Lolly Sweeney (Photos by Jim Beckel).
Balliets is harboring a real treasure over there on Classen Curve. She’s the immutable Lolly Sweeney.
Lolly recently celebrated her 67th year with Balliets. She has seen it all. Fashions have come and gone and come again and gone again.
She has picked out clothes, dressed and maintained her customers through all of those years. One of her long-time customers (and friends) said that she started helping her in college days and has helped her find outfits for fifty years. “Her taste in impeccable,” the client said. “She’s an institution at Balliet’s.”
Every day Lolly, now 87 years old, puts in a full day (Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. until 6 p.m.) at the store. She checks out new styles, shows the fashions to her customers and calls them to tell them about new arrivals. And she always looks the part of a fashion diva. Today, for the interview, she had on a purple well-fitted textured leather jacket with dark gray pin-striped slacks.
Balliet’s owner Bob Benham had this to say about Lolly: “Lolly is a beautiful, elegant woman who has seen Balliets evolve from its origin downtown, under Edna Balliet, to the current location at Classen Curve. A lady in the best sense of the word, her impeccable sense of fashion has inspired loyalty from three generations of customers. We treasure her presence every day.”
Lolly started at Balliet’s with owner Edna Balliet. “My mother, Cleo Johnston, worked there and I was a parttime model for local department store, John A. Brown’s. Edna said “ if you’re going to model, work for me.” “So, I started, as a model and assisted with sales. The young beauty closed many a fashion show wearing a wonderful bridal gown. “I remember my mother talking about Lolly when she would model the wedding gown at the end of the fancy style shows,” Barbara Beeler, longtime “Lolly” customer, noted. “All I can say is, “Lolly has forgotten more about style that I will ever know.” She always makes her ladies look good. I love her.”
“How I love fashion,” Lolly said. My first buying job for Balliet’s was Christian Dior furs. I always went to the New York fashion shows in the fall. Many of my longtime friends were made during those early years.” She was also a buyer for Buddy Rodgers who bought the store from Edna Balliet and until recently was a New York buyer for Benham.
Co-worker Charlene Wagner noted that Lolly has lifelong friends in the fashion industry. “John Jennings from the Peggy Jennings collection and Monica Meade from Oscar de la Renta are two friends who I know love Lolly. She’s worked with so many of the vendors and put trunk shows together for them, “ Charlene said.
“My favorite clothing lines through the years have been Peggy Jennings, very feminine clothes, and Armani’s fabulous looks, “ she said. “Edna Balliet had a movie star friend in California who she sent clothes to and I was the right size and fitted for her.” “I love shoes too, but I never wanted to sell them, she said with her charming laugh.
Lolly always knows what her ladies should wear. She has a knack for the latest look. “I always want my ladies to be in style, “ she said. She sells dresses, sportswear, slacks, suits, jewelry and purses with a great flair because she always knows what looks good together. She knows how clothes should fit, what the dress lengths should be and what color of hosiery is appropriate.
Her favorite trend that’s back in style for spring is “bright and happy colors.” Lolly’s favorite color choice is red. “I have lots of red, and black, in my own wardrobe, “ she said. “The fashion world is very exciting today and I’m looking forward to the next season and all of the wonderful new trunk shows.”
“I’ve always worked. When I married my husband Bob, we went to California for a short time. He was in the Air Force, but we came back home soon and I was right back at Balliet’s modeling in the Skirvin Tower Hotel store. “I did attend a year of college at Texas Tech, “ she said. (She was elected beauty queen that year).
Her children are Susan Marshall and Michael Robert Sweeney and grandchildren are Thomas Jordan, Michael Sweeney, Bobby Sweeney, and great-grandson, Matthew Jordan. Susan Marshall had this to say about her mother: “My brother and I are all very proud of her. Her job keeps her young and she loves what she does every day.”
Lolly’s mother, Cleo, worked at Balliet’s until she was 92 years old. Lolly’s on track to surpass her record. “It certainly depends on my health, “ she said. “I’ve always loved Balliet’s and that is why I’m still here.”
“And everyone loves Lolly. When I went with Lolly recently to see the Rosemary Burke art show at JRB Art at the Elms Gallery, everyone knew her and wanted to talk to her. I was happy to be with her. We all respect her and are in such awe of her talent, “Charlene Wagner added.
So, if you are looking for wonderful outfits from Peggy Jennings, Etro, Algo of Switzerland, Lourdes Chavez, Missoni, and all of the other lines from the beautiful Balliet’s store, look for Lolly. She’s over there to the right, behind her desk, with a telephone, and her telephone and address book. She’ll remind you of what is in style for the season and what you need for all the parties, events and daily activities in Oklahoma City.
De De Benham, Bob Benham, Betsy King, Teresa Sanders, Lolly Sweeney, Charlene Wagner and Sara Grissom-Waters, inside Balliets.
Lolly with owners, Bob and DeDe Benham.