Former resident tapped to dress vice presidential candidate's wife

When your spouse is running for vice president of the United States, what you wear is important. That’s where Ann Wallace comes in.

Wallace, a former Wilton resident who now lives in Boston, is helping to build the wardrobe of Democratic vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine’s wife, Anne Holton.

“Anne Holton is a very down-to-earth woman, without pretense,” said Wallace. “She is an accomplished woman in her own right.

Holton was the first lady of Virginia from 2006 to 2010, and served as Virginia’s secretary of education from 2014 to 2016.

Wallace first met Holton in 2005 while working as a personal shopper at a Nordstrom in Richmond. At the time, Holton’s husband was campaigning for governor of Virginia.

“My colleague, who managed the men’s department and was a neighbor of Tim and Anne, whispered in my ear that she was going to need help,” said Wallace, “so I dropped her my card.”

The two later met at Holton’s house and got to work on her wardrobe for the 2005 gubernatorial race.

“She had a closet full of 1980s clothes and a very small box of jewelry,” said Wallace.

“She had been a judge for quite a while, and well, clothes are not a priority for judges — especially women with three young children.”

Even after Wallace moved from Virginia to Boston three years ago, she has remained Holton’s fashion coach.


Vice presidential campaign


The day after Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton tapped Kaine to be her running mate, Wallace received an email from Holton.

“I had less than 24 hours to find her two dresses [to wear to the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia],” said Wallace.

From her Boston home, Wallace started calling and texting contacts in Richmond and managed to line up dresses for a 6 p.m. appointment. Wallace said Holton was “thrilled.”

Holton wore a red Carmen Marc Valvo dress the night of Kaine’s convention speech, and “everyone agrees,” said Wallace, “it’s the best she’s ever looked.”

Since August, Wallace and Holton have met twice to prepare for this election season.

“First, we closet-shopped to see what she had that would work,” said Wallace. “Then we drew up a list and went for a power shop.”

Their second meet-up was to select Holton’s outfit for the vice presidential debate.

“We looked through her fall wardrobe and tossed out a lot of tired outfits,” said Wallace.

When Holton’s husband is in campaign mode, Wallace said, “we have to choose clothes that have some positive energy and positive colors.”

“She needs to be seen in a crowd,” said Wallace, “but since she’s under 5-foot-4, she has to choose clothes carefully so they don’t overwhelm her.”

When dressing for television, Wallace said, clothes have to be “simple” and “not distract from your face.”

“Busy patterns are out; open necklines are huge,” she said.

To the vice presidential debate, Holton wore a metallic gold- and pewter-colored Eileen Fisher jacket over a black top and black pants.

“She looked great and felt really comfortable and relaxed,” said Wallace. “The neckline was really open.”


Experience


Wallace moved to Wilton her junior year of high school, during what she calls “the fashion wasteland of the 1970s.”

“There was no such thing as a petite department and everybody shopped at the Wilton Department Store and Dress Barn,” she said.

After college, Wallace lived in New York and Puerto Rico, and even moved back to Wilton for a while.

While she was working at an Ann Taylor, Wallace said, Wilton women would ask her to come to their homes and look at their wardrobes. She did that for three years.

“I prefer to help women who are really stuck, overwhelmed by decisions and feel their closet is filled with the same colors and styles,” said Wallace.

“That’s when I get to work, and we make huges changes.”

Wallace said she once helped a New Canaan real estate agent who had “all the right clothes and all the wrong shoes.”

“I suggested she invest in a pair of Ferragamos and asked her to call me when she sold her first $1-million house. She called me within a month,” said Wallace. “People notice shoes. Period.”

In addition to Nordstrom, Wallace has experience as a Saks Fifth Avenue personal shopper. She has also been a Jos. A. Bank seller for several years.

Wallace said she enjoys “the energy and the satisfaction of helping people see themselves in a new way.”

When it comes to helping people find attire that best complements them, Wallace said, she’s learned a lot and is “thrilled” to get to share her talents with Holton.

Tips


Over the years, Wallace said, she’s learned to “buy less and buy better” and has tips that anyone can use to enhance their own wardrobe.

For starters, Wallace said, it’s important to remember that “the right color against the face makes a huge difference.”

“I encourage people to find their celebrity coach — someone on television or in the movies who has their coloring,” she said.

“Watch how the stylists dress them for their coloring and shape.”

Wallace said the most important part of a person’s appearance is their eyes and smile, and people should “listen for compliments.”

“When people compliment you, they are giving you huge clues that what you’re wearing is right for you,” she said. “Build on that advice.”