I’m really excited for today’s The Style Mind post! Marymount’s First Lady, Mrs. Shank, was kind enough to do this interview for me and I am seriously loving her answers! She is the definition of a classic, fun and generous woman! I hope you enjoy her responses as much as I did!
1. Where did you attend school? What was your major?
I graduated from Xavier University in Cincinnati, OH with a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting and an MBA.
2. How long have you been in the DC area? What do you love most about it?
We moved to the D.C. area a little over 2 ½ years ago when Matt became President of Marymount. I enjoy the rich history and museums, the great restaurants and the unique opportunities and experiences that the area offers. I appreciate the diverse population and the opportunity to meet people from all around the world.
3. What’s your typical day like?
I drop the girls off at school and pick them up each day. While they’re in school, I stay busy running errands, catching up on typical mom and wife duties, volunteering at their school, or taking advantage of the great things the D.C. area has to offer. Over the past year, much of my free time was focused on 2 different projects – the renovation of the Sacred Heart of Mary Chapel on campus and co-chair of the Diocese of Arlington Catholic Charities Ball, both of which I really enjoyed being a part of. I try to get in some type of exercise each day – working out in the Lee Center gym or catching a Pilates or yoga class at a nearby studio. I’m currently training for my first half marathon in April so I’ve been focused on a daily training plan. I’m an avid golfer, and once the weather warms up, I’ll get in a couple of rounds of golf each week. I enjoy being an active part of the Marymount community and try to attend as many of the university and athletic events as our schedule allows.
Your Personal Style…
4. Would you say you’re knowledgeable about fashion?
I’m learning. I really wasn’t interested in fashion growing up. I was perfectly content in t-shirts and jeans, and liked wearing a school uniform because it was comfortable and made life easy in the morning. When I was Grace and Olivia’s age, my mother used to fight with me to put on a dress (and I secretly wore shorts under them every time). I’ve obviously evolved a lot over the years – and given up the shorts under the dress. I’ve learned much more about fashion since we moved here and pay a little extra attention to trends and designers. Since Matt and I represent Marymount and are expected to attend a wide variety of university and community events, I made a conscious effort to step up my wardrobe a notch and be a bit more fashionable. It was a little intimidating coming to a university with a Fashion Department – I certainly didn’t want to face the wrath of students or faculty for my wardrobe selections, or find Clinton Kelly and Stacy London on my doorstep . I happily accept a lot of input from daughter, Grace – she is my go-to on fashion advice when I’m getting dressed. For 7 years old, she has a pretty good eye and normally picks out my shoes. If I’m not sure about an outfit combination or a new purchase, her response is the deciding factor.
5. How would you describe your style?
Comfort is key. I prefer jeans and sneakers, but will happily dress up in a gown as long as the fit and fabric feel good. I like classic looks and also enjoy things that catch the eye – a great print, bright color, interesting detail and design, stylish shoes, and fun, bold necklaces. I focus on pieces that can be layered. We have such a variety of events to attend with different audiences and attire requirements– from casual athletic events, to business casual university events, to business attire events with alumni or donors, to formal community events – so it’s nice to be able to dress things up and down and mix and match to fit the audience and occasion.
6. Do you have any fashion icons? If so, who are your ultimate ones?
I don’t try and model my style off of anyone, but I will flip through magazines and see what certain individuals are wearing and maybe pick up a few tips. Princess Catherine has a very classic and elegant look, and is always stunning whether she’s in jeans or a gown. She appears to have some favorite designers of her own and wardrobe items that she is happy to wear over and over again. Blake Lively always looks incredible and glamorous, loves bright colors, and has a very chic and trendy style. Jennifer Aniston is more of a minimalist with a simple, casual style. Unless she’s on the red carpet, she dresses very comfortably with a limited color palette. Grace and Olivia are big fans of Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez so we always check out pictures of them in magazines. It has been interesting to watch their style evolve over the past several years as they have matured.
7. Where are your favorite places to shop?
Online from the comfort of my home. I typically only go into stores when I absolutely have to (I’m sure this will elicit major gasps from your readers). I have completed all of my Christmas shopping online for the past two years with the exception of two quick trips to the mall. I don’t enjoy going into clothing stores as it triggers one of two events a) feeling frustrated and overwhelmed by the amount of clothing on hand, not wanting to try things on, or irritated that they are out of my size or b) liking way too many things and later returning half of them when my guilt sets in. If I’m looking for something specific, I have a better chance of finding what I want in my size online and have it shipped right to our front door. For example, I needed a red gown for the recent gala that I co-chaired and found a beautiful Tadashi Shoji red lace gown online at Nordstrom’s – exactly what I was looking for. The online search and purchase took less than 15 minutes and it arrived at the house in 2 days. I could have spent an entire day at Tyson’s and returned exhausted with no gown in hand. I like Nordstrom for free shipping and returns on online purchases, and also appreciate their in-store personal shoppers. They were a huge help to me in updating my wardrobe for our move to the D.C. area. RueLaLa is one of my favorite online sites. I’ve purchased some incredible designer merchandise at bargain prices. My husband and daughters give me a hard time because there are always packages from RueLaLa showing up on our doorstep. I also find cute things for our girls on Zulily.
8. Do you have any favorite designers?
I love Lilly Pulitzer dresses in the summer – comfortable and flattering with great prints and colors. We have numerous formal events to attend throughout the year and I several dresses and gowns from Tadashi Shoji, Kay Unger and Carmen Marc Valvo. I like the unique design details and visual interest, the quality and comfort of the fabric, and the attention to detail in the dresses that I purchased. I also really like Kate Spade – classic pieces with color and sophistication. Betsey Johnson jewelry is another favorite, especially her necklaces – I have several pieces that are colorful and fun, and I always receive compliments when I wear them.
9. What’s more important to you: frequently shopping or utilizing what’s in your closet?
Since shopping for me isn’t something that I truly enjoy doing, but rather something that I must do, I would say definitely utilizing what’s in my closet…although my husband might say otherwise. It would be fun to invite a few Fashion students to go through my closet and play with some new outfit combinations.
MU Fashion …
10. How would you describe style at MU?
Very individualistic and a wide spectrum of looks. I’m impressed with the effort and thought that some students put into their outfits just to go to class – well beyond a hoodie and jeans. The area we moved from was fairly conservative and each age group maintained a pretty consistent look and liked to shop in the same types of stores. People certainly didn’t push the envelope when it came to fashion. It’s refreshing to see a wide variety of fashion of campus.
11. What are some trends that you’ve learned or seen from MU students?
Students wear scarves almost year round and I’ve picked up a few tips on the variety of ways to wear them. With all of the cold weather lately, I’ve seen lots of great accessories including stylish hats, boots, tights and leggings. The girls and I are always checking out the shoes around campus – colorful sneakers, high heels and spiked/studded shoes.
12. Your daughters, Grace and Olivia, have been in Portfolio in Motion before. Do you think they’ll be on the catwalk again this year?
PIM is their favorite event and they would be honored to be a part of the fashion show again – they’ve had a lot of fun being in the show the past 2 years. They enjoy watching the student models walk in their very high heels – I think Grace secretly wishes they made them in her size. They enjoy putting on their own fashion show at the house when we have guests over, and mimic the poses and walks of the models they’ve seen in the fashion show. In a few weeks, they will be participating in the American Girl Fashion Show to benefit for Junior League of Northern Virginia.
13. And finally, what’s the biggest piece of advice you can give to MU students who want to be stylish?
Evaluate and embrace your body shape and select clothing that flatters it. Invoke a little of your personality into your wardrobe whether in your shoes, accessories, or color selection. Being stylish doesn’t have to cost a lot of money or entail wearing top designer apparel. I enjoyed judging last year’s Voyage of Utopia fashion competition and was impressed with the outfits that some of the students assembled with pieces they found in thrift stores.
Thank you Mrs. Shank!