Stephanie Shimp's Librarian Chic
The Blue Plate restaurateur dresses with a dash of spice
By Tim Nehotte
Most people have bad hair days. Not Stephanie Shimp. Born with a mane of exuberant curls, the co-owner of Blue Plate Restaurant Company welcomes the daily wiles of her impetuous tresses like her diners await the chef’s special: with anticipation and delight. Wavy, frizzy, five-days-post-wash flat—come what may, every day is a good hair day.
Not so every dress day. A spunky entrepreneur who juggles the demands of eight restaurants (including Edina Grill, the Lowry, and the Freehouse, which opened in the North Loop in December), 600-plus employees, and two kids (Ruby, 9, and Vincent, 7), Shimp prides herself on an edgy, quirky, Librarian Chic style that artfully mixes zebra prints and pinstripes, taffeta and leather, sequins and pearls. And that’s office attire.
“People always ask me, ‘How can you wear those things together?’” says Shimp, 43, with a laugh. “I tell them, ‘I just do.’” And so it was with great pleasure that on June 1, 2012—a date she shall never forget—Shimp dressed up for a night out at the Fitzgerald Theater in a very pretty J.Crew dress with giant blue polka dots and a poofy skirt that she “funkified” with a fuchsia belt, platform heels, and her trademark vintage glasses, and promptly ran into a woman in the auditorium wearing the exact same dress. “I was like, ‘Damn. I hate this,’ she recalls. “I don’t want to look like anyone else. It ruined my night. I will never buy another dress off the rack again. Ever.”
Unless it’s a rack at, say, Mona Williams designer consignment or June Resale. Hanging in the closet of her Kenwood home is a vintage Pauline Trigere black taffeta dress she recently bought at June that she can’t wait to wear to, oh, La Belle Vie for a cocktail. At $250, it was a splurge, she admits. Another favorite is a silk dress with red cabbage roses (very Carrie Bradshaw) and a faded label that says “The Dayton Oval Room” that she picked up at an estate sale for a more palatable $30. “I struggle with the idea of indulgence,” says Shimp. Growing up in Lake Pepin, she explains, money was scarce; she relied on food stamps to buy the groceries to make her family dinner—and imagination to express her style. “I learned to be creative, to repurpose things. A scarf became a belt became a headwrap.”
Today, of course, she has more options. “I used to hem and haw when I wanted something that was a little expensive,” she notes. “Now when I see something I love, I get it.” She splurges on glasses (“they are like pieces of jewelry”), shoes (including a pair of Prada leopard-print stilettoes she bought herself for her 40th birthday), and a drawer full of beautiful “underpinnings,” as she says, that are her favorite secret. “On a gray day, I’ll pick out something bright pink or purple that no one will see or know about but me,” she says. “It doesn’t matter. I know. And that makes me happy.”
Shimp is wearing a Helene Berman yellow jacquard bomber jacket, $228, Nordstrom, Mall of America, Bloomington, 952-883-2121. printed button-down shirt, $59.50, Banana Republic, various metro locations, Calabria knit pencil skirt, $60, Anthropologie, various metro locations, Dior shocking blue pumps, $830, Nordstrom; jewelry, her own.
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