Best Dressed Women: Ellen Stirling

When Ellen Stirling’s grandmother returned to Lake Forest in 1922 after traveling through Europe with her husband, she was told by her husband—if you can imagine it—that her closets were much too full. So, she started what is now the 88-year-old Lake Forest Shop.

“She was looking ahead,” Ellen says of her grandmother, who originally named the store the Lake Forest Sports Shop, in spite of the dressy, structured society in which she lived.

When Ellen’s aunt married the publisher Condé Nast, the business prospered and grew as a result of the relationship. “It was a heyday,” Ellen says.

And now Ellen continues to look forward, carrying on her family’s tradition. Shortly after taking over the shop in 1987, she started doing trunk shows—an idea that was totally new to shoppers at the time. Now the shows are a staple for the shop, which carries eveningwear and sportswear for women of all ages.

In addition to supporting the Lyric Opera, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago with her husband, Jim, Ellen started “Shop Your Cause” in Lake Forest, an annual event that supports local nonprofits.

Day to day, Ellen often wears pants, but she loves getting dressed up in classic looks “with flair and style,” she says. Her dress is Melinda Ang, who she says “understands femininity,” here with pretty chiffon that flatters the figure. She also loves long earrings—like this pair by Vicki Hofstetter’s Evanston company Oui, Madame—as they flatter her long and narrow face, and chokers because they play up her long neck.

What the judges said about Ellen:

“She always looks perfectly elegant and appropriate for the occasion.”

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