Style Through the Decades
Article by Michael DeVault | photography by Martin G. Meyers
Special Thanks to Penny & Eddie Hakim
In the play As You Like It, Shakespeare illuminates the seven ages of Man beginning with infancy and ending with incapacity. But what of the seven ages of Woman? BayouLife Magazine sat down with seven impressive ladies from seven different decades to find out their secrets to happiness, beauty and living. With wisdom and humor, these ladies share with us what inspires them in youth and what keeps them from slowing down as they grow older. Hailing from all walks of life, each of these women represents a unique viewpoint on life and style, and share wisdom gleaned from the experiences they’ve gained at each step of the way.
SIMRAN DHALIWAL EMAUS
Simran Dhaliwal Emaus grew up around her family’s numerous businesses, and even though she knew she would end up working in business, she avoided the subject in college. Instead, she had something else on her mind: the mind itself.
“I wanted to study something different. I like the brain and how it works,” Simran says, who graduated from Tulane University with a degree in neuroscience–hardly what one would expect from a young woman who at first seems more Penny than Amy Farrah Fowler. Yet, Simran’s confidence and poise betray her intelligence. When she starts to talk, you want to pay attention.
From a style perspective, Simran’s Indian heritage informs almost every decision, from casual wear to eveningwear. “I’m Indian, so everything I wear incorporates something Indian.” Day to day, she sticks with conservative choices, usually skinny jeans, “in any color,” and a muscle tee with fun or hip sayings. If she’s dressing for an evening out on the town with her husband, Bradley, she sticks to a basic dress that may incorporate a pattern, and then she accessorizes. “I’m a huge jewelry fan,” Simran says. Pearls are a ubiquitous presence, and she encourages wearing them at all times. “I always wear pearls or some sort of studs, even if I’m doing hard labor like stocking at one of my businesses.
For Simran, dressing well is about confidence. It helps her define who she is to the world and reminds her to maintain her poise. And it’s not a shallow decision, to pay attention to fashion. “You should look good for yourself, not for others. You should feel comfortable with who you are.”
Simran embraces her heritage, and she makes frequent trips back to India, where she still has family. When she’s there, it gives her a chance to shop and to soak in the colors and patterns. “The culture is just so colorful itself, it’s beautiful to me,” Simran says.
When you first meet Susan Saad, it’s easy to picture her during college standing at the beauty counter, poised and prepped to apply the perfect makeup for the perfect outfit. She’s got the perky personality and bright smile that makes her approachable and easy to talk to. It was this job, which she worked before graduating from Our Lady of Holy Cross, that led her into her program of choice, counseling. “You’re basically a counselor,” Susan says. “I think I really enjoyed hearing about their personal lives more than actually doing their makeup. So it was a good fit.”
Before she could put her skills to practice, though, she met the love of her life, Marc, and decided to skip a counseling career to manage his medical practice, which brought them to Monroe, a town Susan’s loved since an overwhelmingly positive first impression. “I thought everyone was perfect. Everyone was very, very pretty, well put together, and there were some of the best dinner parties I’ve ever been to,” she says, pointing out that New Orleans is a far more casual city than Monroe. “Everyone here is genuine and friendly.”
That genuine attitude comes across in Susan’s style choices, as she strives to let her mood dictate her look. “When I’m getting dressed, I try to determine what I want to feel like that night,” Susan says. “Do I want to be a little fashion forward, a little funky, or a little playful?” To that end, she rarely follows fashion trends, opting instead to stay close to her roots. “I love getting dressed up. It’s fun for me, because I kind of go where I want to go.”
She encourages women to avoid boxing themselves in on fashion choices. Instead of picking just one store, shop around and make bold choices. One of her favorite bold choices? A pair of sequined M.C. Hammer pants. “I wear them all the time.” She also recommends “a statement necklace or three” as a way to set yourself apart. “I wear them like they’re Mardi Gras beads. I layer them.”
HOLLY SHAW BOYD
With three sons and a husband who works in outdoor equipment, the word “casual comfort” takes on a whole new meaning for Holly Shaw Boyd. “I rarely ever dress up!” she says. “We ball park it, we hunt and fish, and run and play. I’m in yoga clothes or athletic wear most of the time.”
That’s not to say, though, that she doesn’t make an effort to look good. Even in choosing athletic wear or a good pair of yoga pants–she’s a yoga instructor, after all–it’s important to pay attention to how it fits. “If you look good in what you’re wearing, I think you’ll feel good,” Holly says. When she’s jetting out to class or to the grocery store, she always grabs a flattering sweater or her Lululemon jacket. With winter just around the corner, she’s excited. “During the winter my favorite boots, the boots I tend to pull on no matter what I’m wearing, are my Manitoba,” she says of her three pair of Muckluck boots. “I wear them all the time.”
Living in a house with four men or, as she puts it, “a house full of testosterone,” can be a challenge. So, sometimes it’s fun to get out the fancy clothes and put on the makeup. “It’s fun to play dress up,” Holly says. “But it’s playing dress up.” That means it’s important to have a good time, enjoy yourself and be “real,” which is a lesson she hopes she’s passed on to Cecilia, her “other” daughter. The Boyd family hosted Cecilia as a foreign exchange student, and even today the Boyd kids call her “our sister.” When Cecilia visits, it gives Holly the opportunity to impart some of the wisdom she’s gleaned over the years. The most valuable lesson she has is the one she hopes Cecilia has learned. “Being real and being true to yourself is probably the most important thing to do,” she says.
DEE McDONALD LEDBETTER
Quality matters to Dee McDonald Ledbetter. “If it’s made well, it lays well and looks pretty,” she says. That’s why she pays extra attention to fabric choices and how something is made. In fact, for Dee that quality is what drives a good design. It’s also what makes picking her favorite fashion choice from her closet nearly impossible. She has paid such close attention to the details that matter that when she considers favorites she can’t pick. “I don’t have one thing that stands out. I love them all that much.”
Dee studied education and was a teacher in Richardson, TX. Later, she worked in banking. This background has helped foster what Dee calls “conservative forward,” and she says, “I love beautiful lines, but I like something with a little twist.” The designer that comes close to epitomizing her particular taste is Carolina Herrera, though she stops short of calling Herrera her favorite. “I don’t know that I have a favorite. I know I love what I can’t afford,” she says with a laugh.
So Dee uses her attention to details and keeps her closets in check by applying a single rule. “I try to discipline myself to buy only what I love, and not what I like,” Dee says. “That’s really been helpful to me.”
In a world of attention to this kind of detail and quality, classic choices become important. But that’s not to say Dee isn’t without a style all her own. Quite the contrary, she says, especially if you apply her second rule. “Accessorize!”
“Everybody has the little black dress,” Dee says. “It’s how you accessorize that little black dress that makes you different from everyone else.” Through accessories–maybe the perfect necklace or a set of unique bangles–your individual style comes through and begins to inform the classic, which otherwise might appear boring. “Accessories add your individual style to an outfit,” Dee says. “Accessories also help your wardrobe go further.”
If you sense a touch of international flair in Amy Norris’ look, it’s not your imagination. Instead, it’s the influence of Amy’s lifestyle. A retired travel agent with The Travel Company, Amy spent years working to help people build the perfect business trips, vacations and honeymoons. It was a career choice borne out of a love of traveling. “When you visit places like Italy and Paris, and you see glamorous women even in the countryside, there’s a sense of style,” she says.
Amy tries to recreate that sense of style in her own look, in which she aspires to the kind of style tone set by Audrey Hepburn. “I tend to like to look elegant but casual, more simplicity than high fashion. At least that’s what I try to adhere to, beautiful designs in classic and simple clothing,” she says. More times than not, that means you’ll find her in simple blacks and whites in simple patterns or even solids. “It helps to not detract from your own sense of grace and inner beauty,” Amy says.
This timeless look is something she’s carried forward since her days as an English major at LSU. “When I was a freshman at LSU, we wore dresses and scarves to the football games,” Amy says, though she notes times were changing. “By the time I left, things had become a little more casual.” Still, style was important, as was etiquette.
Spend any time with Amy and it’s easy to see that poised, elegant confidence that comes with years of business experience and travel. Amy says she’s inspired by the Italian style and the confidence shared by Italian women. “They carry themselves with grace–and definitely in a sexy way,” Amy says. It’s something that she noticed first in the larger Italian cities, but it’s present in the country girls too. “But it’s in a much more casual way.”
On the accessories front, Amy says she tends to keep it simple with a couple of “really nice pieces” and she’s careful not to overdo it–with one exception. She laughs. “I do like big earrings,” she says.
For more than 40 years, Lillian Green McCullin was a staple of banking in Lincoln Parish, first at Lincoln Bank, which became Central Bank and, eventually, Iberia Bank. During this long career, she racked up a number of firsts: first female loan officer in Lincoln Parish, first female branch manager and the first female president of the Louisiana Peach Festival. “So I’ve had a lot of firsts.”
Lillian’s career has helped to define her sense of style and fashion, which she describes as “pretty conservative.” Elegance, though, may be a better word for it, the kind of style one would expect from a career banker. “We suited up every day,” she says. In the beginning that meant dress suits, blouses and jackets with a coordinated skirt. Things began to change, though. “Then, the pantsuits came in.”
Pantsuits not withstanding, Lillian doesn’t shy away from color, though she avoids most overly complicated patterns. “I like bright colors, but I don’t like flowery prints,” she says, pointing out that orange–hardly a “conservative” color–is her favorite. “That’s just been in the last few years. When you retire, you get more freedom to do whatever.”
Good style seems to come naturally to Lillian, which she credits to her mother, a Louisiana Tech home economics graduate who made clothing for the children. “My mother had a great sense of style,” Lillian says. It’s a trait she hopes she’s passed on to her daughter, the national sales manager for Laundry by Shelli Segal. “She keeps me straight in the wardrobe department,” Lillian says of her daughter. Good style also doesn’t have to be expensive, though, and Lillian says she shops locally.
On the jewelry front, Lillian’s consistency continues. She doesn’t frequently change out her jewelry and, instead, wears a few nice pieces regularly. She shows a delicate diamond bracelet, an add-a-link that she assembled via gift certificates given by her family over many holidays. It’s her favorite piece, she says. “A lot of people have contributed to this piece of jewelry, and it’s really special.”
Pioneer, LA is hardly the place from which one would expect a fashion maven to hail. Yet, perched attentively on the edge of her seat in a stylishly slinky black and white top, Sally Hines looks more like she’s just arrived from the pages of Vanity Fair than from Pioneer. At 91, she’s not planning on slacking up any time soon, either. “No matter what your age, I always believe that you should present yourself in the best way possible,” says Hines, imparting a bit of the wisdom she’s developed over the years.
A homemaker, Sally married when she was sixteen and, together, the Hines family traveled the country as part of her husband’s work. “He was an electrical engineer,” she says, so the family followed the jobs. But, they had children, and the children were growing up. “One day, when my daughter Linda was starting school, we decided we better settle somewhere.” That daughter, by the way, was Linda Reeves, proprietor of Monroe’s storied Signatures by Linda Reeves. Of her mother, Linda gushes, “She was just born with style, to come from a small town, to work the way she did. But I think that’s what’s kept her young. Also, she thinks young.” Eternal youth is apparent in a fresh application of lipstick and a elegant dusting of light pink on Sally’s cheekbones, a practice she attributes to her mother. “My mother always loved makeup, no matter what. That’s how I grew up.”
Starting out, Sally was more interested in making sure her two daughters were stylish before herself. “I always wanted them to look pretty, and I just gave them the look,” she says. But, eventually that changed. “As I got older and they left home, then I wanted to be that fashion icon. And I still want to be.”
She chooses unique, subtle outfits that are tailored and simple, an effort to accentuate her frame. “I’m tall, and I don’t like a lot of jewelry or accessories.” If she could pick just one designer to define her style sense, Sally says it would be Ellen Tracy. “She was tall, tailored, simple, sophisticated and beautiful.”
She sums up her love of Ellen Tracy with a statement that could just as soon be about herself. “Timeless beauty is always in style.”