Living

Key fashion advice from a Charlotte style writer of old, Crystal Dempsey

Crystal Dempsey, 50, was born in Webster County, W.Va., and earned a B.S. in journalism from West Virginia University. She moved to Charlotte in 1988 to work at The Charlotte Observer as a copy editor, layout editor and production editor. While focusing on design and layout, she picked up overtime hours writing freelance stories, and was named the Style writer in 2000. Now Dempsey owns and runs “From The Hip Communications,” a public relations and marketing company named after her Observer column.

Q. Tell me a few of your style phases.

A. There’s the preppie phase, the granola phase, the Stevie Nicks phase.

Q. What’s something you bought as a child?

A. Roller skates with blue glitter wheels, with blue metallic lace-ups and blue pompons.

Q. What does style mean to you?

A. It’s how someone carries themselves no matter what they have on, and how they live their life. It’s not defined by paychecks or labels or brands.

Q. Tell me what you wear to a first client meeting.

A. I try not to be anything other than what I am. So probably a skirt or plain pants, a kind of flowy top, and jewelry. I dress casually, capriciously chic.

Q. Do tell.

A. I have to be comfortable in what I’m wearing. If not, I’m not focused on the task at hand.

Q. How was your sense of style affected by working on the Style section?

A. I probably experimented with fishnets when I shouldn’t have. I would fall in love with things I could never afford. I really stopped liking labels. I learned during Fashion Week that often the beauty editors didn’t wear makeup.

Q. Did you receive any notable good or bad advice?

A. The worst piece of advice from a makeup artist: You should always wear orange lipstick. I was a redhead. The best piece of advice from Samantha Smith, my makeup artist BFF who now lives in Atlanta: “Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize.”

Q. To what products are you loyal?

A. Image Skincare products. I love me some Bobbi Brown tinted moisturizer. I am also partial to Buxom lip gloss, and these chubby Revlon lip pencils. Davines hair products, and when I wear my hair curly, Wella Curl Craft, and Marrakesh Hair Oil for humidity.

Q. Where do you shop in Charlotte?

A. Consignment, thrift and Target. Junior League WearHouse, Clothes Mentor, Sweet Repeats. What saved my life when I was a fashion writer was called A Closet Full, a wonderfully curated collection of plus sized clothing, by the late Linda Moneta.

Q. Do you like any designers?

A. The Rodarte Sisters, who I just want to look inside their magical brains. Zac Posen, Duro Olowu. I liked Bill Blass because he was always quite kind to American women and their silhouettes.

Q. Describe your look in three words.

A. Casual, comfortable, pseudo-bohemian.

Q. Any celebrity fashion icons?

A. Stevie Nicks. She is just who she is and makes no apologies for it. No matter what size she is, she’s kept that look for her whole life. On the other side is Tavi Gevinson, who created the online magazine “Rookie.” She became a voice for a younger generation that didn’t have much of a voice.

Q. Tell me about your shoes.

A. I love cowboy boots. Old Gringo is my preferred brand. The thing about a good pair of cowboy boots is they can give you superpowers. I love my Toms and what they are about.

Q. Do you have any particular fashion quirks?

A. I am a sucker for tie dye. That came after my topstitch phase. I own way too many T-shirts.

Q. Give me some fresh fashion advice for women.

A. Stop being so hung up on getting older. I love women who are older, and they tell you they don’t care any more. And I love girls under the age of 8 or 9, because they are still dressing for themselves.

Q. What book could you recommend?

A. “Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith,” by Anne Lamott. Every woman should read that book because it talks about aging, and what really matters in life, and being comfortable with who you are.

Q. What’s your favorite drink after a long day?

A. In the summer, Vinho Verde, and in the winter, a good glass of a red blend called Cocoban.

Q. What’s your favorite comfort food?

A. Peanut butter on apples, or peanut butter filled pretzels.

Q.What’s a great meal you’ve had in Charlotte?

A. My 49th birthday celebration at Soul Gastrolounge. We had sashimi tacos and saganaki. I love the mussels at Bistro La Bon. I love the brunch at Bean. Carrot bacon. That’s all I’m saying.

Q. What wouldn’t you be caught dead wearing?

A. Something with a big brand name across my chest.

Q. What can’t you believe you once wore?

A. Red, silver and blue false eyelashes.

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