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Tracy Reese helps Mrs. O and other stylistas make colorful, chic statements

September 8, 2012

On Tuesday night at the Democratic National Convention, first lady Michelle Obama wowed not only with her heartfelt speech but also with her dress. Custom-made by Tracy Reese — one of the first fashionista’s go-to designers — the damask sheath rocked Reese’s trademark blend of worldly prints and bold color. D.C. fans of the Detroit-born designer can pick up her femme, powerful styles at Ginger (7114 Bethesda Lane, Bethesda; 301-664-9242) and Proper Topper (1350 Connecticut Ave. NW; 202-842-3055). And you can order your own version of the convention-chic frock (with a populist price tag of around $399) during a trunk show at Proper Topper co-sponsored by Express’ Styles team Friday through Sunday. We recently chatted with Reese about fall — and Mrs. O.

Hot hues are always a part of your designs. Why?
Colors are like stepping into the sunshine. They evoke emotion. I find them stimulating both in clothing and in home design.

So what shades did you play with for fall and winter?
Orange was at the top of my list, which is interesting. It works so well against neutrals, but I also played with purple and orange together. They’re such perfect mates and so flattering on so many women.

What influenced your fall collection?
I wanted to simplify in terms of silhouette. So I’m back with classical shapes, some fit and flare and pieces that are all about draping.

You’re also known for rocking a print.
Yes — I think they really express a concept or an idea. You can make a print out of absolutely anything — a photograph, a floral, old historical wallpaper.

What’s the secret to an outfit that’s both feminine and powerful?
A lot of it is the silhouette, wearing shapes that flatter you. There are lots of experimental shapes out there that don’t do the body any favors. I also love the juxtaposition of masculine and feminine, say, a boyfriend jacket over a wispy dress. Head-to-toe feminine can just get too cloying!

Why are dresses so central to your company?
They’re the most modern thing to wear, because they’re so easy. There’s no mixing and matching outfits. A dress is one piece, and it does it all. It’ll never go away because it’s the most simple, modern thing.

And you’ve recently gotten back into bags and shoes for Anthropologie.
Yes, I don’t like to over-dictate to women, but I do like the idea of providing things that complete a look and offer a lifestyle.

What’s a typical workday like for you?
There’s always a meeting or two, and fittings. But lots of it is communications, sourcing and just constantly trying to gather ideas and sketch. I soul search and think, “What’s the message that I want to put out there?” And that often starts with fabric.

First lady Michelle Obama loves your clothes. What do you think of her style?
It’s been amazing seeing her in the White House, because she actually has a sense of personal style, and she’s not bound by first-lady dictates. It’s refreshing, because you’re used to them all wearing a red suit. The fact that she wears things that are attainable is really cool. It says there’s not just one way to attain style.

 

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