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In My Closet: Alpha Blackburn 

About the series: In My Closet is a regular Sky Blue Window feature, taking readers inside the wardrobes of some of the city's most fashionable women and men.

Name: Alpha Blackburn

Her work: President of Alpha Designs, a fashions and interiors company.

Her play: Painting and a little light traveling. "I love going to the spa at the Langham Hotel in Chicago."

click to enlarge Alpha Blackburn collects designer pieces and creates her own Alpha Designs, too. - PERRY REICHANADTER
  • Perry Reichanadter
  • Alpha Blackburn collects designer pieces and creates her own Alpha Designs, too.

Closet Cliffs Notes: A collection of designer shoes (mainly high heels/stilettos); casual pieces that she mixes, and evening dresses for the many soirees and black-tie events she attends.

Favorite pieces: An Yves Saint Laurent black dress featuring a mix of leather, velvet and see-through lace with sheer sleeves; a Frank Olive Private Collection black felt hat with a satin band.

Something she'll never have in his closet: "That's hard to say," says Blackburn. "But I don't have a lot of prints in my closet because they're too limiting and become dated too soon."

Her style philosophy: "This might sound strange coming from a designer, but populate your collection with collectibles so that you're not in throwaway mode all of the time. The main portion of your wardrobe shouldn't be based on fads. But if you're going to do fads, buy the cheapest version that you can tolerate. If you focus on what's current, you will never develop a well-rounded wardrobe."

Fashion shows in 2015: Blackburn will present two fashion shows next year, including the Meet the Artists Fashion Show on Feb. 14 inside the Central Library and the Walter S. Blackburn Men of Substance & Style Fashion Show and Fundraiser on June 20 at the Indianapolis Artsgarden.

Alpha Blackburn models a dress from her clothing line at her home. - PERRY REICHANADTER
  • Perry Reichanadter
  • Alpha Blackburn models a dress from her clothing line at her home.

Alpha Blackburn is known for her impeccable sense of style.

The fashion designer, visual artist, business woman and socialite can usually be spotted around town at black-tie fundraisers and swanky soirees dressed to the nines in elegant gowns, tailored suits and dresses, and her signature stilettos.

But Blackburn's style isn't relegated to high-end parties.

"I dress every day like I might have somewhere to go, and usually I do," she says. "I like to dress in pieces and parts because it gives me the most flexibility."

When asked to see some of her favorite pieces that represent her personal style, Blackburn didn't pull any of those everyday "pieces and parts" from her master bedroom closet.

Instead, she went straight for a LBD (Little Black Dress) that sets the bar too high for any other LBD in the room to compete. The Yves Saint Laurent dress features sheer sleeves, leather, lace, and a pattern outlined in velvet that simulates movement even when it's resting on a hanger.

"It's dramatic, but it's subtle in its design, and see-through," says Blackburn, with a sly smile.

From another bedroom in the house, Blackburn pulled a black knee-length leather skirt with the same geometric pattern in the front and back; a red and black floor-length dress with front pockets and a ruffled bottom; and a long black jacket, with a mesh-like design throughout.

The black-and-red themed clothes are just a few of the items designed by Blackburn herself (under her Alpha Designs fashions and interiors label).

"I love the colors red and black. Most of my wardrobe is comprised of black, red and beige," says Blackburn, who shows her clothing collection twice a year at the Meet the Artists fashion show in February and the Walter S. Blackburn Men of Substance & Style Fashion Show and Fundraiser in June.

This favorite necklace is on display in Blackburn's makeup room. - PERRY REICHANADTER
  • Perry Reichanadter
  • This favorite necklace is on display in Blackburn's makeup room.

Then Blackburn pulled out the shoes.

It's a collection that would send the fictional Carrie Bradshaw ("Sex in the City") into cardiac arrest. There are rows of boxes with Christian Louboutin, Manolo Blahnik, Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent heels and stilettos inside.

Each pair has a specific detail that makes it stand out - straps that wrap about the ankles; intricate stitching; or crystals of varying sizes on the heels.

For Blackburn, a former model who started sketching and designing clothes at age 9, it's all about the details in everything she buys or creates.

"I've always had an aptitude for fashion and understanding design in three dimensions, and how to construct certain looks," says Blackburn.

Alpha Blackburn's extensive shoe collection includes this pair of Christian Louboutins with the designer's distinctive red soles. - PERRY REICHANADTER
  • Perry Reichanadter
  • Alpha Blackburn's extensive shoe collection includes this pair of Christian Louboutins with the designer's distinctive red soles.

Other highlights from Blackburn's closet:

Heels, heels and more heels

"I love heels and more often than not I wear heels when I'm in public," says Blackburn, who isn't afraid to don a pair of 6-inchers. "I feel better if I'm in heels. They make you walk differently and make you feel different."

Blackburn wouldn't divulge exactly how many pairs of shoes she has, but they run at least a couple of rows deep on an upper shelf and along the floor inside her master bedroom closet.

A true shoe lover, most are still in their original boxes and the toes stuffed with paper. Blackburn has carefully written a description of the shoe on the outside of the box, along with the year they were purchased. In some cases, she also has drawn a picture of the shoe on the box.

Some of Blackburn's favorites include:

-- Her first pair of Christian Louboutin's (with the coveted red bottom sole). It's a beautiful black satin pair that she received as a gift. "A friend bought them for me in Chicago. They are probably 10 years old."

-- A pair of black Miu Miu heels that at first glance looks like a regular shoe with crisscrossed straps across the top of the foot. It isn't until you turn the shoe around to look at the heel that you notice the crystals - large and small - that add a touch of elegance and flair.

-- Two pair of brown Yves Saint Laurent heels, one with detailed stitching around the entire shoe and the other with wide leather straps designed to tie around the ankle.

"Now that's what I call a bad (i.e. awesome) shoe," says Blackburn as she tried on the pair with the wide leather straps and stretched out her leg - turning her foot from side to side - to give the full effect.

Blackburn likes this Yves Saint Laurent creation for the quality leather and fine detail.  - PERRY REICHANADTER
  • Perry Reichanadter
  • Blackburn likes this Yves Saint Laurent creation for the quality leather and fine detail.

Can't live without her Gucci 'jeans'

Truth be told, Blackburn really isn't a fan of jeans.

"I didn't have jeans until I was an adult, and I designed my own," she says.

In the 1970s, the jeans she designed were velveteen with her signature in gold on the back pocket and gold piping down the side seam.

"They were bad," says Blackburn, who made a collection and showed them during one of her fashion shows, which she has been producing since the '70s.

Blackburn says even as a child she didn't have jeans.

"I didn't play in jeans as a child. I didn't think that I looked good in them," she says. "Even now I'm not much of a jeans person, but I do have a couple of pairs in my closet."

There is, however, a pair of leather Gucci "jeans" that Blackburn loves to wear when she's working in her home studio, where she sketches and designs clothes and paints.

"Leather jeans breathe and move with you," she says. "They are so comfortable."

Show your personality through hats

Unlike a lot of women, Blackburn hasn't really developed a love affair with jewelry or purses - although she has some very nice pieces in her collection.

She does, however, have a fondness for hats.

Just like her clothes and shoes, Blackburn's hat collection is well taken care of - with each one resting inside intricately designed hat boxes.

This Frank Olive hat reflects Blackburn's appreciation for classic designs, as well as her core color choices of black, red and beige. - PERRY REICHANADTER
  • Perry Reichanadter
  • This Frank Olive hat reflects Blackburn's appreciation for classic designs, as well as her core color choices of black, red and beige.

"I love hats. What's not to love about hats? I think that hats add a note of distinction and personality," says Blackburn, whose favorite is a black felt Frank Olive with a wide satin band that ends with a bow in the back. It's from Olive's Private Collection.

"It's classic, simple and beautiful, and has a nice shape," says Blackburn. "There are not a lot of (details) on it. A lot of the newer hats have too many details that diminish their appeal and limit their wearability."

For Blackburn, of course, it's all about the details.

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Shelby Roby-Terry

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Shelby Roby-Terry has worked as a journalist for more than 20 years and served as a reporter and editor at several papers throughout Indiana and New Orleans, Louisiana. She is founder and owner of The Forty Group, an Indianapolis-based PR, Marketing and Event Planning agency. During her spare time, Shelby... more

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