STYLE SELF: Cents and Sensibility

One pragmatic mom makes a big fashion statement with one very practical bag–and some comfortable, affordable clothes.

It takes serious fashion foresight to find style at the bottom of a dishwasher.
Sounds crazy, but a whizzing Whirlpool is what inspired mom-trepreneur Jen Groover to invent the sleek, Oprah-approved
Butler Bag.

Groover, 33, stresses practicality over trendiness, pragmatism over idealism.
So it should come as no surprise she feels more at ease in a versatile wrap dress
or—heaven forbid—a warm sweat suit
than stuffy office attire.

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As a result, retailers haven’t been able to keep Groover’s way-too-sensible Butler Bags on the shelves. The compartmentalized bags made the rounds as a must-have fashion item in Oprah magazine, “Laguna Beach” and a few clutch Delaware boutiques. Groover caught inspiration one night while unloading her dishwasher, where her forks, knives and cups fit perfectly into their designated basket. “That’s how I wanted my bags to be. I want to know exactly where everything is the second I open it up,” she says. “I can’t believe no one ever thought of it before.” (Gentlemen, think tackle box, but wrapped in fine leather.)

Despite her success, Groover doesn’t emerge as a slick, cutthroat businesswoman. Dressed in a blouse of flowing white organza and a retro, flower-child skirt, she says, “I think you should be comfortable in what you wear—not just from a comfort aspect, but feeling good in what you wear. I believe people can allow their style to chameleon with their attitude and occasion.”

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Groover’s philosophy keys on affordability and elegance, which is why wrap dresses from Bebe and Express stake a substantial claim to her closet. Same goes for her favorite pair of form-fitting Missoni jeans. “I prefer to hold onto that suit that you switch up with different shirts and accessories,” she says. “You’re probably waiting for me to say, ‘I shop at Armani’ but I don’t.”

Hoodies, jeans, even sweatsuits make the cut when it comes to spending time with her twin daughters, Morgan and Madison. “They allow me the freedom to just do whatever—play on the jungle-gym, get dirty and not worry about ruining something.”

Still, Groover is rarely without her “girly” things. She has a soft spot for M.A.C. and Nars cosmetics and has been known to get lost in Sephora for hours at a time. She counts vibrant Nars lipstick and Revlon ColorStay mascara as personal favorites. “And I love going to the spa and getting facials,” she says. “I think that’s nourishment more than pampering. Massages I think are great for your beauty as well, as far as anti-aging.”

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Groover credits Sorella Boutique in her hometown of Media, Pennsylvania, with providing many of her quirky fashion finds. The Eastern-inspired Padmini Designs in King of Prussia is a favorite for jewelry and accessories.

“I love jewelry that has a story,” she says, sporting an Asian colored-crystal bracelet from Padmini. “I definitely have more of an Eastern outlook on life.”

Once a woman becomes a mother, the trend is to dress down and blend into the background, Groover says. “I think as a mother, you should be more empowered to be who you want to be and stand out,” she says. “I believe I embrace that even more as a mother.”                                       —Matt Amis


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