Meet Jayne Conroy

Location: New York, NY
Age: 51
Marital Status: Married
Education: BA, Dartmouth CollegeJD, New England School of Law

Whether she’s shuttling back and forth between her apartment in New York and her home on Cape Cod or whipping up a Saturday night feast for her teenage daughters and their friends, Jayne always finds a way to work vintage couture into her wardrobe. “Every coat I have is a vintage coat. All of my hats, gloves, my sweaters,” she says. “I don’t think a day goes by that I’m not in something vintage.”

Where did you get your interest in fashion?

My mother and grandmother were very interested in fashion, but nobody had much cash so we weren’t in fabulous shops buying things. My grandmother made most of my clothes. She was a master sewer with a great eye.

Did you shop anywhere?

I went to Filene’s Basement a lot–when it was an actual basement. They’d advertise a “Barney’s Sale” and ship all the overstock from New York to Boston and dump it into bins. Women would grab as many things as they could. It was a fabulous experience.

How did you get into vintage?

There are some really terrific thrift stores in Boston that I’ve been going to for years. Even when I was younger, I generally wore 1940s suits to work, but nobody could tell the difference. You just have to stay away from anything that looks too costume-y.

How do you avoid looking costume-y?

Look for clothes that are beautifully constructed, not necessarily trendy. Poodle skirts were not made beautifully, you know? An Yves St. Laurent suit from almost any era is going to be just fine–not over the top. There are certain details to avoid. In a 1940s suit, for instance, I avoid braiding on the pockets or full-length sleeves.

Why do you like Couture Allure?

The owner, Jody, has a great eye and she does the selection for you. She has already gotten rid of the stuff that has a smell or looks like a costume. The quality is terrific, and she’s very exact about every item’s pluses and minuses and the measurements. That means everything to someone who actually wears these clothes.

Tell me about your job.

I love my job. I’m sort of a workaholic. My law partners and I work on very high-profile liability cases, representing thousands of individuals who have been injured. We were part of the 9-11 terrorism lawsuit. We represented all the families individually against the sponsors of the terrorism. We also handle big pharmaceutical cases. We handled the case against Pfizer concerning Bextra and Celebrex and now we’re working on the case against Bayer for injuries resulting from their birth control pills, Yaz and Yasmin.

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That’s a huge job. How do you relax?

I go home to our house on Cape Cod. My parents, my husband and my kids are there, and my sisters have purchased several of the properties around it. Our kids call it “The Commune”—they just descend on the Cape. I love to cook for everyone on Saturday nights. We’ll have about 30 people around the table. It’s wonderful when the kids are at your house and you don’t have to worry about where they are. We have an open door policy and everybody fits.

Who inspires you?

My sisters. I’m the oldest of five girls and we’re all extremely close. I can’t believe the stuff they’ve accomplished. My sister Beth has four kids—she’s like a universal mother. If my daughter needs brownies and I’m in Cleveland, Beth is baking the brownies and driving them where they need to be. Julie is a lawyer for GE and has two kids. Jennifer is a marketing director for AIG and has two kids. The youngest, Ellyn, is 31, a lawyer, and also has two kids. Any time I’m feeling tired, I just look at one of them and I’m like, ‘oh my God.’

What about your biggest indulgence?

Being with my family. That seems to be what motivates me to do everything else. I love shopping with my girls and my mother or going skiing for the weekend with all the kids.

Do you have a favorite restaurant?

I travel all over the country and eat out in terrific restaurants five or six nights a week. When I think about a favorite restaurant I think about an experience–who I’m with, what kind of conversation is swirling around the table. In New York it’s the Cafe Carlyle, dinner and a show. I’m totally enamored of John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molaskey, who are there at least one month every year. That’s my dream night out.

Favorite books?

Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick. Growing up in Cape Cod, I always heard stories about the settlers and Indians, but to read real research into the truth—or what looks like the truth—was very eye opening. I encouraged my kids to read it, and I’ve read it several times.

Do you have a signature perfume?

I prefer lighter men’s colognes. They are easier for me to wear during the day than women’s perfume. So anything in the Penhaligon line: Quercus, Blenheim Bouquet.

Favorite moisturizer?

For years I’ve been using the Neutrogena moisturizer with Retinol and salicylic acid. It’s working great so I don’t switch.

Do you have a passion project?

My youngest daughter is a type I diabetic. So whenever I have an opportunity to donate time or money, I focus on Type I diabetes. My daughter’s a real trooper. She has ups and downs, but there’s not a single thing she hasn’t done in life because of it.

Do you have an exercise routine?

As I’ve aged I’ve realized that walking is the best and most consistent exercise I can do.

What is the single most important thing you’ve learned in your career?

To be brave. I say that to my kids and my nieces and my nephews all the time. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth being frightened about. Just forge ahead.

Do you have a favorite wine?

I get excited when someone orders Silver Oak. It makes me feel happy, like the night is going to be special.

Your secret favorite spot in New York?

Il Vagabondo, the restaurant with the bocce court. I’ve been going there for 20 years and Jasper is still at the bar.

What’s the single most important thing you’ve learned about money?

To spend it.

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