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Statehouse fashion statements

By Jen Wood Cunningham

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Fashion is everywhere, and the state Capitol is no exception, especially during a legislative session. As the session was wrapping up a week ago, I was able to snag a few shots of ladies and gentlemen who are both politically and fashion savvy.

While roaming the marble halls, one would expect a sea of suits in navy and black. I did see some conservative suits -- and I am not referring to the politics of the person wearing them. But many folks also had changed it up with fun colors and accessories.

Spring colors and patterns were found all around the Capitol.

Lobbyist Patti Hamilton wore a floral cardigan and Delegate Doug Skaff wore a spring suit with a pastel blue shirt and a blue paisley tie. I also was pleasantly surprised to find Delegate Jeff Eldridge donning a seersucker suit. By looking at a few men, one would think it was the first day of session -- pulling out all of the stops from their wardrobe.

Delegate Ryan Ferns wore a three-piece pinstripe suit. Far from the oversize, poorly tailored pinstripe suits I've seen, this suit gave me hope that pinstripes shouldn't die along with the double-breasted suit. Indeed, pinstripes should live!

I loved Legislative Auditor Aaron Allred's lemon and black polka-dot tie. It gave a sunny-day twist to a black suit. After all, who doesn't think bowties are cool? As I passed Allred later in the day, he had shed his jacket and I realized he had been hiding a great fashion surprise: yellow suspenders. Ooh la la ... Geek Chic! His look stopped me in my tracks, so I had to take another picture. He put his shades on just for fun.

The last day of the session might have been hectic on the floor, but the fashion for some was a bit relaxed. It was a long day and the fashion-savvy knew they wanted to wear something that could look good from day and way into the night. Some men, like lobbyist Frank Hartman, went a bit more business-casual by dressing down suits sans tie or dressing up jeans with a crisp white shirt and tan sport coat. Ladies wore colored jeans with pumps and a fitted jacket or a belted, patterned dress with a blazer. Lobbyists Laura Jordan and Rudi Raynes Kidder know how to bring it for spring.

Lane Horter and Erin Clark, West Virginia University legislative interns from Kanawha County, showed off snappy casual attire and gave a young twist to conservative workplace looks.

Lawyers and staffers buzzed through the halls wearing dresses that Jackie herself would have loved. Abstract patterns, peplums and black, belted sheaths. A pop of color in pink or peeptoe goldenrod pumps. A nude shoe and black blazer to balance a bright pattern. These women have brains and beauty. These ladies are savvy and fierce!

Many women, like myself, wore flats. I'm not normally a sensible-shoe kind of gal, but I've heard from many of my girlfriends who clock many steps on their pedometers every session what those marble floors can do to a woman's feet.

Still, women such as Delegate Suzette Raines were wearing fabulous heels. Even though she missed out on walking in the High Heel Hike at Charleston Town Center Mall earlier that morning because of her role at the Statehouse, Raines took plenty of steps that Saturday in a pair of beautiful navy pumps with eyelet cutouts. They are great for work -- sensible but not at all matronly.

Shoes weren't the only accessory making statements in the Statehouse. Susan Hill is known for her love of jewelry. She also brings a feminine flair to the office look. A gray heather skirt, ruffled blouse and a black cardigan with sequin trim are tied together with a black belt and a black and pewter necklace. She holds another piece from her collection -- a floral statement necklace. She is very put together and this look could easily go from day to evening. I love that Hill brings sparkle to outfits through jewelry or accents, like the trim on her cardigan.

Jewel tones brighten like precious stones and look amazing on every complexion. An amethyst blouse is stunning on Hill, and a light sapphire satin jacket is a bright and smart look for Delegate Meshea Poore.

***

Fashion homework: Try out jewel tones and find one that brightens your eyes and smile. You'll be surprised how great you look and how many compliments you'll receive.

Fashion-forward thought: I love when someone pushes the envelope a bit, just peeling back one of the corners. The real point of fashion is exploring and identifying your own personal style.

Follow Jen Wood Cunningham on Twitter at @miss_sociable.


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