It's been just over a year since Effi Barry assumed the role of First Lady of Washington . . . "I don't like the name much," she says, "but it's a good opportunity to be a resource person."
A lot has changed in that time. At 35, she is pregnant with her first child. She is cutting back on her social schedule. ("I got caught in 'the New York Hustle.'") She says she is looking hard at her endorsements and will "limit them to those who are really involved in assisting others."
Now five months' pregnant, her well-tailored business suits have been pushed to the back of the closet, and she's thinking about a materinity wardrobe. "The zippers got so low I could be arrested."
Always interested in clothes, Effi Barry used to sew most of her own before taking on her full-time job as a marketing specialist for Pacific Consultants. Now she can barely find the time to shop. ("My friends tell me there isn't much very exciting out there anyway.") Getting her by are "care packages" from her mother Polly Harris of Toledo, Ohio. The last contained two maternity dresses and two stuffed animals.
"There was a time you couldn't keep me from wearing pants," says Barry, whose favorite at-home attire is jeans and a baggy sweater.
Comfort is her major requirement for all clothes, about which she says, "I have middle-class values." A former model, she attended the Hampton Institute, majoring in home economics education and specializing in fashion and design.
Although her fashion image is sporty and colorful, Barry sounds a bit like a sensible home-ec teacher when talking about clothes.
"I'd rather than one good dress than three lesser ones."
"I'm a pockets person and I'm lost without them."
"One wears maternity clothes only four or five months, so ideally they should be adaptable to being worn later simple enought to be worn often and in different ways, and washable."
"Everything I buy is handwashabale, even if the tag doesn't say so. I've had some bad experiences with cleaners, and besides there is often an unpleasant smell."
"My ironing board is always up."
Barry is partial to bright colors, particularly oranges and purples -- "They called my gypsy in high school" -- and expects that she continue to wear them while pregnant."Unless I put on 180 pounds all of a sudden." (She has so far gained only 10 pounds and is being pushed to add more.)
"I love bright colors so," she says, "that if I had $1 million I'd open a museum. For local talent," she adds. She believes that being surrounded by bright-colored paintings, fabrics, clothes, whatever, has psychological value in stressful times "and helps you get away from it all.
"Nothing," she says, "makes you feel better than knowing you look good." She has been known to approach a strange man on the street and say, "Excuse me, sir, but you certainly look good today." Before they recover from the surprise of the compliment, Barry says with a laugh, "I have disappeared into the crowd."
Although she did not know her husband during what she calls his "dashiki days," she believes she has influenced his style of dress. He often will pick out several items in a mens wear store -- often Raleigh's and always in downtown Washington -- and ask her to help with the final decision.
And now for more about the baby.
Barry -- "I feel like 20 rather than 35" -- plans to continue in her K Street office until the baby is due. She would be "pleased, in fact, if I went into labor downtown . . . it's so much closer to Columbia Hospital than the Beltway ride from home."
When she met Pope John Paul on his visit here, he pronounced, "'Blessings on you and your family.'" A short time later she learned she was pregnant.
She has had anmiocentesis (a test to determine possible birth defects, and as a bonus, the sex of the baby). The mayor know if they're expecting a boy or girl, but she doesn't.
"It's my first and maybe my only child," she says. "I don't want to take away the excitement and surprise. I want to wake up and there it is."
Marion Barry has strong feelings about the baby's name. "If it is a boy it should be Marion Barry III." She disagrees. "Say he is a violinist. Whatever he is, he will always risk comparison with those with the same name."
"But," she adds quickly, "I do understnad that this may be his first and only child and I understand the act of pride that is part of sharing his name."
Effi Barry admits, however, that she has consulted a lawyer friend to see who has the right to name the baby.
It if is a girl, the mayor has told her, "You can name her anything you like." Her response: "Thanks a lot, friend."