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Best Dressed Atlanta
Stephanie Davis Smith | Photo: Derek Blanks | August 30, 2013
Meet five enviable women who navigate our city’s sartorial scene better than almost anyone. Here, our first annual Best Dressed Atlanta list.
Joanne Chesler Gross
As a lobbyist who works in community and public relations, the diminutive Joanne Chesler Gross manages to cut a grandiose figure. However, it hasn’t always been that way. “My style evolved over time,” she admits. Growing up in Connecticut, the bohemian Chesler Gross preferred Indian print skirts and huarache sandals to Valentino and heels. In fact, throughout boarding school, she was an easygoing and earthy youngster. “My mother was always into fashion, and she tried her best to get me into it, too,” she recalls. “I remember I decided to get my ‘fashion’ act together when it was time to go to college at Emory [University] and I asked her if she would mind taking me shopping. She literally broke down in tears she was so excited.” Over the years, Chesler Gross honed her sartorial savvy in stylish cities such as Chicago and Washington, D.C., before returning to the South. She’s cultivated a look that combines classic style with edgy surprises. You never know—a feminine Marc Jacobs A-line skirt may get paired with an edgy Rick Owens suede motorcycle jacket. One thing that is certain? Her signature hue is ‘greige,’ a shade she sports down to her nail polish. “I rarely wear anything but grey and beige neutrals and then pop a few colors off them.” Any tincture often comes via an enviable Hermès and vintage scarf collection. “I have a few 100 now.” For evening though, elegance still rules. Chesler Gross is often seen wearing a Valentino number at the Ballet or Swan House balls. “Although I love dresses, it’s a harder fit. So I see Emily at Shanghai Alterations,” she counsels. “After all, my husband loves to see me in dresses, too.”
Cynthia Moreland doesn’t adhere to many specific style rules, except her own—which she uses to suit the tempo of her life. As executive director of the Nsoro Educational Foundation, an organization that increases education opportunities for youth in foster care, Moreland could very well spend one week in flats taking a group of pregnant teenagers in foster care on a college tour, and the next in heels asking major sponsors for fundraising dollars. “I like to dress appropriate for the moment. My style switches up for the occasion,” she says. In fact, occasions are when she picks up her favorite pieces. The tanzanite necklace she’s wearing here was bought by her husband of 25 years while on vacation. Her gorgeous cuff was another gift from a Hamptons trip. “We were going to a party, and I had on a casual dress and needed to dress it up.” While she likes pieces with a story, one of her favorite wardrobe staples is patterned pants. “I have a very wide pair of silk pants that I wear for garden parties, a pair of floral jeans that I love and tons of embroidered pants. I’ve got a 20- and 23-year-old daughter, and they influence me to get a little funky,” which may explain the fabulous Giuseppe Zanotti heels she’s sporting. “His designs are amazing and totally impractical. But that doesn’t matter! There’s something about a heel that makes a woman walk differently. We sit up a little taller.”
Every day is dress-up day for Kim Lape. Va-va-voom glamour has been her modus operandi since her teenage years. “I’ve always loved ruffles, sequins and anything that shines!” she exclaims. But don’t expect much in her wardrobe from this decade. “If I had the choice all I would wear is vintage,” she admits. Lape has amassed an incredible collection of retro gowns. She confesses that she can never wear all the dresses she owns. “They’re like art. I just go in my closet and sit and look at them. My mom will call me, and I’ll say I’m rearranging my closet. She calls it my therapy.” The software marketing executive by day is a true fashion addict who treasure hunts the Web for unique pieces by night. “Once I had collected a ton of Halston, I realized it was time to go onto something new. Now I’m obsessed with old Oscar [de la Renta]. I get in a phase over an era. I had a ‘70s disco Bianca Jagger moment, and now I’m on an ‘80s kick.” The opulent era suits her well. Audacious and adventurous when it comes to style, Lape goes by Coco Chanel’s motto: “Fashion changes and style remains.” And, she doesn’t take it all too seriously. “I believe you can wear anything if you own it and are confident.” That shines through whether she’s in a bold Nina Ricci gown with a large canary bow at the Opera Ball or toting a mini Chanel handle-purse at a Saks Fifth Avenue fashion show. “I don’t think I have just one style.”
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