Fashion / Profiles

She’s the Bomb: Texas Socialite Models for a Playbill — and the Results Remain Stunning

BY Billy Fong // 01.31.17

I love a good double take. Melinda Knowles was exactly that at first glance — well worth a second look. (Or, in this case, a second appraisal, which makes sense since she worked at Sotheby’s for years.)

Knowles and I met 10 years ago, when I began my job at the Dallas Museum of Art and was a stranger in a strange Texas town. I had just moved here from Connecticut and was at an exhibition opening when I had an audience with the lovely Knowles. Mason Custard introduced us and shared that we had Virginia in common — my having attended Virginia Episcopal School, and Melinda having graduated from the prestigious Mary Baldwin University.

Over time, I learned the most charming details about her — she had her first kiss on the VES tennis courts — and she’s currently my go-to girl for WASP-y insights. Many years ago, when I was writing my “Billy Fong Sez” column for PaperCity, she was quick on the draw with responses when asked for the scoop about monogramming, that month’s subject matter. “For children’s linens, I go to …” “For guest towels, I secure the services of …” She could go on and on.

Indeed, Knowles is our city’s long-lost younger Bouvier or Guest sister. She is preternaturally old school, but she’s also a girl who leaves me laughing for days when she casually throws out a charming, subtle innuendo. Her take on e-vites is the perfect example: “I much prefer a stiff card stock in my mailbox if I am expected to show up at a party,” she once said.

Knowles and I met recently at Forty Five Ten on Main’s Copper Bar to discuss her appointment as my February girl. I wish Portishead was playing in the background, as she is endlessly chic, just like that band.

We exchanged belated Christmas presents; she gifted me brilliant cocktail-glass necklaces emblazoned with words such as “boozy,” “bottomless,” and “hooch.” When I turned over the gift box, it said: “Fearlessly sophisticated.” I can’t think of better branding for Ms. Knowles.

Approximate date of this photograph. Remember to not be too specific or (perish the thought) give away age.
Early ’90s.

The occasion.
My mother and I were members of the Charlotte, North Carolina Symphony Guild. The Guild asked us both to model for a fund-raiser luncheon, and have our pictures in the Symphony playbill in the dresses from the show.

I must know: What were you wearing?
This was Carolina Herrera. The white top was beautifully and intricately beaded. The skirt was her signature black taffeta. The shoes were my own Ferragamos. I cannot remember where the earrings came from, but aren’t they fun!

What price fashion.
My mother gave me the outfit as a gift as I had enjoyed wearing it so. Although I was an investment banker then, I have no doubt that I was thrilled with the gift of such a gorgeous Carolina Herrera! I only wish now that I had kept it.

Why this is a photograph of you.
It brings a smile to remember my time in Charlotte. It’s a lovely city and I still have many dear friends there. I lost my mother a few years after this picture was taken so it’s also a nice memory of the fun we had together being models for the Symphony fund-raiser.

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