News & Politics

Ten Well Dressed Women: Melody Barnes

Ten women share their fashion advice, their places to shop—and their fashion disasters.

Photograph by Matthew Worden

Melody Barnes, 43

Executive vice president for policy, Center for American Progress

How would you describe your style?

Understated but interesting. I like clean, elegant lines, and I love it when a piece has surprising detail.

Where do you like to shop?

Frances Kahn in my hometown of Richmond. The owner, Rusty Lester, does a great job of buying fun, new designers as well as classics. The assistant manager, Julie Bristow, knows my taste and what’s in my closet. I shop once in the spring and once in the fall. My mom comes along, and everyone is wonderful to her. I have a glass of wine, we laugh and catch up, and it’s efficient. I don’t like to spend a lot of time shopping.

What do you splurge on?

I love a beautiful suit. Wear the entire suit and you’re professional and put together. Put the jacket on with a pair of jeans and you’re ready for a fun dinner. I also have a crazy collection of Wolford tights. They’re a small detail that makes an outfit more interesting.

What outfit always makes you feel terrific?

In public, my Blue Cult jeans. I have them in dark denim, white, and other colors. At home, my favorite sweatpants, which lost elastic in the waist years ago. I just keep rolling them up.

What was your worst fashion disaster?

That’s a toss up. I loved my purple crushed-velvet, bell-bottom hip huggers from elementary school—but in retrospect, not a good idea. Many years ago, I wore a hot-pink-and-black dress to a New Year’s Eve party—scary.

What’s the best fashion advice you’ve ever received?

The best life advice I’ve received is also the best fashion advice: Be authentic. You shouldn’t wear it just because it’s in style or looks good on somebody else. You have to know who you are and honor that.


Want to nominate a local woman for next year's best-dressed list? Send suggestions to Leslie Milk at