, she says, the “Dallas Look” was definitely the Neiman-Marcus look. With the influx of other retailers, that may have changed, but for Watson, there’s still one constant: “If it’s good, it’s Dallas.”
As a realtor for Henry S. Miller, she works in tailored suits and separates. There’s only one fashion no-no at work for Watson-wearing pants. Her walk-in closet is filled with skirts, blouses, and jackets, mostly in warm earth tones and complementary colors. “I’m beige. My house is beige. It’s soothing. Everything looks good against something beige.” And in neat, methodical order, her closet is divided into two parts: her winter wardrobe on one side; spring on the other.
“I like to look nice,” Watson says, “but it doesn’t have to cost a lot. It’s not a matter of money. If I find what I like, I buy it. If it’s on sale, then that’s a double bonus.” She usually starts looking at the Anne Klein rack.
Watson shops at a diversity of stores, from discount Loehmann’s to Lord & Taylor, her favorite shopping ground. Other haunts include The Carriage Shop and Lester Melnick.
“I want a little time to shop,” she says, “but I won’t just ’look’ for more than an hour. And I would never spend a whole day shopping.” Her ideal time for shopping is Saturday night at NorthPark: “No crowds.” The Watsons prefer spending their money on other projects, such as adopting a child in the Philippines and sending him to school.
Watson’s ideal day begins with classical music on the radio. Then, yoga and a jacuzzi bath. And after a day of wheeling and dealing zero lot lines and million-dollar contracts, she works in her terrace garden or binds books, a hobby that takes up a room in her home off Park Lane. Through the Craft Guild, she attends a bookbinding class once a week. She proudly displays examples of her work and says wistfully, “I’m just dying to make paper.”
The Watsons have a boat moored at Lake Texoma, and they try to escape there as much as possible. Attire for watery weekends is top-siders and jeans.
But keeping her anchored in one place for any length of time is not an easy task. Because she works out of her home most of the time, her phone is constantly ringing and she is always on the run, either to show a house or host an open house. “If I break my leg,” laughs Watson as she eyes the dormant baby grand in her living room, “I’ll take up the piano.” (Ironically, while we were shooting the Dallas Look, she broke not a leg but her right arm. She was back at work within days. While driving, she says, she keeps her .cast up-sort of a handicapped high sign to other drivers.)
As soon as that cast comes off, Watson hopes to indulge her one great desire: to jet-ski, wearing an old-fashioned bathing suit that comes down to “here,” she says, pointing to her knees. “Now, that’s really sexy.”
BARBARA WOMBLE: A Crescent Role