By Theresa Shadrix
The Anniston Star Staff Writer
Patsy Riley does not design and tell.
So when the red carpet rolls out at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex tomorrow at 8 for Gov. Bob Riley's inaugural ball, all eyes will be on his wife. After all, she is not only the First Lady of Alabama; she will be the belle of the ball in a couture gown she designed.
“I like secrets, and I don't usually tell too much,” she said when asked what she will wear. Wanting to keep the details of the dress design a secret, because, “every girl should have an element of surprise,” she said she just hopes the governor likes it as much as she does.
She did fess up that it will be a vintage-styled gown she designed with a little help from some friends. Inspired by her childhood fashion icons, it will be a 1950s and '60s-inspired ball gown.
“When I was a teen, I admired Doris Day, Audrey Hepburn and Debbie Reynolds in the movies,” Riley said. “They were my role models. So my dress has a little bit of Doris Day, Audrey Hepburn and a dash of Debbie Reynolds.”
It was Liz Stearns of Susan Lee Boutique in Atlanta on whom she called to help dress her for the ball.
“I described what I wanted, and she had it made,” Riley said. Stearns also helped dress Riley for President Bush's inauguration and was excited when she received her call.
“I was just beside myself that she remembered me after two years,” Stearns said.
Riley brought a picture of what she wanted, and Stearns said she knew a designer, Saul Kapilivsky of Rose Taft, who could make the dress a reality. Stearns said Riley knows what she wants and what looks good on her, and it makes dressing her for an event easy.
One thing Riley admits is that she is not sure how to do her eye make-up for the ball. She will do her own hair, foundation and blush but asked her cousin, Hayley Mauldin Daniel, a make-up artist at Gates of Pearls in Birmingham, to glam her up for the night by “painting her eyes.”
With Sara Evans headlining as the entertainment at the ball, Riley said she can't wait to dance with the governor and celebrate his second term. He will wear one of his favorite tuxedos and his trademark black cowboy boots.
“Ya know, a man never looks as handsome as when he is in a tuxedo, she said in her distinct Clay County accent.
For the inaugural swearing-in ceremony, Monday at noon on the Capitol steps, the governor will most likely wear a favorite red tie with a dark suit. The First Lady jokes that she is not like her mother's generation in which the wife often laid clothes on the bed and selected the husband's outfit for the day.
“I used to think that was so funny. Now, I love to buy his ties, but he does dress himself,” she insists.
Standing by her husband as he takes his oath as the 53rd governor of Alabama, the First Lady will wear a custom made suit by Sue Tang of Sue Tang Designs in Montgomery and a hat by Melanie McLaughlin of Mobile. McLaughlin designed the hat Riley wore to the first inaugural swearing in ceremony and she knew she wanted her to do another one.
“I'm going to reinvent the hat,” she jokes.
Tang said Riley designed the suit, and she wanted something feminine and patriotic.
“The suit is full of life and is very feminine. She has a flowing skirt, and I think she looks very good,” Tang said. Tang said it is important for any outfit to fit a person's personality and the first lady's suit is no exception.
“She is very outgoing, warm to people and we wanted to make her suit warm, with a happy color with a celebration look.
Stearns said Riley makes the process of dressing her fun and relaxing.
“She looks like a million dollars,” Stearns said. “I can't wait. Alabama will really be proud.”
Riley said when she is announced at the ball with her husband, she hopes southern young ladies will appreciate her style. More than anything she hopes Alabamians will see they are normal folks.
“We are just like everyone else but we so want to always put our best face and best attitude for the people. Ya know, they deserve it.”