Balliets is harboring a real treasure on Classen Curve. She's the immutable Lolly Sweeney, who recently celebrated her 67th year with Balliets. She has seen it all — fashions have come and gone and come again and gone again.
Sweeney has picked out clothes, dressed and maintained her customers through all of those years. One of her longtime customers (and friends) said Sweeney started helping her in college days and has helped her find outfits for 50 years.
“Her taste in impeccable,” the client said. “She's an institution at Balliets.”
Each weekday, Sweeney, 87, puts in a full day at the store. She checks out new styles, shows the fashions to her customers and calls to tell them about new arrivals. And she always looks the part of a fashion diva. For this interview, she wore a purple well-fitted textured leather jacket with dark gray pinstriped slacks.
“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,” said Balliets owner Bob Benham. “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.”
Sweeney started at Balliets with owner Edna Balliet.
“My mother, Cleo Johnston, worked there and I was a part-time model for local department store, John A. Brown,” Sweeney said. “Edna said, ‘If you're going to model, work for me.' So I started as a model and assisted with sales.”
Longtime Balliets customer Barbara Beeler said she remembered her mother talking about Sweeney when she would model a wedding gown at the fancy style shows.
“Lolly has forgotten more about style than I will ever know,” Beeler said. “She always makes her ladies look good. I love her.”
Sweeney's first buying job for Balliets was Christian Dior furs. 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.
“John Jennings from the Peggy Jennings collection and Monica Meade from Oscar de la Renta are two friends who I know love Lolly,” said co-worker Charlene Wagner. “She's worked with so many of the vendors and put trunk shows together for them.
“My favorite clothing lines through the years have been Jennings' very feminine clothes and Armani's fabulous looks. Edna Balliet had a movie star friend in California she sent clothes to and I was the right size and fit for her. I love shoes too, but I never wanted to sell them.”
Sweeney always seems to know what her customers should wear and has a knack for the latest look.
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.
Sweeney's favorite color choice is red.
“I have lots of red and black in my own wardrobe,” Sweeney 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 Balliets modeling in the Skirvin Tower Hotel store. I did attend a year of college at Texas Tech.”
Her children are Susan Marshall and Michael Robert Sweeney and grandchildren are Thomas Jordan, Michael Sweeney, Bobby Sweeney, and great-grandson, Matthew Jordan.
“My brother and I are very proud of her,” said Sweeney's daughter Susan Marshall. “Her job keeps her young and she loves what she does every day.”
Sweeney's mother, Cleo, worked at Balliets until she was 92. Her daughter is on track to surpass her mother's record.
“It certainly depends on my health,” Sweeney said. “I've always loved Balliets and that is why I'm still here.”
Wagner said after accompanying Sweeney to a Rosemary Burke art show at JRB Art at the Elms that everyone knew her and wanted to talk to her.
“I was happy to be with her,” Wagner said. “We all respect her and are in such awe of her talent.”