A Q & A with mom, star designer, and one woman modern juggling act, Laura Bennett.
By Olivia Clark
Laura Bennett will be appearing tonight at The Front Row: Three Days of Fashion on Bethesda Lane in Bethesda Row. She will be reading from and signing copies of her new book immediately following the 7:30 runway event. More information can be found at www.bethesdarow.com.
Olivia Clark: You emphasize the importance of keeping it simple when it comes to fashion and the value of quality vs. quantity. What are a few staple pieces that every mother should have?
Laura Bennett: For mothers specifically, I think the look of a safari jacket or a safari vest with all the pockets is a great idea. You have places to put things; you can stick a pacifier in one pocket and a diaper in another. You won’t be swamped with bags filled with your kid’s things. Also, a really busy print dress is a must-have. It hides the snot, the handprints; it can camouflage a multitude of sin. Espadrilles are also an important staple. I have my uniform and I base it on what fits best with my lifestyle. Am I comfortable in it? These are all elements to consider when picking pieces for your closet.
OC: How would you describe your “retro approach” to being a mother?
LB: A retro mother is a modern mother. The thing that is different now is that there is so much more information in this day and age. Our mothers didn’t have all this information just being thrown at them. Do you vaccinate or not? Does this make you a better mother? Every mother loves their children and they want to do what is best for them.
I operate without all of that buzz in the air. It’s mostly because I don’t have time, but I also don’t feel compelled to act on every bit of information I hear. This morning, my son demanded “give me apple sauce,” so you know what? I threw it in his face. I wasn’t going to calmly say “now that’s not how we ask for apple sauce sweetheart.” I gave him what he least expected – if he doesn’t ask with respect he doesn’t get respect. Who’s in charge here? Good old-fashioned parenting has been looked down upon and I don’t care what people think – it has worked for years and years and years.
OC: Would you say that there are certain aspects of your children’s lives that only a mother can tend to without extra help?
LB: Yes, definitely. My children are very close to our nannies (one girl has been with us for 14 years) and my oldest daughter was around five or six when she came. My kids love them and they know that they can depend on them and laugh with them. If one of my sons wants to talk to me about his girlfriend and how he’s switching schools and what to do, he comes to me. I do have help with my children. Just because I have help doesn’t mean that I am a completely hands-off mom. It’s a constant juggling act, and with the help of a nanny things are a lot more organized. I also find it beneficial to have help, because I am not a wreck. I am much more calm and collected with them around.
OC: What is your most memorable event as a mother? What is an event every mother on-the-go should be around for?
LB: I’m so lucky because I have so many wonderful opportunities for memorable events due to having so many kids. I like to be at the events where my kids get to show the work they’ve done; where they can really shine. Tomorrow my son is going to be in a play and he has worked so hard. Another son of mine led the opening meeting at his Quaker school. He started out the meeting with a poem from Sponge Bob, where I thought, oh my goodness where is he going with this? And he turned it around and made it into this really touching speech about how it was so easy for this man’s dream to come true and it could be easy for you too. I love being at events where my children can show their creative side and the work that they put into things.
OC: First Lady Michelle Obama is a great example of a working mother. What qualities of her parenting skills do you admire?
LB: I have to say I don’t know much about her parenting skills. I think the Obamas keep that very private. It is hard when your children and your family are under a microscope. Her daughters seem to be very well-behaved and well-mannered. As far as her daughters go, Michelle’s job is done. Her kid’s values were already put in place at an early age, before they moved into the White House. The most challenging years are over with. However, all girls hit a wild stage in their lives. Until then, her work is complete.
OC: Your designs are known for being elegant and timeless. These two attributes are very much valued in Washington. What would you recommend for our city’s women to have in their closets?
LB: A simple solid dress and the silhouette that works best for you. Michelle Obama and I wear the sleeveless sheath dress. Whether it’s an A-line or a pencil skirt, whatever that silhouette is, you should have that dress in two or three different solid colors. A simple, really well-tailored dress is always the go to fashion piece. And to be honest, it’s really not that easy of a find for women.
OC: We love your Daily Beast column. Did you write regularly before your book came out and how did you decide to write “Didn’t I Feed you Yesterday?”
LB: The book came first. Random House came to me and asked if I’d ever thought of writing a book, so I put together a proposal which they really liked. My editor introduced me to Tina Brown at the Daily Beast. Yes, I was working on the book first, and it was just really lucky and fortunate that the rest came together.
OC: There has been talk that you are going to do a reality show. Can you tell us more about that?
LB: Bravo ordered a pilot of a reality show of my family; me juggling home and work with all the kids, so we put together a pilot for them. They did not pick it up in the end. In my house there is a lot of rushing around and to be honest, but at the end of the day I am not a train wreck of a mother. My household is not as chaotic and dramatic as they expected, and I think that is more along the lines of what they’re looking for.
OC: If you could dress anyone in Washington D.C., who would it be and what would you have them wear?
LB: Speaker of the house Nancy Pelosi could use some help. Hillary Clinton would really be the most challenging, so I would like to get my hands on her. Michelle Obama is very small wasted and that those thick belts are not doing her great body justice. Her stylists need to tell her that thick belts don’t flatter her silhouette.
Order a copy of “Didn’t I Feed You Yesterday?: A Mother’s Guide to Sanity in Stilettos” on Amazon HERE