Fashion / Style

A Bomb Girl from an Iconic Dallas Family Shows Off Her Stunning Throwback Look: When Taste and Style Collide

BY Billy Fong // 12.21.17

The Kennedys. The Vanderbilts. The Rothschilds. All iconic families. Dallas has one of our own — and I don’t mean the Ewings. We have the Summers family. I had the idea to ask interior designer Emily Summers to be our December girl when I spied her at Fancy Nancy Rogers’ Halloween extravaganza.

That evening, she was Michael Jackson, and apparently it was a last-minute concoction. She threw on a sparkly Saint Laurent jacket and knew some sort of magic/inspiration would ensue.

The family of her husband, Stephen Summers, has lived in Dallas for generations. Their children also call our hamlet home. For 17 years, the extended clan has gathered on the first Monday of every month at Mi Cocina in Highland Park Village. (Her son, Stephen Summers Jr., is a co-owner of HP Village.)

Of late, I’ve been pondering the meaning and interpretations of the word “taste.” I feel like the definition should be: Whatever Emily Summers deems as chic, witty, and equal parts elegant and unexpected. Originally from Kansas City, Emily made her way to SMU through two fashion-related scholarships.

After graduating, like many well-heeled young women, she found a job at our mothership, Neiman Marcus. Her chief endeavor was accessorizing ensembles and store installations. Her love of design was fueled by her daily interaction with creations from Galanos, Pauline Trigere, Bill Blass, and Geoffrey Beene. She calls the brilliant Beene the true genius of American sportswear, and as proof, says she has a pantsuit with a jeweled collar that she has worn from 1968 until today.

Emily was styling a runway show at Neiman’s in Fort Worth when one of the preeminent models of the time, Virginia Muncie, slipped and fell and couldn’t continue. As the saying goes, “The show must go on.” Since Emily was the same size as Virginia, she quickly slipped into her remaining runway looks and was signed on by the Kim Dawson Agency as a result. She says with a grin, “All of this continued until I got pregnant and then had three kids.”

Outdoor Dining with Bering's

  • Bering's Gift's April 2024
  • Bering's Gift's April 2024
  • Bering's Gift's April 2024
  • Bering's Gift's April 2024
  • Bering's Gift's April 2024
  • Bering's Gift's April 2024
  • Bering's Gift's April 2024
  • Bering's Gift's April 2024

Her time in fashion refined her eye. She returned to SMU to pursue her graduate degree in art history after the birth of her children, which led to her career as one of the most sought-after interior designers in the country. Her firm has worked on notable public projects including the Wyly Theatre and The Winspear Opera House.

It’s hard to fathom how she has time beyond her design projects, but somehow her philanthropic work is equally inspiring. She has long been devoted to the Dallas Museum of Art and threw one of the first parties when it opened its doors in 1984 at its current downtown building.

What’s on the horizon for the quintessential girl-on-the-go? A much anticipated design book detailing her most memorable projects will be published by Rizzoli in early 2019. She also has a must list of cities to explore. The week after our last visit, she was finally making her pilgrimage to Bilbao.

Where next? “Brasilia, to experience the cities world-renowned Modernist architecture,” she says.

For her pic, Emily and her daughter, Caroline Summers, came up with a treasure trove of options, but when I saw this one, I immediately wanted to know the story behind the Audrey sunglasses and chubby fur — the vision a cross between Charlotte Rampling and Catherine Deneuve.

Approximate date of this photo.

It was winter in the 1970s, and I was standing outside of Windsor Castle with my husband, Stephen.

The occasion.

We were being hosted by one of the Summers’ company suppliers. It was so exciting to be in London with the kids at home. I was soaking it all in and appreciating the moment in such a cosmopolitan city with my wonderful husband.

What you were wearing.

It was a rabbit coat that my darling mother-in-law had given me. I likely had on one of my pairs of boots — I was all about boots during this period of my life. The sunglasses were my homage to one of my fashion icons, Audrey Hepburn.

What price fashion.

I have always been a discount shopper. During my tenure with Neiman’s, I had a 40 percent discount, but much to Stephen’s chagrin, I never made a nickel while working there! I remember fondly the days of layaway. I love the hunt and relish when I get the chance to haggle over a price.

I remember going to Orchard Street in NYC and finding something for a night at Studio 54. The outfit got us past the velvet ropes! I’m not much of an online shopper, but I do like Moda Operandi. Honestly, I like the experience of physically being in a store.

Why this is a picture of you.

To be traveling and experiencing architecture was thrilling. I also had two beautiful daughters at home (my son Stephen had yet to be born) and was so thrilled to be working on my graduate studies in art history.

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