Title: Stylish woman about town
Job/Work: Writer, “nonprofit whisperer”
Websites: merylahfranzos.com, instagram.com/theicecreamsocialistparty
How would you define your style?
I’ve been trying to pin it down so it falls neatly into a definitive category for years, but that hasn’t worked. I’m a chameleon who leans toward edgy, bold, rock ’n’ roll, and countercultural stuff.
Who are your style inspirations?
Kate Moss, Kristen McMenamy, Melanie Kobayashi of Bag and a Beret, Carla Rockmore, @KarenBritChick, Gwen Stefani, Peggy Guggenheim, Vivienne Westwood, @Zadijo (I think she’s a French rockstar’s wife, she’s so cool it hurts), Victorian Coke, Justin Gossman, Lenny Kravitz.
How has your style evolved through the years?
It used to be very scattershot. My closet was bursting with cool, but disparate vintage items that had limited wearability because I didn’t have a good base of unifying basics. I’ve rectified that and further limited myself to certain flattering cuts (no more low-rise bottoms for me), and a limited color palette. If it’s not black, white, tan, ballet pink, red, neon, Calder orange, denim blue, etc., I don’t buy it. My style has become much more focused, striking, and versatile as a result of the limitations.
Do you have a favorite designer? Who are they and what do you like about them?
Iris Van Herpen is a sculptural genius. Her dresses are feats of engineering, but also manage to evoke a macabre sense of falling into a museum’s specimen cabinet. On the less fantastical side, I adore Halston’s drapey ’70s luxe designs, and anything Hedi Slimane touches oozes this louche rock ’n’ roll coolness that I strive for.
How were you introduced to Iris Van Herpen’s designs?
I was introduced to her designs through the Carnegie Museum of Art. They had an exhibit of her work several years ago and my jaw was on the floor. I’ve been following her career ever since.
When we met up today, we talked about going out, places we miss. What do you feel the overall going out and getting dressed up scene is like in Pittsburgh?
I think a lot of us are ready to be out and peeping other cool people, but I’m not part of the optimistic majority playing pretend that it’s all over and behind us. Numbers are up again and climbing. If I go out, I’ll be that pariah still wearing a mask.
Everything I’m wearing today is secondhand or vintage. The blouse and skirt I got from thredUP. The medical back brace is vintage and bought off Etsy — it’s one of my favorite, off-kilter pieces to weave into outfits. My bag is by Danse Lente and my lucite heels are Cult Gaia — both scored on The RealReal. My chandelier earrings belonged to my mother-in-law, and my square sterling ring and plastic level ring were bought at Dargate years ago.
Do you have a gift to yourself that you wear often?
My shoes are always my gift to myself.
Summer is coming. What are you looking forward to in terms of style, activities, events?
Since hybrid work has become de rigueur, I’ve gotten to explore my personal summer style outside of the office more, which is fun. As a result, denim has probably doubled in my closet. Real estate season is in full swing during the spring and summer; my husband and I have been looking for a country cottage to invest in as a getaway with our dogs, family, and friends. I would love for us to find something this year and get to enjoy it.
If you could pick an outfit you’ve seen, either historic or something fresh off the runway, what would it be, why, and where would you wear it?
I’m haunted by a 20-year-old memory of a middle-aged Joan Jett wearing a black pin-striped suit, that upon closer inspection, the pin stripes were small, fine metal zippers. It was the most exquisite punk suit I’d ever seen, and I can’t for the life of me find that picture or that suit on the internet anywhere. I would wear the heck out of that everywhere.