Tiffany Mott-Smith Blends Mad Men with Oscar Style for Stunning Office Chic
Tiffany Mott-Smith is not your typical businesswoman. Like the good millennial, she’s dabbled in an array of different fields since graduating college, including arts administration and research, and has labeled herself a “development nerd.” But she didn’t stop there: the 30-something professional has also pursued advanced degrees in public administration and higher education. “In true survivor-of-the-recession form, I have about one million careers converging and diverging depending on the moment,” Mott-Smith sums up.
For the last year, her days have been spent at the Smithsonian Institution, where she’s an advancement professional working to ensure the Washington D.C. museums have the resources required to foster and diffuse knowledge at little to no cost. “The words, ‘unlocking the mysteries of the universe,’ are in my performance plan – so no pressure there!” jokes Mott-Smith. It’s no small gig, but that doesn’t stop her from performing, curating, and documenting American burlesque and cabaret shows in her off-hours, a “hobby” of hers for the past five years.
Originally, Mott-Smith’s rejection of the businesswoman “title” stemmed from an image of a woman decked out in shoulder pads and sensible pumps “plucked from the eighties,” since it did not match her life experience. “My mother had dual careers as a nurse and a beautician — she even owned her own business. Yet, she never considered herself a businesswoman – she’d describe herself as a ‘hard hustler,’ so naturally I did the same,” she explains. But recently, Mott-Smith has finally begun to embrace the term, realizing that the difference really comes down to semantics. “We [my mom and I] consider boredom death, and our hobbies are our careers. If that’s not the makings of a businesswoman, then I don’t know what is.”
With her newfound appreciation for the title came a newfound devotion towards a chicer office style. Not one for sensible footwear, Mott-Smith’s 9 to 5 garb is a bit more Mad Men meets Oscar-winner. “My professional style is an even split between Mad Men’s Joan Harris and actress Lupita Nyong’o,” she explains. “I love to pair high-waisted pencil skirts that flatter my curves with pops of color, pattern, and embellishment. I finish off almost every look with a smart cardigan and an elegant brooch.”
For the past seven years, Christina Hendricks’ alter ego – Joan – has reignited fashion’s love of the fifties form-fitting styles. Nyong’o, on the other hand, is last year’s Academy Award winning actress of 12 Years a Slave. Thanks to her role in the film – and subsequent red carpet walks – Nyong’o quickly rose up the ranks of Hollywood’s best dressed. Just over a year since “Lupita Nyong’o” became a household name, the actress is officially a full-fledged fashion icon for women across the board.
With her celebrity style icons in mind, Mott-Smith firmly believes that Hollywood’s portrayal of professional women is finally changing, and for the better. “Businesswomen used to be portrayed solely as cut-throat, sharp-tongued white women in busy urban offices. Today, those same characters have a much more a diverse range of color, size, and personal life. Now, it almost seems strange to see a woman onscreen who’s not working in some sort of business capacity – regardless of age or family structure.”
Of course, the welcome shift has also had a positive effect on the style of these iconic characters. “Fashion-wise, I think we’ve gone from looking like triangles – large, broad shoulders with tiny waists and legs – to looking like extras from Sex and The City,” Mott-Smith summarizes.
In real life, for this professional lady, fashion is all about the accessories – in fact, her favorite seasonal adornment is a tam. “I love topping off outfits with a mid-20th century chic tam or beret.” Aside from a well-placed hat, Mott-Smith also advocates for winter color blocking and layering. “My favorite season is summer, and there are some pieces I just can’t let go of for winter. So I wear them with tights, boots and a cardigan and voilà – that summer dress just became snow- and sleet-approved!”
At the end of the day though, Mott-Smith biggest piece of fashion advice returns to the accessories. “Even if you work in a more conservative environment where you can’t bring in too much color or pattern, a smart set of cufflinks or collar clip can really give an outfit a unique flair.”
So, tell us, what’s your number one winter accessory?
Photos courtesy of Sex & The City, AMC’s Mad Men, and Michael Key (photo of Tiffany Mott-Smith)
TAGS: dressing like the stars Women in entertainment