After working in the title industry for more than 25 years, Mary Ellen Arledge didn’t quite know how to give up her conservative fashion style when she finally retired.
“I was a part of the workforce before casual attire was acceptable,” Arledge said. “It was business suits, high heels and pantyhose every day at the office — and absolutely no slacks.”
A native Houstonian, Arledge grew up in West University, where she developed her love of social events and evening attire.
“We belonged to several dance clubs and my mother made all of my formal gowns,” she said. “The formals were big and poofy, which required tons of petticoats. My mother and I would go shopping and see something we liked and mom would duplicate it.”
Arledge’s love for evening wear remains. Her many long, flowing gowns are kept in their own separate closet in her spacious League City home she shares with husband, Jon.
“Our successful marriage is due to having two separate bathrooms and separate closets,” she said.
Arledge’s main walk-in closet is spacious and organized. Clothes hanging on two levels wrap around the perimeter and reach the top of the 10-foot ceiling. One section is devoted to her favorite accessory — scarves. Everything is color-coded and within easy reach thanks to a pull-down function of the upper racks.
Shoes and boots are in abundance. Particularly striking is a white and glittery pair of boots.
“My husband tells me that no woman would wear glittery boots like that, but I do now that I’m retired,” she said.
Closet shelves also are filled with hats and purses. A built-in chest of drawers contains costume jewelry, including her David Yurman watch, a gift from Jon.
“I wear mainly earrings and bracelets, but I also like necklaces,” Arledge said.
Her formal closet is home to silky, beaded and flowing gowns, many with sequins — all elegant, some sassy and form-fitting.
Arledge calls herself a mission shopper, and prefers to shop online.
Q: Some of the online stores you like best?
A: For clothes, I like Neiman (Marcus) and Nordstrom. For boots, Ralph Lauren, and I prefer riding style. I also order from Saks Fifth Avenue.
Q: When you do go to stores, which ones do you prefer?
A: Neiman’s, Dillard’s, Loehmann’s in Los Angeles, and now since retiring, Stein Mart and Back Bay Boutique in Seabrook.
Q: Was it hard for you to leave the conservative dress style behind when you retired?
A: No, but I did feel naked when I stopped wearing pantyhose.
Q: Tell me more about your scarves.
A: I love to accessorize with scarves. I have animal prints, paisley, polka dots, lots of aqua. A scarf can change an outfit beautifully and add color.
Q: Do you still wear hats?
A: Yes, and I am not intimidated when I do. I grew up Episcopalian, so I wore hats my entire life.
Q: When going out for a dressy evening, what do you wear?
A: Maybe a Victor Costa or Oscar de la Renta. I particularly like my full-length black and purple gown (tulle with sequins) by David Meister, which I got online from Neiman’s.
Q: What’s in your winter closet?
A: An assortment of coats, vintage minks, fun furs and my favorite jacket by a Russian designer. I love to wear off-white in the winter.
Q: It looks like you no longer are tied down to that conservative look.
A: Well, I would still call my style conservative, but with a bit of flair.
Q: How can a woman keep her conservative style with today’s fashions being so revealing?
A: If you have something form-fitting that looks good on your overall body, you can be just as elegant and sexy as someone who is revealing too much.