The Business of Getting Dressed

Savannah’s industry leaders know a thing or two about style. Here, they share their secrets to a winning wardrobe.

Emily McCarthy | Designer, owner, Emily McCarthy Shoppe

Emily McCarthy. Photo by Christine Hall

How has your work influenced the way you dress? 
I’m surrounded daily by bright colors and patterns in the Shoppe and studio, where more is more. So I tend to be a little more relaxed and neutral for day-to-day wear. Making a statement for special occasions is my favorite! 

What is a defining fashion moment or memory for you? 
When I opened my flagship Shoppe, I wore a vintage emerald green hostess gown. 

Who are your ultimate style icons? 
Iris Apfel, Blair Eadie and my grandmother, Lil, who never left the house without her fur coat.

If you had to wear one outfit forever, what would it be? 
A leopard-print dress.

What advice would you give to someone looking to define their personal style?  
Take the time to be inspired by what speaks to you, and not just by what everyone else is wearing. Instead of being a mediocre version of someone else, be the best version of yourself. 

Stephanie Sweeney. Photo by Christine Hall

Stephanie Sweeney, DMD | Dentist, owner, Savannah Dental 

What does Savannah style mean to you? 
My Savannah style is dressing just right for each occasion, from beaching it up on Tybee to attending black-tie galas downtown. 

What is a defining fashion memory for you?
Growing up, my mother always put me in matching bike shorts to fit under my skirts. As a child, I loved being in cute outfits with big bows in my hair, but she could not keep me from doing cartwheels or climbing trees. Thankfully, I possess a bit more self-control these days, but I still love an outfit that can multitask and still look fabulous in. 

Who are your ultimate style icons and influences?
My icons are Twiggy, Audrey Hepburn, Jackie Kennedy, Brigitte Bardot and Farrah Fawcett. 

What style advice do you live by?
“Life is a party, dress like it,” by Audrey Hepburn.

What advice would you give to someone looking to define their personal style? 
Know your best colors and what styles flatter your figure to create a look you are proud to be known for rather than a trend you hope people forget. Be confident and you’ll always shine. And good posture can make or break any outfit.

Jimmy Parker | Owner, J. Parker Ltd.

Jimmy Parker. Photo by Christine Hall

Who are your ultimate style icons and influences? 
You remember the movie “Wall Street” with Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko? That guy was fantastic. “The Great Gatsby” was a different time, but even so, today I’ve got on a seersucker coat, linen pants and silk tie that might fit right into that era. 

If you had to wear one outfit or item forever, what would it be?
My signature look is a charcoal suit, maybe with a muted stripe. That’s the interview suit. No button-down collar with a suit, I’m against that, but a nice modified spread will do. I can pair it with different neckwear, pocket squares or shoes.

What is your defining fashion moment?
My personal experience with menswear started when I got a job at Levy’s Department Store on Broughton Street, now Savannah College of Art and Design’s Jen Library. They had a dress code. I started dressing up, and I liked the attitude that came along with that.

What style advice or quote do you live by?
You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. I wouldn’t prejudice my presentation with an ink pen coming out of my pocket or a tie covered in Coca-Cola logos or Mickey Mouse cartoons. Dress like a gentleman and keep it simple — tasteful and sophisticated, but simple. 

What advice would you give to someone looking to define their personal style? 
Every young man needs a blue blazer to start his wardrobe. And blue or white shirts, that’s it. When people come in, I lay out a nice outfit: always a blue or white shirt, whether it’s a blazer, sport coat or suit, and then I acessorize it. They’ll inevitably go over to the shirt rack or bins and grab a purple or dark shirt and I’m thinking, “What are they doing?” It shoots a nice-looking outfit right in the foot.  

Liezel Fourie | Interior designer, owner, SAVI Interiors

Liezel Fourie. Photo by Christine Hall

How has your work influenced the way you dress? 
As an interior designer, my days never follow a planned sequence. I can go from the office to client consultations to showroom visits at any given moment. I also spend a lot of time on construction sites and need to be ready to climb a ladder, walk on plank crossways or through dirt. So I dress fairly comfortably for the most part.  

If you had to wear one outfit forever, what would it be?
A great pair of jeans and a pressed white T-shirt — as long as I have an endless variety of great shoes and accessories, of course!

What is a defining fashion memory for you?
Living in Italy for a period definitely shaped my perspective on fashion. I learned that great style is slow, classic and timeless. The Italians are known throughout the world for being extremely fashionable, yet they dress with great simplicity. They don’t pursue fast trends, but rather invest in quality.   

What do you hope your clothes convey about you?
That I am confident and have a strong sense of adventure. 

What style advice do you live by?
My biggest fashion mantra is good fit: as long as your clothes fit you great, you’ll look presentable and classy at all times. Figure out what makes you feel confident so that you can walk out the door every morning and feel like you can move mountains. And, of course, never skimp on accessories!

Scott Cohen, DDS | Dentist, owner, Cohen Dental 

Scott Cohen. Photo by Christine Hall

Who are your ultimate style icons and influences? 
My favorite styles are the classic looks of the 1950s and ’60s. Think the Rat Pack or Don Draper on “Mad Men.”

How has Savannah or your work in the community influenced the way you dress? 
I love going to community functions, events and fundraisers, but I’m usually not dressed in the old Savannah style — you will never catch me in khaki pants and a navy blazer. I add my own personal flair like a signature bow tie or funky shoes and socks.

What is a defining fashion moment or memory for you?
I had the first double-knit bell-bottom pants in fifth grade in 1973. My family owns a clothing store in Alma, Georgia, so I always wanted the newest thing. I also had the first pair of Docksiders boat shoes in ninth grade and the first edition of the “Members Only” jacket as a freshman in Athens. Of course, I wouldn’t be caught dead in any of those items now! 

What do you hope your clothes convey about you?
That I have my own unique personality but that I’m not outrageous.

What advice would you give to someone looking to define their personal style?  
Don’t copy anybody else. Wear what you like and like what you wear.

Brenna Michaels | Co-owner, Genteel & Bard

Brenna Michaels. Photo by Christine Hall

Who are your ultimate style icons and influences? 
The clean lines and elegance favored by women like Jackie Kennedy, Audrey Hepburn and Kate Middleton certainly resonate. Designer Julia Engel is doing amazing things out of Charleston with her Gal Meets Glam line right now. 

If you had to wear one outfit forever, what would it be?
I could handle anything in the right neutral fit-and-flare dress. There are so many places you can take that article of clothing, from casual brunches to business meetings to cocktails. Classic pieces like that are all about the way you accessorize.

How has Savannah or your work in the community influenced the way you dress? 
Setting up house and running a luxury storytelling brand in Savannah’s Historic District has left a huge impression on my personal fashion. So much of my work is creative yet rooted firmly in the past. I try to dress in a way that honors the dignity and significance of where we are. 

What do you hope your clothes convey about you?
I want my clothes to reflect my personality: how I see myself and my place in the world as a confident woman and entrepreneur. Regardless of how much money you’ve invested in it, personal style is a kind of poetry. It should be a reflection of your lifestyle as a whole. 

What style advice or quote do you live by?
Lots of people have heard the phrase, “the clothes make the man.” Well, they make the woman too. I’m a firm believer that your day will live up to the clothes you put on in the morning. It’s not that you can’t have a great day in yoga pants — I own my fair share of Lululemons — but there’s just something about stepping up your outfit that steers your day, and your life for that matter, in the right direction. 

Ruel Joyner | Owner and CEO, 24e Design Co. 

Ruel Joyner. Photo by Christine Hall

Who are your ultimate style icons and influences? 
My father was in the military and his dress was always impeccable. He would spend hours on his shoes and his belt buckle. Everything had to be polished and just so. He had a much better eye for detail than me. 
Anyone who knows anything about me knows that I love Steve McQueen. From his early movies to his racing, his iconic photos and the lifestyle he led  — he had speed, confidence and everything I aspired to be as a kid.
But my ultimate style icon is my wife, Delaine. If it weren’t for her, I’d probably be wearing acid-wash jeans.

What is a defining fashion memory for you?
The day I met my wife. She had on white shorts. I still remember them today. I knew in that moment I was going to have to pick up my game. 

What is your signature item?
A pair of cool cufflinks. When I put on my father’s Strategic Air Command 14k gold-brushed metal pair, they give me confidence and remind me where I came from. I also love to add fun socks to an outfit. JL the Brand is my go-to. 

What does Savannah style mean to you? 
The weather is hot and humid, but no matter what, you still have to be Broughton Street fresh. Especially in my business, there’s no telling who is going to walk in the door. 

What advice would you give to someone looking to define their personal style? 
It’s more than the cut of the materials or the trend. It’s the way you act, the way you treat others and the way you move. 

More from Allison Stice Bulka

9 Artists to Know

In Savannah, we’re privileged to be surrounded by distinctive art and an...
Read More