Style Icon: Margaret Jones

Owner, MCJ Company

by Tracy Robinson    Photography by Chuck St. John

Holiday dressing done right. All black is always classsic, but to make it festive, add something special, as Margaret has done here with her rabbit fur wrap and John Hardy jewelry. Theory turtleneck and leggings; Cole Haan booties

Tortoise reading glasses in hand, interior designer Margaret Jones explains her fetish for the hard-shelled animal, ever present in paintings, lamps and ornamental objects at her store MCJ Company, near Pepper Place. During a visit to her brother’s home in Louisiana 25 years ago, Margaret’s sons Taylor and Al found a baby turtle they named Louis and convinced their parents to let them take him home to Birmingham. Long story short, Taylor is now a senior in medical school, Al a junior in dental school, and Louis still resides at Margaret’s home, living in style in a “condo” that includes a pool and sandbox, built by Margaret’s husband.

Like Louis, many objects in Margaret’s home and closet have endured through decades. This is due to a focus on quality, not quantity, and a classic personal style that is “very simple yet unpredictable.” Fittingly, style mentors cited are John Saladino for interiors and Ralph Lauren for fashion. As in her interior design, Margaret favors neutrals in her clothing, especially black, brown and white. This palette allows for versatility, thus outfits can be changed with a mere pop of color or dressed up with a nice evening bag, special jewelry piece, designer shoes, or –during the holidays – a touch of fur. “Real, never faux,” Margaret admits.

Margaret doesn’t overdo her wardrobe or her home during the holidays, choosing to decorate the latter with a traditional tree adorned with white lights and a lifetime collection of ornaments, simple greenery and candles around the home, as well as a collection of old favorite things, like a nativity and antique music boxes that play Christmas carols.

Always maintaining a classic public appearance, Margaret’s work uniform is usually all black with a pair of great heels, “never sweats or exercise clothes,” a look she insists is for the gym only. Another fashion pet peeve is older women who try to dress like their teenage daughters. “Only now that my daughter Julia is 32, do we even think about sharing clothes. I certainly believe in looking as great as you can at every age, but I also believe in dressing age appropriate,” Margaret says. This doesn’t mean older women can’t still challenge themselves, she points out. The key is to look fresh, not overly trendy; sophisticated, but never matronly.

Obviously, Margaret’s simple style should never be mistaken for anything sterile or industrial, a look she specifically notes she distastes. The warm feel of her retail store and the welcoming graciousness of her personality are anything but.

Holiday Attire Done Right

First of all, let’s talk about what NOT to look for in holiday attire.  Do not, do not, DO NOT wear any sort of attire that features reindeer, wreaths, snowmen, holly berries, etc…and resist the temptation to wear red and green together, period. You will just end up looking costume-y, cliche, and frankly, tacky. The fact that there are “tacky Christmas sweater parties” being held across college campuses should be a huge red flag. Also resist seasonal accessories which include, but are not limited to, ceramic reindeer pins, bell earrings and flashing Christmas tree broaches. With the exception of a watch, jewelry should not have batteries.
Now, I can appreciate the desire to be a little festive during the holidays. Metallics and sequined garments continue to trend, both a great way to add a little sparkle to an ensemble. Think a black sequined blazer paired with black satin cigarette pants. Or a fitted long-sleeved gold sheath contrasted by black opaque tights and platform heels. Fur embellishment (either real or faux) can add a festive element, as can bold color. Look for rich jewel tones, like plum, deep jade and peacock blue, as well as vibrant shades, such as tomato red, cobalt blue and fuschia.
Accessories are an important part of holiday dressing. Select beautiful, interesting jewelry that will last you throughout the year and coordinate with a variety of outfits, not just holiday attire.  Even then, don’t get carried away. Choose focal pieces, instead of over-accessorizing, but don’t be afraid to try statement pieces. Anything too delicate will simply get lost on you. Try chandelier earrings, chunky cuffs, multi-layer necklaces and sparkly cocktail rings — just not all at the same time. The “statement” that a piece of jewelry is trying to make gets lost if there’s too much going on all at once. A good rule of thumb is to give some breathing space between bold pieces: so instead of big earrings AND a big necklace, try big earrings and a cocktail ring or embellished cuff.
Above all, be joyful! Never be intimidated again by the invitation that instructs “Festive Attire.”

Diane Von Furstenberg Pauletta embellished sheath, Saks Fifth Avenue

Milly Liza jacket in gunmetal, and Suede & faux fur bolero, Chico's

Hutton trouser in peacock silk faille, J.Crew

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