Many Nashvillians know Betsy Taylor, who has been regarded as a local fashion maven for decades. She’d probably blush at being at being called this, but she is time and time again the person locals consult to see what she is wearing and to hear what she has to say on fashion. These days, you can find her at H. Audrey, which is where we caught up with her to chat about how Nashville is changing and the state of local retail and restaurants. We are thrilled to showcase this week’s FACE of Nashville, Betsy Wallace Taylor!
Are you from Nashville?
Yes, I was born and bred in Nashville! I went to Harpeth Hall and then to SMU. I spent a year in Washington, D.C., but headed back, as I wanted to be with my family … and politics is not my passion.
Have you always had an interest in fashion?
Yes, from birth. When I was 2, I talked about what I wanted and needed to wear. My parents would tease me about needing to have this one dress ironed over and over. I guess I’ve never been scared of a uniform!
What would your uniform be today?
My uniform consists of button-downs and boyfriend jeans. For my second wedding, I even got married in a shirtdress, because I look best in shirt-type wear. It doesn’t work for everyone, but it’s what I look and feel best in.
How has Nashville changed over the years?
Nashville was very uncool (laughs). I love the fact that it is changing. All the restaurants … local fashion like Elizabeth Suzann, Ceri Hoover, Otis James, Emil Erwin, other leather goods people. That is really great. That artisan culture is growing here. The food culture blows my mind. I was just reading Jay McInerney‘s article in Town & Country about how when he lived here there were no restaurants. Look around at all these independent restaurants we now have! Of course, I hope we don’t turn into Atlanta with the traffic and crime. Nashville’s safe. But yes, I love that it’s changing. It’s good for Nashville.
What were your first jobs in the fashion world?
I was hired to manage the now-defunct boutique Extras and Essentials. It sold accessories and clothing on Bandywood, where Kroger now is. There were other stores there that are no longer around … there was Taylor Armistead, a men’s store; Portfolio, a women’s boutique; 5’3” and under, for petites; and M. McMillian, a home store.
Then, I managed Harpeth Gallery, and then I started in sales at Harry B’s and worked up to becoming a buyer. Harry B’s was owned by Lisa Spiva, and she asked me if I wanted to buy into the company and I did, but she was the brains behind it. Harry B’s was the only local boutique in America selling Chanel. That was all Lisa. She had a way of convincing people to do things they hadn’t done before. It was located next to JAMIE, where Mattress Firm and Sports Clips are today. We took the space over from Moon Drugstore, which downsized to the spot where FedEx now is. Bookstar was there in the old theater. We closed Harry B’s in 1995.
How were buying clothes and spotting trends different then than they are today?
We had front row seats at the fashion shows in NYC and Paris. That is where the buyers belonged, because they were picking the clothes that went into the boutiques. It was completely different than it is today! And the Paris runway shows … we were looking at what the buyers from the French and Italian stores were buying, as they were the real trendsetters.
What do you think about online shopping?
We should support local businesses. Try to find it here first. It’s the buyer’s job for the store to find things unique, things you can’t find everywhere else in that city. Find the stores you love best, and trust them to find interesting things for you. Nashvillians should shop local as much as they can. Even if you are shopping at Nordstrom, at least that’s physically here.
What do you think about the Nashville retail business right now?
We need more shops that are owner-operated and reflect the owner. I’m excited by Two Son just opening, as it seems to be a store that reflects the owners and provides a unique experience. I can’t wait to check it out. We don’t need Saks. Bring us more stores like H. Audrey and Haven … people willing to go outside the box. Props to Imogene + Willie for being forerunners with a boutique that reflects the owner so strongly. JAMIE also reflects Jamie, the person, the owner. I love seeing the personality of the owner reflected in the store. We need more of that.
What would you tell moms of teens when it comes to battles over fashion?
That’s a battle I would not pick. Really, a teenager just wants to wear what everyone else is wearing. Why make them feel more self-conscious? First, they need to find their own style and be comfortable. Dress young and enjoy it; it’s the only time in your life you can get away with it!
Do you have a secret desire?
To be a sports photographer! I just finished my first class on basic photography at Nashville State. It’s my late-in-life passion. I had a photo in a student online publication … I enjoy it so much. I won a little prize!
You work in the middle of Green Hills, but you live in the country. How does this work for you?
A lot of people don’t realize this, but I’m actually anti-social. I don’t like parties. I like a lot of downtime. I really like being out in the country, because I get my downtime. It’s peaceful. I come into work, and I get my fun time right here in the middle of it all.
Tell us about Cedar Valley Canine, which I have to say really helped us with our little dog so much!
My husband, Dave, breeds, trains and sells dogs. We breed German shepherds, and he ensures the temperament that he wants. Dave trains dogs on everything from drug detection and explosive detection to basic house training.
What’s one good tip dog owners need to know when it comes to raising obedient dogs?
(laughs) To call Dave!
What are three things you’ll be advising your clients to have in their closets for spring 2016?
Everyone should wear what makes them feel good about themselves. It used to be dictated by the designers what we should wear each season, but now you can find your tribe. I’m a tomboy dresser, and now I can find my things. I do like long summer dresses that you can wear with flip-flops and dress up, ankle-length jeans and a button-down. There’s this Equipment brand dress we have here that I just love … anything that’s super versatile.
Where was your last best meal at a locally owned Nashville restaurant?
Do you have a favorite quote/mantra/piece of advice that has seen you through or that you rely on each day?
I really learn by example. My whole life has been looking at other people and seeing what works. But when I think about something said over and over, I really do start each day thinking, “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Start each day with a smile. There is no reason to not be happy and joyful. Truly say, “I’m just glad to be here.”
What are three lighthearted things you can’t live without?
- Books. Right now, I’m reading Photoshop for Dummies and Rosemary, The Hidden Kennedy Daughter
Special thanks to Ashley Hylbert for our always-fabulous FACES of Nashville photos!
In honor of having such a fashionable FACE today, we’ve included five of our most loved articles on Fashion Tips in the “related content” below!