Glamour Girls

By staff March 1, 2007

Glamour is back—in fashion, interior design and film. But in Sarasota, it never went away. In a town devoted to cultural pursuits and philanthropy, elegant, powerful women have always been in style. The classic definition of glamour is sex plus money—but here, it’s so much more. Glamour Sarasota-style is moonlight on the Gulf of Mexico, the flash of diamonds at a board meeting, a gala in the Ringling Courtyard. It’s ageless, compassionate, cosmopolitan—yet often elegantly understated. But we don’t need to define the essence of Sarasota glamour—just take a look at five women who do.

Jean Allenby Weidner has that certain something that the French call chic and the Americans called “it” in the days when they couldn’t say sexy and didn’t know from hip. It’s a way of walking, of holding one’s head, and wearing one’s clothes, instead of the other way around. Some people might call it attitude, but they would be mistaken. “It’s my training,” Jean explains.

Jean studied ballet in Zimbabwe, where she grew up, then with the Royal Ballet in London before moving to Stuttgart and becoming a prima ballerina, performing all over the world.

Her passion for dance continued when she moved to Sarasota and founded a company that evolved into the Sarasota Ballet. And she keeps on working for the things and people she cares about. You can see her nearly every day at Designing Women, the upscale resale shop that benefits charities, which she co-founded five years ago. “I can’t stop being involved,” she says. “My brain just keeps going all the time.”

As for her own style, “I love the elegance and clean lines of Yves St. Laurent, the old St. John, and Valentino. My wardrobe has a lot of vintage couture,” she says. She especially admires the elegance of ‘50s couture. And her jewelry is divine—usually couture pieces that set off her perfect features, always highlighted by the ballet chignon that sets her apart from those who follow hair fashions.

Jennie Famiglio is a hometown beauty, a Sarasota debutante, Harvard and Georgetown University Law School graduate and timeless American classic. Jennie stopped for lunch at Zoria to share her thoughts on glamour before jetting to New York for the evening with her new husband, Mark Famiglio, on his private plane. “I didn’t know until this morning we were going,” she says. Hearing about it was a glamour moment.

After the wedding of the year last spring at the Ringling Museum, Jennie, who considers their life “all about our families and getting together whenever we can,” says marriage is even better than she thought it would be. “We’re so comfortable together, and I love his spontaneity,” she says. She works for Copytalk, one of his companies.

“Glamour to me is inclusive,” she says. “It means knowing who you are, staying comfortable in your own skin, and being true to your own personal style.” Her style idol is her mom, Shirley Lascelle, whose glamour, Jennie says, transcends what she wears. Glamour is not only about what you see, says this warm young woman. It’s also about being self-assured and gracious, even modest.

Jennie loves the understated elegance of Carolina Herrera, the crisp white shirts and power suits worn by smart businesswomen who serve as role models for all women. And she agrees with designer Donna Karan about glamour: “You can’t buy it. You are it.”

Delia Smith Orth is the new face of glamour in Sarasota, but forget trying to get this dynamic woman to talk about it. “Don’t call me a glamour girl,” she says. “I don’t walk around with dangling jewels.” There’s a beat, as they say in the theater, before she adds, “although I have been known to get dressed.”

Delia lived for years in San Juan, Puerto Rico, soaking up the sun and building a medical supply company for the Caribbean before coming to Sarasota and diving into the nonprofit world, enhancing everything she touches. She was appointed by the Sarasota City Commission to chair the advisory board of the Van Wezel and now works for Habitat, but those are only two of a long string of passionate involvements.

 When asked about glamour, Delia talks about the strong women in this town who inspire her with their dedication to causes. Sarasota glamour, she indicates, is often associated with the passion that powers change. She loves to see the awe on children’s faces when they’re exposed to the arts, and she’s impressed by the wealth of artists here with special gifts to share.

“In fashion, I’m eclectic,” Delia says. “Chanel with jeans, classic to elegant, punk to demure. I like to mix fashion elements to create my own personal look. White flowing gowns remind me of the Caribbean. White and black are my favorites. They’re fantastic, just like the movies.”

Spunk and Midwestern beauty describe Virginia Toulmin, one of Sarasota’s most gracious philanthropists. She tells the story of how, as a young woman working as a nurse on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, she met a passenger who would become her husband: Col. Harry A Toulmin Jr. He was a patent lawyer and “business genius,” she says, who taught her to read financial statements and put her on the board of one of his companies.

After his death, she became president of his drug manufacturing company . It was sold in 1995, and Toulmin says, “When it paid off, I wanted to give back.” And give back she has, to causes from education to the arts.

Virginia’s focus now is on her foundation and causes, ranging from local arts groups to an orphanage in Thailand. She’s a frequent—and elegant—presence at Sarasota cultural events and galas. “I have a weakness for clothes,” she admits. “I buy here at Saks but also in New York. I have a lady from Hong Kong there who can make anything. I think she copies Armani. And I wear Peggy Jennings gowns.”

She also travels to the Far East and finds her jewels in exotic places. Her glamour is classic at its best. “I still love pleated skirts and sweaters like our seamstress made for me as a child in St. Louis,” she admits. And those divine evening gowns.

International fashion icon Adrienne Vittadini has branded her style of quiet elegance with European flair on sportswear, eyeglasses accessories, even bath and home products. A part-time resident of Sarasota, she sold her clothing line and franchises some years ago and now focuses on another passion: architecture. She and her husband, Gigi, have built and sold a number of Sarasota residences, each one sophisticated yet so relaxed that everyone who enters wants to settle in forever. Lots of cream, white and sensuous textures are enlivened with water views and artful discoveries from Adrienne’s global travels. The houses could be in New England, the Hamptons or Europe, but they fit perfectly here.

Movie-star stunning, Adrienne admits she’s “even more meticulous about what I wear than I am about the houses.” She designs many of her evening clothes, and when she shops, she looks for “that one-of-a-kind piece that speaks to me.” She tells her students at Pace and other design schools, “Style is seeing and seeing. The eye is everything.” In her dress, as in her designs, “you’re always refining, chiseling,” she says. “Glamour can’t be rigid, uptight or static. I know what the busy, active woman wants—ease and comfort mixed with elegance. And there always has to be a twist on the classic, something unexpected.”

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