On experiments and deliberate choices

More, always: bracelets by Carola Swimmer. “I never just wear one.”
More, always: bracelets by Carola Swimmer. “I never just wear one.”

Charlotte native Cary Bernstein started Spay Neuter Charlotte in 2011 after serving on the board of the Charlotte Humane Society. “My agenda is to push forward with making Charlotte a no-kill community,” she says. The business opened in 2011 and added a Pineville location in 2014. In addition to surgery, the clinics provide basic medical services at a low cost. “You shouldn’t have to be rich to own a pet,” says Bernstein. She and her husband, Alan Kronovet, live in Cherry and have two children, Zoe and Eli Kronovet.

Q. Did you learn about style as a child?

A. My mother was not a clothes person. My father bought a lot of my mother’s clothing for her. It was my mother-in-law who taught me how to shop.

Q. Anyone else?

A. My grandmother was well put together. She went from a situation where she had a lot of money to buy clothes and then she didn’t, and it didn’t matter. Subliminally it must have had an effect on me. My mother-in-law guided me to look for things that would be flattering. She inspired me to understand that clothes give you a certain degree of confidence.

Q. What does style mean to you?

A. It gives me a sense of confidence to operate in the world. I am who I am, and my clothes do not define who I am. It’s also about how you feel about yourself. Every woman knows that you put something on and you feel great or you don’t. It’s good to feel “I got this.”

Q. What would surprise people about your style choices?

A. For a very long time all I wore is black clothing. Now I wear a lot more color.

Q. What colors do you wear?

A. I made a big jump. I went to gray. And I wear a lot of blue because it looks good with my eyes, or so people tell me.

Q. How does your sense of style help you do your job?

A. I talk to my staff all the time about how their image is important. I feel like I have to represent what I want them to emulate. We deal with the public every day; you want to impress the folks sitting in the room that we are professional. The style of our clinic is very deliberate. The NoDa clinic is eclectic, and it’s intentional. Just because we do things less expensively doesn’t mean our quality is less.

Q. What piece of clothing was a game changer for you?

A. Cropped pants. I’m not a small person. I didn’t ever imagine they would look good on me. My daughter talked me into wearing a pair, and they looked great, and I rocked it.

Q. Do you have any favorite designers?

A. I wear a lot of different things and I buy what I like instead of who made it. The J. Crew cropped pants look good on me so I bought four pairs in different colors.

Q. What are your staples?

A. In the summer I wear a dress every day because it is cool and easy. If I have a uniform in the winter it’s a really nice pair of pants, a layered shirt, boots and accessories. I have a lot of boots ... There’s a brand I love called Fly London and they sell them at Via Veneto.

Q. Do you have a signature piece?

A. I have an orange Michael Kors sweater I’ve been throwing over everything. I’m sure my staff is sick of seeing it. I wear a lot of long sweaters.

Q. What jeans fit you best?

A. I wear nice jeans a lot in the winter. I have 7 For All Mankind, I wear Calvin Klein, I wear J. Crew jeans. Jeans are not always easy to find, because I’m not going to wear a pair with a 2-inch zipper. I always buy two pair of what I like. Jeans tell the truth. Your jeans will tell you if you had too much to eat last night.

Q. How do you shop?

A. When I’m looking for something I am pretty focused on what I want, and I’m not afraid to spend a few hours trying to find it. I’m not afraid of experimenting. I just don’t like to experiment if it is costly.

Q. Do you have a prized possession?

A. Two gold necklaces from my mom. My father gave them to my mom a year after they were married, and they were near and dear to her, and when she passed she left them to me. She treasured them and so do I.

Q. Are you a watch person?

A. Yes, it’s a gene in our family. My father was bitten by that gene and he passed it on to me. Typically I wear a man’s watch, with a bigger face.

Q. Describe your look in three words.

A. Understated, well accessorized.

Q. What does your hair say about you?

A. For years I tried to have straight hair, but finally realized my hair is who I am to a T. On any given day it can look any given way.

Q. What hair products do you use?

A. Kevin Murphy – I use all of his stuff.

Q. What scent do you wear?

A. I wear Trish McEvoy, Precious Pink Jasmine.

Q. Where will you take your next vacation?

A. We are going to Italy for our 25th wedding anniversary. This is a big thing for us. I’ve always wanted to go.

Q. What’s your favorite detail?

A. I wear a lot of bracelets. I never just wear one. I think it makes you look finished.

Q. If you could take a single item from your closet to a desert island, what would it be?

A. My cat. I have a cat who lived under our house until we could coax him out, and his safe space is my closet. Instead of an “elf on a shelf” we have a “cat on a shelf.”

Q. Tell me about your purse.

A. I have a lot of purses but I now really only buy vegan purses. I have a Shiraleah and another brand called Urban Expressions. I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 12.

Q. Where do you buy jewelry?

A. We have a friend who’s in the business in Gastonia, Morris Jewelers, and I get all my fine jewelry from there. Leigh Levine has a jewelry line that I buy (Araminta), and so does Betsy Klein.

Q. What’s the latest on your iPod?

A. My son’s a cappella group called Rip Chord. He’s the beat boxer for them.

Q. What’s your best bargain?

A. I have bought three or four dresses at Target for $12 this summer. They are fun.

Q. Biggest splurge?

A. My skincare. I go to SouthPark Skin Care, and Sima Alborzi has a line called “Pevonia.” And I also use some of the skincare from Jeffre Scott.

Q. What can you not believe you once wore?

A. I walked around a lot of years in a hairstyle that, if anyone really loved me, they would have said “Cary, that doesn’t work on you.”

Q. What advice can you give to women?

A. Women are afraid to ask for what they need, because somehow they believe it shows weakness. Actually being able to articulate that is an asset. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need.

Q. Who is your muse?

A. My husband, because he so believes in me.