In 2004 Shelley Colvin left her job as a marketing product manager for Bank of America to manage her household and volunteer in the nonprofit sector. She re-entered the workforce in 2013 as the grants manager at the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. Today Colvin, 48, is the museum’s institutional giving manager. She was born and raised in Pensacola, Fla., where her grandmother was a member of one of the city’s five founding families. Colvin earned a B.A. in sociology at UNCC and a certificate in Essentials of Business for Nonprofits from Wake Forest University School of Business.
Q. When did you consciously decide on your own style?
A. At a young age, probably 6 or 7, watching my mom get dressed to go to dances at the Town Pump. She’d say, ‘Baby girl, I have Champagne tastes and a beer pocketbook.’ She could adapt anything and make it look like a million dollars.
Q. Where do you shop?
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A. Clothes Mentor and the Junior League WearHouse.
Q. How do you make consignment work?
A. I know the styles and fabrics. I know my body type, and what type of clothes look good on me. I can go through the racks with my fingers and pull an expensive fabric; I’m tactile that way.
Q. Do you have trouble finding the right fit?
A. You’ve got to be willing to do the alterations; to take clothes up, take them in and change the buttons. My mom says your wardrobe is only as good as your seamstress.
Q. Who is your seamstress?
A. Kim Vu at V Cleaners at Seventh and Pecan. When you have a seamstress and you regularly use them, when you are in a bind, you will go to the front of the line.
Q. Define your style for me.
A. I’m a clothes horse, but I don’t pay retail and I don’t buy really expensive stuff, because I get bored. I’m a chameleon. I love vintage, I love funky, but I can dress like a banker or a wallflower, and I know in certain environments I want to be a wallflower.
Q. How has your style changed with age?
A. I think the Southern woman comes out in me. My mom’s counsel was dress for the job you want, not for the job you have. Be impeccable. As I get older, my skirts and dresses are longer. I cover my arms in the winter. I love that Diane Keaton and Katharine Hepburn and Jane Fonda all wear turtlenecks.
Q. What clothing provides good camouflage?
A. A crisp white collared shirt. A scarf, and black pants. A strappy shoe, because the criss-cross straps make a woman’s foot sexy and camouflages bunions. Also glasses.
Q. How does your sense of style help you do your job?
A. I feel happy in fun clothing. I’m in an environment where I can share all the possibilities that art can provide. My bracelet is 3-D printer art from the Bechtler. You have to be comfortable, but you can still have style.
Q. Where do you splurge?
A. Shoes. I like The Walking Company for shoes that are stylish and funky but super comfortable. A pair of tan or nude shoes are critical. I have these Crocs that are totally lightweight and they are so incredibly comfortable and they go with everything. Though I don’t feel like I’m walking on broken glass, I get foot fatigue and pain. And I walk to work.
Q. How do you dress for your body type?
A. I am on the short side. I want to accentuate my legs by wearing either pants or leggings, or dresses. I tend to not tuck my shirts into my jeans or pants. If a shirt is too long I will alter it to hit at the waist or a little below. I have to accentuate without being vulgar.
Q. Do you give your daughter Alexis fashion advice?
A. Yes! Her legs go on forever and she’s short-waisted. She wears a lot of long dusters, long cardigans, no peplums, not even an A-line skirt. She looks fabulous in a pencil skirt. Understanding and knowing your body type is critical.
Q. Does she take your advice?
A. She trusts me. When she got her teaching job we went to Clothes Mentor, and I gave her 40 or 50 things; I kept handing them to her in the dressing room. She was exhausted but she only had to take off her clothes one time, and we spent $150. We put all her outfits out and took pictures of them, so all she has to do is look at her phone to know what to wear.
Q. “I would trade closets with…”
A. Audrey Hepburn. I was born in the wrong era. I love a woman who wears gloves and hats, that dresses up to get on a plane.
Q. Do you have any fashion quirks?
A. My mother never ever let us go out of the house with wet hair, or without our clothes being pressed. We were not allowed to wear flip-flops. We would never go to the grocery store in curlers. My mom called it “being dressed to the nines.” My mother dressed up for my daddy, she said, “because I want him to be the envy.” I always look my best because it shows respect to the people you are with. Also, I’m never without earrings.
Q. What do you like in an earring?
A. It cannot be too long. Laura Allison at the Bechtler is a jewelry artist, and when I get a pair of earrings and they are too long she will shorten the hanging part. I have a narrow face, so earrings that are too long draw everything down.
Q. What are three unusual things in your purse?
A. I got this TMC purse on Amazon for $24. Inside it I carry what I call my MacGyver bag. I have a Shout Wet Wipe, blister Band-Aids, which will let you go another eight hours in a brand new pair of shoes, and Clean & Clear oil absorbing sheets, which is today’s powder.
Q. What attracts you to geometrical patterns?
A. I’m looking for connecting points that also have that negative space. The negative space is as important as the positive space, as the piece itself, as the shadows and lines.
Q. Do you have a favorite cocktail?
A. Gin and tonic. It’s like drinking a Christmas tree.
Q. What do you love about living uptown?
A. I walk to work, I listen to Motown on my walk, and I feel the energy of the city. Charlotte is not Chicago or New York, but it has its own beat. Romare Bearden Park is amazing at 2 a.m. in the summer. To take off your shoes and run barefoot in that grass at 2 a.m. and feel safe, it speaks to our city.