Your Style: Virginia Merritt

August 27, 2018

“I moved to Rochester in 2012 with my husband, Justin, and Chihuahua-papillon, Rupert,” said Virginia Merritt. “We came to Rochester for Justin’s job, fell in love with the community and are now here by choice.

“Professionally, I made a career change in January. I left practicing law at Legal Assistance of Olmsted County to be the executive director of Channel One Regional Food Bank,” Merritt said. And that came on the heels of a new addition to the family.

“It’s been two years of frequent wardrobe changes — from trying to find maternity suits to postpartum and breast-feeding-friendly apparel following the birth of Louise — and then largely hanging up my suits and making sure I’m always warehouse ready in closed-toe shoes at Channel One!”

Please introduce us to your style.

I think it’s really fairly classic.

Early influences?

My mom and I look exactly alike. We are both very short. And she made me very aware of proper fit.

My Dad always encouraged proper business attire. When I was going for an interview at the University of Iowa, I wasn’t wearing a jacket and he said, ‘Really Virginia, this is college!’ That made me think. And I always keep that in mind.

Changes in style outlook over time?

Knowing what I know today, I always now go for the practical. Before, I might have worn sandals that pinched my feet but didn’t clash with my outfit. Not today.

How did your sense of practicality carry over into maternity wear?

I didn’t have a lot of maternity clothes.

I did realize that I would have to find new maternity suits that would work when I had to go to court. Once I bought a regular suit — not maternity — that was two sizes too big and had the sleeves taken up.

How does what you wear at Channel One differ from what you wore as an attorney?

When I was still practicing law, I ended up in court a lot, so I always had to be dressed up just in case I had to pop in. But I can be a little less formal now at Channel One.

At Channel One, what I wear varies widely. Always closed-toed shoes, though, whether I am joining the volunteers and repackaging food or going to a meeting. And certainly business attire if going to a meeting.

What do you hope your style communicates?

Competence, in whatever I am doing.

What should every woman have in her wardrobe?

Basic things that make you feel great and ready to work. A black pencil skirt and black pants. Polished and easy. Higher quality, so they last.

Your most essential component?

Friends joke that I always have a blue blazer. I have one that is 4 years old. So it might be time for a new one!

Anything else important?

An iron and an ironing board. If I have an iron and can grab a bottle of spray starch, I’m set. I’m a working mom, but I can’t stand clothes that are not ironed. I usually buy two bottles of starch at once. Have you noticed? Stores don’t stock spray starch the way they once did.

Earlier you alluded to appreciating fit. Is having a good tailor important?

Yes. For example, not too long ago, at an outlet mall, I found this black quilted jacket. The sleeves were too long and I paid more than the cost of the coat to have the sleeves taken up, but I will have the coat forever.

Clothes that fit well are clothes that you want to keep for a long time.

Any priceless pieces that you might even pass to Louise?

When my grandmother passed away, I got all of her costume jewelry, including a box of pearl jewelry. (First Lady) Barbara Bush type necklaces and others of various lengths. I love them all.

And a college mini-skirt that I was wearing when I met my husband.

Anything identifiably “Minnesota” about your style now?

Everyone else does this too, but I carry my good pair of shoes and wear my Minnesota boots to work and outside. Also, a sleeping bag puffer coat, as I call them, with a hood. I have had mine since 2010 and the fur on the hood is matted, so maybe time for a new one!

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