From the Baltimore Sun

Coordinating style is first order of business
State's new first lady has own transition team

By Stephanie Shapiro
Sun Reporter

January 17, 2007

As she prepared for her husband's inauguration today, Katie Curran O'Malley leaned on an unofficial transition team of family and friends who were fortified by the sweet perfume of victory and a great excuse to go shopping.

The same close-knit group of moms who white-knuckled their way through the 2006 election while also working, carpooling, grocery shopping and walking the dog are now caught in a whirlwind of preparation for the inauguration of Gov.-elect Martin O'Malley.

With sister Mary Carole Curran, Katie O'Malley selected snazzy suits for the swearing-in ceremony.

Friend Mary DeMarco of La Terra in Hampden made glittery jewelry for O'Malley and her daughters to wear during this week of parties, ceremonies and receptions.

At the Vasarri boutique in Pikesville, Holly Gioioso and Shern James helped O'Malley try on "a million dresses" for tonight's inaugural gala at the Baltimore Convention Center. Maryland's new first lady decided upon the first gown she found, an arresting strapless design by Marisa Baratelli.

The dress is made of an iridescent Thai silk in sapphire blue. "No black," O'Malley says. "This is a happy occasion."

Corbin in the Colonnade will style O'Malley's hair, and she'll wear diamonds on loan from Radcliffe Jewelers, as well as treasured pieces purchased from Howard Street Jewelers, where her husband found their wedding bands.

Friend Joan Levine, who works at the Trish McEvoy counter at Nordstrom, will apply O'Malley's makeup. "They do tricks" so lipstick and mascara stay on, and there will be no need for touchups, she says.

For O'Malley, a district judge and mother of four, this evening will recall the occasions, when as a 16-year-old, she'd try on ball gowns at Hutzler's just for fun and be transported by fairy tale imaginings. This time, "At least I get to keep the dress," O'Malley says.

It is a dream dress come true, says Gail Kandel, Vasarri's owner. "I can't tell you how close to perfect this gown was."

Nor will O'Malley sport a sober suit at today's noon swearing-in ceremony at the State House. She will wear an aquamarine silk jacquard suit with a medallion pattern and rhinestone buttons by Etcetera, a line of edgier professional clothing sold at trunk shows. "She loves patterns," says Nancy Spadaro-Weintraub, the area manager for Etcetera who also sold pieces to wear at the ceremony to Curran, DeMarco and friends Kim Prey and Cathy Lobo. Originally, O'Malley had her eye on a "black and white zebra-inspired coat, but I steered her away from that a little bit," she says.

The O'Malley entourage will find itself in sartorial symbiosis with Lt. Gov.-elect Anthony G. Brown and his wife, Patricia Arzuaga, as well as their relatives, friends and associates.

"I got a tuxedo custom-made and a new suit custom-made, the whole thing," Brown says. His new attire comes from Kustom Looks Clothier in Landover, also patronized by Brown's predecessor, Michael S. Steele.

Landover tailor Kwab Asamoah, a Morgan State University graduate, is "doing a three-button black tux with the vest, and not the cummerbund," Brown says. The tux has a black-on-black paisley lining that matches the bow tie and vest, notched lapels and double vents. "I'm retiring a tux I've been wearing for quite a while now."

At first, though, Brown was not thinking about wearing a new tux. "I really, really wanted to wear my military uniform" to today's events, says Brown, an Army Reserve lieutenant colonel who served in Iraq. "I would love nothing more than to wear my dress uniform."

Ultimately, Brown decided that dress blues wouldn't send the right message in his first formal appearance as lieutenant governor.

Katie O'Malley and her friends have taken to the necessary frivolity of inaugural prep with brio. During the gubernatorial campaign, O'Malley didn't want to make too many plans, for fear of jinxing her husband's chances. But DeMarco, who has known O'Malley since they both worked at Phillips seafood restaurant as young women, says, "A year ago, we were planning this because we knew they would win."

Since the new year, the women have indulged in makeup consultations, eyebrow tweezes, dermal abrasions, hair appointments and nonstop accessorizing.

Curran found a knee-length Kay Unger dress during an expedition to Bloomingdale's in New York with DeMarco.

Alice Florin, sister to Curran and O'Malley, went shopping with her own coterie near her Miami home. There, she found a "beautiful Armani dress on sale," Curran says. The sisters' mother, artist Barbara Curran, plans to wear a black dress with a burnt umber jacket of cut velvet.

The next generation of Curran and O'Malley women are as close as their moms are and just as keen on fashion and the joy of finding a good deal. Tonight, Curran's daughter Bella, 15, will wear a chic black Ann Taylor dress with a Lulu Guinness shrug snagged at Loehmann's. O'Malley's daughter Tara, 15, will wear a Philip DiCaprio emerald-green dress "from my closet" and Grace, 16, will don a champagne Vera Wang dress discovered at the Saks outlet with her grandmother.

As for her sons, William, 9, and Jack, 4, "We'll throw the boys together at the last minute," O'Malley says. She wishes she could find Will's camel-hair jacket that may have disappeared at the Hippodrome on election night. But he can borrow something from his cousin Liam, Curran's 10-year-old son. The cousins plan to wear ties decorated with their favorite dog breeds.

O'Malley had to lay down the law with her husband, though. When the new governor suggested over breakfast recently that he might wear a suit to the inaugural festivities, O'Malley objected vehemently. "If I'm wearing a gown, how awful am I going to look?" she asked. It would be comparable to having a mystery date, "and I get the bum!"

Fortunately, he opted for his trusty tuxedo, O'Malley says. "It still fits."
Copyright © 2007, The Baltimore Sun