What Designer Mary Alice Haney Thinks of How Chicago Women Dress

June 12, 2014 | by Emma Sarran | Style & Beauty

Mary Alice Haney sounds off on what's missing in fashion today, and what Chicago women are doing right.

The Hillary dress.

The Hillary dress by Haney Prêt-à-Couture. 

She started at Harper’s Bazaar in Paris, and went on to be a stylist to the stars, dressing the likes of Blake Lively and Eva Mendes. Now, Haney is filling a void she saw in the fashion industry with her customizable line of luxury gowns, Haney Prêt-à-Couture. We caught up with the designer after her exclusive Chicago launch event on June 5 (hosted with fellow designers Elizabeth Cole and Meredith Wood Prince, and benefiting Northwestern University’s Osher Center For Integrative Medicine). Here’s her take on the business of fashion, Chicago style, and the best of the red carpet.  

On her motivation to start the company…
“[As a stylist], I started thinking, ‘What’s missing?’ It’s the customization—the idea that women are inspired by the actresses on the red carpet, or the models on the runway, but they want to walk into an event in their own unique dress, or jumpsuit, or whatever outfit it is.

“Some women love their legs, and some women want more coverage. Some women want to reveal more, and some women don’t. [With this line] they’re able to bring necklines up, and change colors based on their style.”

On creative inspiration…
"A lot of my inspiration comes from Hollywood. I have a master’s degree in film, and I love movies and old costume design, and the idea of the glamour—especially old Hollywood. I’ve been a stylist for 20 years, so I know what makes a woman look great. When I’m styling an actress, she has to look unbelievable when she walks on that red carpet. It doesn’t matter who the designer is, as long as [what] she’s wearing makes her look amazing. I take all that knowledge of what I’ve done [as] a stylist and fashion editor, and bring [it] to my designs." 

The Bridget jumpsuit.

The Bridget jumpsuit by Haney Prêt-à-Couture. 

On Chicago women…
“What’s interesting to me is how different the women are in every city, but how stylish they are. Last night, a lot of the women [said], ‘We want color!’ I wouldn’t have thought that about Chicago. There was just a sea of red, and blue, and sparkle—they looked amazing in the clothes.”

On celebrity inspiration…
"Each look from the collections [is] inspired by someone. For instance, there’s a Reese for Reese Witherspoon and a Ginnifer for Ginnifer Goodwin. When designing, I’d think, ‘This would look amazing on Reese, because that girl knows how to rock a strapless dress more than anybody.’ A lot of them have worn their namesakes." 

The Blake gown.

The Blake gown by Haney Prêt-à-Couture.  

On her favorite red carpet moment…
"[It’s] probably when Blake [Lively] wore the red Versace to the Emmys; that really catapulted her into a fashion icon. She’s got such an innate sense of style, and that was a complete collaboration—she was right there picking it out." 

On her personal style…
"I’m somebody [who] is casual during the day, then brings it on at night. I think that’s part of my brand, too—comfort. I want these beautiful magical clothes to also be super comfortable." 

On seizing the day…
"I think I, much to my parents’ chagrin, dress a little sexier. I’m definitely not somebody [who’s] conservative in my dress. I want to rock it while I still can."


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