Visual Arts » Fashion

In My Closet

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Her name: Jody DeFord

Her work: Corporate attorney for Eli Lilly and a fashion blogger of Red’s Shoe Diary. DeFord also is a founding board member of Dress for Success.

Her play: “I love to entertain. Planning and hosting a memorable party is one of my greatest joys,” says DeFord. “In fair weather, I love being on the lake or the golf course, and driving with my convertible top down singing (poorly) at the top of my lungs, which is an instant mood lifter.”

Closet Cliff Notes: 1950s-style dresses; spectators (flats and heels); evening gowns; fashion hats; boots; jewelry.

Favorite pieces: A 70-year-old brown, nubuck jacket; spectator shoes; safety pin purses; an 18K gold necklace and pendant, circa 1910.

Something she’ll never have in her closet: “I’ll never own a pair of UGG boots, because they make your legs look short and squat. I will also never own a pair of moon boots again, and no skinny jeans. Skinny jeans are not for me.”

Style Philosophy: “Style is very personal. I always end my blog with, ‘Fashion is what you buy; style is what you do with it!’ I truly believe that.”


Jody DeFord is arguably the most stylish attorney in town.

She ditched those traditional blue and black suits and classic pumps years ago, replacing them with colorful spectators, leather jackets and 1950s-style skirts adorned with foreign cityscapes.

Leaving the courtroom and going in-house as a corporate attorney for Eli Lilly was the difference-maker in how she dresses during the work week.

Jody DeFord wore a Tadashi Shoji Resort Collection 2015 gown for the Indianapolis Opera Ball on Nov. 21, 2015. The custom headpiece was designed by Loreta Corsetti Couture Millinery in Chicago. -  - COURTESY KEVIN DEFORD
  • Courtesy Kevin DeFord
  • Jody DeFord wore a Tadashi Shoji Resort Collection 2015 gown for the Indianapolis Opera Ball on Nov. 21, 2015. The custom headpiece was designed by Loreta Corsetti Couture Millinery in Chicago.

“When I first started my career I was more conservative and wore a lot of matched suits, but I always wore quirky shoes,” says DeFord. “When I went in-house, I just felt like I was able to express myself more freely, particularly as I got more established and developed a rapport with the people that I work with and for.

“They know and trust me as their attorney, so that’s given me the freedom to be more of who I am and more expressive. I can’t remember the last time I wore a matched suit.”

DeFord celebrates her unique and colorful style not just in the boardroom and at events she attends or hosts throughout the city, but also on her fashion blog, Red’s Shoe Diaries. It’s her platform to show off some of her favorite looks, and shine the spotlight on local boutiques and causes that are near and dear to her heart.

Her sense of style actually started while growing up on the family farm in Howard County. During those days she mainly wore jeans and flannel shirts, “but they always matched,” says DeFord. “I always wanted to match and coordinate. It’s sort of innate.”

DeFord takes time to visit Central Park in New York during a long weekend trip in October. She’s wearing a “Fall Forest” graphic dress by Retrolicious. -  - COURTESY KEVIN DEFORD
  • Courtesy Kevin DeFord
  • DeFord takes time to visit Central Park in New York during a long weekend trip in October. She’s wearing a “Fall Forest” graphic dress by Retrolicious.

DeFord, however, doesn’t take full credit for her sense of style. She gives props to her late maternal grandmother (Dorothy).

“She was incredibly stylish. She wasn’t into brand names, she lived through the Depression and she pinched every penny, but she really took care of the way she looked,” recalls DeFord. “I remember she and my grandfather used to go the Elks Lodge all of the time, and she had all of these formal dresses, and the purse and jewelry to match. She took such meticulous care of things. She also loved to entertain and set a pretty table. Those are things that I’m so passionate about, so I really feel like I sort of got that from her.”

One look inside DeFord’s closet -- including a room devoted to nothing but hats (many which have made their debut at the Kentucky Oaks and the Kentucky Derby) -- reveals a woman who isn’t afraid to stand out in a crowd.

Some might call her style flamboyant, but DeFord is simply being herself.

“I don’t shy away from much, and I’ve found that in the last five or six years I’ve embraced it even more,” says DeFord. “I think it’s a function of age, but I think I’ve gotten more comfortable in my own skin and more confident and less … it’s not that I don’t care what people think, but I dress for me and what makes me happy, and smile and feel good. And if that’s a skirt that has a red double decker bus from London, fine. I just embrace it.”

Jody DeFord, a corporate attorney at Eli Lilly and a fashion blogger, poses just outside of her home closet. She says since moving in-house as a lawyer, she gladly ditched the matching suits for more fashion-forward attire. -  - COURTESY SHELBY ROBY-TERRY
  • Courtesy Shelby Roby-Terry
  • Jody DeFord, a corporate attorney at Eli Lilly and a fashion blogger, poses just outside of her home closet. She says since moving in-house as a lawyer, she gladly ditched the matching suits for more fashion-forward attire.

Here’s a peek inside DeFord’s closet at some of her favorite things:

Brown nubuck jacket

“The most special piece in my closet is actually not flamboyant, but it is unquestionably the most important piece of clothing I own,” says DeFord about this brown nubuck jacket.

Purchased in the 1940s by her grandmother from Montgomery Ward department store, the jacket looks brand new. “You’d never dream that it was 70 years old,” says DeFord.

The jacket definitely holds sentimental value for DeFord, who says she has a photo of her grandmother wearing the jacket in the 1950s.

DeFord has a love affair with hats. She even has an entire room devoted to hats, many of which have made their debuted at the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby. This pink hat with lace veil was part of the ensemble that helped DeFord win the annual Longines Kentucky Oaks Fashion Contest. Her prize was a Longines timepiece. DeFord worked with a Chicago-based milliner to create the hat. -  - COURTESY SHELBY ROBY-TERRY
  • Courtesy Shelby Roby-Terry
  • DeFord has a love affair with hats. She even has an entire room devoted to hats, many of which have made their debuted at the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby. This pink hat with lace veil was part of the ensemble that helped DeFord win the annual Longines Kentucky Oaks Fashion Contest. Her prize was a Longines timepiece. DeFord worked with a Chicago-based milliner to create the hat.

“My mom tells me that she used to wear it with jodhpurs and riding boots to the motorcycle races with my grandpa on Friday nights,” says DeFord. “It fits me like a glove, and I feel like she’s hugging me when I wear it.

“It’s probably definitely my favorite piece of everything.”

Spectators

It doesn’t matter if they’re flats or heels, as long as they're spectators. DeFord fell in love with this style of shoe after her stepdad bought her first pair in high school.

The Bodhi Safety Pin Clutch is one of DeFord’s favorite pieces. It’s always a conversation starter, with many asking where she purchased them. No longer in production, this bag is a must-have for many fashionistas. DeFord loves these bags so much that she has them in four different colors. -  - COURTESY SHELBY ROBY-TERRY
  • Courtesy Shelby Roby-Terry
  • The Bodhi Safety Pin Clutch is one of DeFord’s favorite pieces. It’s always a conversation starter, with many asking where she purchased them. No longer in production, this bag is a must-have for many fashionistas. DeFord loves these bags so much that she has them in four different colors.

“Spectators are my thing,” she says. “Any shoe with multiple colors I love, but the spectator is my favorite. And that has always carried through.

“I love color, especially in my shoes. I want my shoes to say something because it makes me happy when I look at my feet.”

Just how many pairs of spectators she owns is unknown, but the ones in heavy rotation are displayed on a 10-tier metal shoe rack inside her bedroom.

There are gold and silver pairs, a yellow and gray combo, and even men’s spectators in her collection. There’s also a pair of high-heeled Christmas spectators, which she designed herself.

The brogue toe is a favorite detail, but it’s DeFord’s lifelong love of coordinating that draws her to the spectator again and again.

“It’s very hard for me to pick a favorite pair of spectators because it’s all about what they coordinate with,” she says. “They’re much more interesting than a plain pump.”

Bodhi Safety Pin Clutch

Spectators are hands-down DeFord’s favorite style of shoe. -  - COURTESY SHELBY ROBY-TERRY
  • Courtesy Shelby Roby-Terry
  • Spectators are hands-down DeFord’s favorite style of shoe.

There’s an Alexander McQueen clutch that looks like a butterfly with folded “wings,” and a purse made from a real cigar case that still has that cedar smell inside. But it’s the Bodhi Safety Pin Clutch that DeFord is “obsessed” with.

She loves these purses so much that she has them in multiple colors.

“I stumbled across the yellow one (the first one I purchased) online and it was on clearance, like super-duper clearance. Then I went back and got the pink, orange, and the red one,” says DeFord, who often buys multiple colors of a favorite item. “I have gotten so many questions about where I purchased these purses when I post them on my blog, and that just tells me that people are not going to be beholden to the brand because most people have never heard of Bodhi, but it’s a cool purse.”

Outside of the large, gold safety pin detail, DeFord also loves that each one has a different saying on the inside.

She’s still trying to add to this collection. DeFord is on the hunt for the red-and-black combo safety pin clutch, but finding them is hard since the company stopped producing them.

She’s found some of hers on Ebay, but knows that any future ones will cost more than what she originally paid.

How many shoes she has is a mystery, but the ones in heavy rotation are displayed on a 10-tier metal shoe rack just outside of her closet. -  - COURTESY SHELBY ROBY-TERRY
  • Courtesy Shelby Roby-Terry
  • How many shoes she has is a mystery, but the ones in heavy rotation are displayed on a 10-tier metal shoe rack just outside of her closet.

“I just think they’re so cute, interesting and unique.”

Art Nouveau necklace

One of DeFord’s prize possessions is an 18K gold necklace with a fairy pendant, circa 1910. The art nouveau design features a special French enameling technique called “plique-a-jour,” which allows light to shine through the translucent enamel.

A circa 1910 fairy necklace with pendant is a popular piece in DeFord’s collection, which she dresses up on down. -  - COURTESY SHELBY ROBY-TERRY
  • Courtesy Shelby Roby-Terry
  • A circa 1910 fairy necklace with pendant is a popular piece in DeFord’s collection, which she dresses up on down.

The necklace’s pendant also can be worn as a pin. DeFord says the dual function of this piece was popular during the time period when it was created.

“I just love it. It’s so whimsical,” says DeFord, who dresses the piece up or down.

“I wore it to Zoobilation last year and I’ll also wear it on top of a gray T-shirt with jeans. I like to mix high- and low-end things, and really dressy with more casual pieces,” says DeFord.

Wearing this piece of jewelry also satisfies her love of pairing harder pieces with softer ones.

“I like that mix of masculine and feminine together,” says DeFord.

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