Among the sea of stylists, Whitley Adkins Hamlin of the Queen City Style stands out from the crowd. Her unique fashion sense, charm and work ethic have made her a sought after wardrobe stylist, fashion contributor, tastemaker and personal shopper.
You can read all about the Asheville native on her www.thequeencitystyle.com website and on Instagram (@thequeencitystyle). What fascinates The O Report most about this creative mother of two young boys is the influence her grandmother, Martha Whitley, and great-grandmother, Willa Lynch, had on Whitley's style and success. "Both were buyers for the luxury clothing boutique Rosenbloom-Levy and both had their own distinct style," Whitley says. "Willa always wore classic pieces, Martha enjoyed experimenting with clothes."
True to her well-mannered roots, Whitley politely took time from her A-List roster of clients to answer The O Report's questions about her stylish legacy.
What are the most important things you learned from your grandmother and great-grandmother?
"They set the bar for proper standards and everything to do with, well, everything...manners, social graces, how to dress, how to set a table, how to act, how to say thank you, how to cook and entertain, how to take your cocktail, how to interact with others, the importance of posture, poise and etiquette, the importance of sophisticated airport attire (which includes no denim for me), how to be a lady... all of the really important things."
What are some of your favorite pieces of theirs that you inherited?
"A 1950s-era black velvet Mr. Blackwell knee-length cocktail dress with intricate beading around the collar. The neckline goes just off the shoulder bones. The cut and fit of the dress is sophisticated, refined and demure which I think makes it sexy.
I also have a 1980s gunmetal sequin blouse with puff sleeves and a cinched waist. It's very Falcon Crest/Dynasty avant-garde, but since it is a top and not a dress it can be fashioned with modern day attire for a wearable yet one of a kind look.
From my great-grandmother, I have a few structured handbags that I carry quite regularly along with a couple of mink pillbox hat toppers that I adore but don't wear as much. My grandmother had amazing over-the-top accessories: brooches, belts, necklaces, scarves, rings, purses, all of it. Too many bright, shiny baubles to name!"
What are some of your favorite tips for making their vintage pieces look modern?
"I'm afraid I don't have any grand tips of my own beyond wearing what you love. At least that's how I get dressed every morning. If you love vintage but don't want to look like you stepped out of an episode of I Love Lucy or Mad Men, instead of pairing the vintage dress with the vintage shoes, bag and jewelry, just pick one item, maybe two, and pair it with a more current piece.
if I was styling the sequin top for me, I'd wear it with black leather shorts, tights and knee boots for a hip-meets-mod look in the winter. I'm also big on layering. Since the sequin top is short-sleeved, I have layered it over a long-sleeve blouse with amazing sleeves worn over a dress or paired with fitted denim pants and modern stiletto booties."
What from their era would you like to bring back in style both in regards to fashion and manners.
"I love 70s fashion, in particular - the flowy, silky, sexy mysterious movement of the clothes. Long dresses with sleeves and fabric that floated across the body but not a lot of skin showing with the exception of an occasional deep-V plunging neckline. Wide flare high waisted jeans to make everyone look leaner and taller. Feather trim, pussybow blouses, groovy patterns, head scarves, so much Boho glam.
Good manners and proper etiquette transcend time. I think it starts at home. My great-grandmother taught my grandmother who taught my mom. My mom heavily engrained the importance of good manners in me. I'd like to think I do the same with my two boys."
For those who want to pass on their favorite pieces to their younger family members, do you have any tips to make the process smooth and organized?
"I was the recipient of luck in that none of my grandmother's four children or seven other grandchildren were mad for fashion the way I am. I played dress-up in my grandmother and great-grandmother's closets my entire life and so some of their pieces were given to me early on because they knew how much joy I had wearing their things.
My uncle's wife also really appreciates fashion and so she did inherit a few great pieces of my grandmother's that I love. It makes it fun to have someone else in the family who gets equally excited over an amazing top or dress. I remember when my grandmother passed away my mom and her siblings went to her home and divided up everything. They worked hard to fairly distribute memorabilia based on sentiment. There was even some trading going on once it was all divided. My aunt also generously shared a few pieces with me that she didn't end up wearing. In the end, everything tells a story and holds a memory."