Makeda Saggau-Sackey came to the United States from Ghana when she was 13 years old. She says she was fascinated by American fashion and culture—the polar opposite of what she was used to in Ghana—so she subscribed to magazines such as Tiger Beat and Mademoiselle and clipped photographs that intrigued her.
After college, Saggau-Sackey got a job in public relations but wanted to keep up with fashion. So, like many twentysomethings looking for an outlet, she started a blog called the Glamazon Diaries. For now, blogging's a hobby, but she has big dreams: “I think of my blog as a portfolio for when I move to New York to get Anna Wintour’s job as editor-in-chief of Vogue. Fashion is the one medium in which all my fantasies and deepest desires can come to life.”
At least some of that dream has started to come true: At night, Saggau-Sackey covers social events for the Web site Scene Bisnow, attending more than a dozen events a week. On top of that, she holds a day job at a social marketing firm and updates her blog several times daily.
We caught up with this busy fashionista to chat about Washington style. Read on to find out how she stays fashionable in a down economy, what she thinks every woman needs in her closet, and where she goes for bargain-focused retail therapy.
Number of items in your closet:
“Can I make up a simple number so that I don’t look like a shopaholic? All right, here goes: Since I last organized my closet (which was a month ago), I counted about 150 pairs of shoes, about 60 dresses, six pairs of pants (I don’t really believe in pants), 20 skirts, and a whole bunch of accessories including scarves, clutches, handbags, jewelry, and other knickknacks.”
Three basics every woman should have in her closet:
“Every woman should have a little black dress (LBD) in at least five different shapes. When in doubt, I usually put on a black dress and accessorize it with tons of jewelry. One of these LBDs should be able to take you from the boardroom to the dinning room to the ballroom or dance floor.
“The next piece should be what Beyoncé Knowles calls a “Freakum dress.” This is the dress you put on to feel absolutely sexy and get a man. It’s the showstopper. I think every woman should have one dress she knows will command attention. It doesn’t have to be entirely revealing, just something that shows off your assets.
“And last, a fabulous pair of heels that are at least three inches. Sometimes sacrifices have to be made in the name of fashion, and I believe wearing a pair of stilettos, preferably black and patent leather—why do you think Christian Louboutins look so hot?—vamps up any woman’s appeal exponentially. Not to mention that stilettos lift the derriere and give you great-looking calves. Just make sure you practice wearing them around the house before going out. Oh, and remember to keep your head high and shoulders back.”
Trend you’re most excited about for spring:
“I’m excited about a lot of trends such as oversize necklaces, big Wonder Woman-esque cuff bracelets, and exposed zippers and zipper accents like what Philip Lim did with his skirts and tops for the spring. What I’m most excited about, though, is the military jacket, which is often called the Sergeant Pepper jacket—think of the Beatles’ 1967 album cover. It’s cropped with a sleek, tailored fit and embellishments such as a zippers or pins. This trend is bold. You might think DC isn’t ready for it, but I know we are.”
Retro trend you can’t believe has come back:
“Harem and MC Hammer pants. Let’s leave those back in the early ’90s where they belong. However, I’ll admit that some of the less exaggerated harem pants work for almost every woman, especially for those with a slim top half. I love Chloé, Emporio Armani, Just Cavalli, Paul Smith, and Derek Lam’s interpretations. Those who want to try harem pants have to learn a few rules: You must balance the voluminous silhouette of the pants by defining your waist with a fitted top or something you can tuck in, and the heels should be high.”
Biggest fashion pet peeve:
“Girls not telling their friends to change their outfit before going out. I know that as females we have some catty behavior, but letting your girlfriend go out looking frumpy or unkempt is just wrong. It’s tough to be honest, but I really appreciate it when my girlfriends tell me to change because the outfit I’m wearing isn’t flattering for my body. I see this way too often, and something’s gotta give. Another pet peeve: When women, particularly moms, tuck T-shirts into their jeans and wear sneakers. What makes it even worse is that the seat of the jeans is usually halfway up their back, the waistband about five inches above their navel.”
Best advice for the fashionably inept:
“It’s easy to get lost and overwhelmed when looking for style/fashion ideas to update your closet, especially if you know nothing about it. My mom always said to love your body and always feel comfortable in what you’re wearing. That’s good advice. If you have any doubts about your ensemble, you should change because you’ll feel even more miserable when you step outside the door. You should also find a good tailor because nothing that comes off the rack, no matter the price, is tailored to fit your body. This is a basic rule that everyone, male or female, must observe. It kills me when I see people with beautifully made clothes that drape sluggishly or awkwardly on their bodies. Oh, and one more thing: Sprint to your nearest Barnes & Noble to grab a copy of The Little Black Book of Style by former Elle editor-in-chief Nina Garcia. Your closet and wallet will thank you.”
Best advice for fashionistas during the bummer economy:
“Fast-fashion stores such as H&M, Target, and Zara are your best friends. You can get the trendiest pieces from designers for less. With collaborations from high-end designers such as Matthew Williamson for H&M, which hits stores April 23, and Alexander McQueen and Erickson Beamon for Target—currently in stores—you can stay on trend for less. If you really want to splurge on a designer piece, opt for an investment accessory such as a Bottega Veneta belt than can be worn season after season with jersey dresses or jeans.”
Favorite boutique for a splurge:
“I live in Glover Park, so I usually walk to the boutiques on Wisconsin Avenue, Northwest, for convenience. My go-to place for a good splurge is Urban Chic, where I can find some of my favorite designers such as Catherine Malandrino and Shoshanna. Plus the girls there are really friendly and usually know what I like and what works for me. I also frequent We One You Two and Cusp because they carry some designers that aren’t in other stores.”
Favorite place to shop online:
“I hate pushy salesladies and usually prefer to shop online. My favorite place to shop, hands down, is Gilt Groupe, a by-invitation-only sample-sale site that provides access to men’s, women’s, and children’s luxury brands at prices up to 70 percent off retail. Each sale lasts 36 hours and features styles from designers such as Oscar de la Renta, Valentino, Marc Jacobs, Carolina Herrera, Michael Kors, and Judith Ripka. I also use a Web site called ShopStyle. It’s like a library of all the major stores and online boutiques; type in anything you want, and it searches through store inventories to find what you’re looking for. It also lets you assemble your favorite looks into a style book, just like a fashion editor would, and share it with friends or buy the entire look instantly.”
Most fashionable Washington neighborhood:
“This is a really tough one because each neighborhood has its own unique style. Can I pick my top three? During the day, I’d say the K Street, Northwest, area. I love seeing men in finely tailored suits. U Street is one of my favorites to observe some of the latest trends—the girls who hang out there know how to embrace the trendiest styles and aren’t afraid to rock it. I also love Georgetown’s preppy style, although I think some miss the mark by going overboard on pastels. It’s a taste of the South and a bit more mainstream.”
Best neighborhood for shopping therapy:
“Ooh! Okay, for shopping therapy, I’d rather rent a Zipcar and hop the highway to Woodbridge to hit the outlets at Potomac Mills. Neiman Marcus Last Call, Off Fifth, and Nordstrom Rack are my faves. Plus I know I can get luxury brands without breaking the bank.”
One word to describe your personal style:
“I couldn’t summarize my style in one word, so I asked a couple friends for suggestions. My friend Carissa said, ‘I’d say trendy, but you’re not. Kind of a mix between classic and trendy, which is a good thing.’ Kara said, ‘Sophisticated and trendy. But I wouldn’t use trendy because you’re smart-trendy. You only wear trendy things that look good on you. Maybe trendy-classic.’ Ryan said, ‘Functional high couture. For a busy person like you, you may not be able to change before an evening event, so you have to look good for work and be prepared to make the outfit last throughout the day without losing its integrity.’ And Lexi said, ‘Colorful—a mix of traditional and inventive.’ I guess that sums it up nicely.”
One word to describe Washington’s style:
“C’mon now! Don’t keep stumping me with these one-word-answer formats. If I had to describe Washington’s style, I’d say it’s classic with a trendy edge. We are a city of suits who embrace our inner trendsters at twilight. It’s the three-martini-lunch-and-oyster-shooting crowd meets the young, fabulous, and creative bunch.”
The most money you’ve ever spent on an article of clothing:
“My mom will be reading this, so I prefer not to answer because she’d kill me.”
Total cost of the outfit you’re wearing right now—including shoes:
“The cost of my outfit is priceless. The dress I’m wearing right now was made by my cousin in Ghana, so it only cost about $10 for the fabric, and the cost of labor was, well, free. I’m wearing strappy leather sandals by Chloé that I bought online for about $150 (they were originally $595). The earrings are gold J. Crew starfish studs ($27.50), and the necklace is a vintage gold lioness with emerald eyes that my dad gave me when I was little (not sure how much that was). So added all together, it’s $187.50.”
Finish this sentence: “I never leave home without my . . . ”
“ . . . BlackBerry. I’d be lost without it. I don’t know how I’d get in contact with anyone because I’m usually fashionably late. Plus my entire schedule is on there.”
Heels or flats?
“Heels. They look more professional and sophisticated than flats. The only time I wear flats is when I’m lounging at the pool or shopping. I’ll admit, though, that I’ve been wearing flats a lot more lately because I broke my leg playing soccer last year and have a screw and a titanium plate in there. But I still wear heels when I go out. (I hope my orthopedic surgeon isn’t reading this.)”
Lipstick or lip gloss?
“I can’t live without my Victoria’s Secret Beauty Rush Lip Balm in Clear Gloss. It keeps my lips smooth and hydrated and has this peppermint oil that is so soothing. I’ve used it for the past five years. You can get five tubes for $20, so I usually stock up once year and toss one in each of my favorite bags. I wear lipstick sparingly and stick with soft, subtle colors, although I found the perfect red shade by Shiseido, called Dragon.”
Favorite local fashion blog besides your own:
“I love Project Beltway for the man-on-the-street-style photography and Fashion Is Spinach for fab fashion advice and Betsy’s quirky take on trends.”
Next week in the Blogger Beat, we get the skinny on quirky food marketing—what works for advertisers and what doesn’t—with So Good blogger Jon Eick. Check back next Wednesday for the interview!
Have a favorite local blogger you’d like to hear from? Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.