One of a kind

by Amanda Bedgood

Nobody does style like jewelry designer and championship racer Barbara Conner.

Barbara Conner used to have two racing bikes. They used opposite sides for the gas and breaks.

"I had to put a reminder on it," Barbara says with a laugh astride her '54 Harley.

She remembers well switching from one to the other and did so seamlessly on most occasions. It's no surprise. Going seamlessly from one extreme to the other is just the sort of thing an elegant jewelry designer who happens to also be the national champ in vintage motorcycle racing does. Wearing her "leathers" (which she designs herself) and a strand of pearls (always, always with the pearls), Barbara is at ease at her home on the Bayou Teche where she lives in a revamped barn with her husband, four dogs and four bikes.

In her personal style Barbara's aesthetic can perhaps be summed up best by her signature jewelry - a simple leather cord with a gleaming pearl and often religious medals. Barbara is that elegant pearl, that edgy leather and that bit of soul wrapped into one tall package with piercing blue eyes. On the day we met up Barbara wore a W by Worth ensemble with little booties, a leather skirt with sheer insets that was at once sexy and yet playful and a sleek sweater. Her jewelry? Barbara Conner signature pearls. The necklace holds charms that represent her husband - Luke - as well as medals of both Jesus and Mary. And then tucked behind them all is a little skull.

"Mortality," the 53-year-old says of the charm that's a little bit rock 'n' roll.

It's just the kind of unexpected twist that's signature Barbara.

Who/What are your style inspirations? Who - Kiki Frayard. I want to get in her closet. What - easy, comfortable.

Describe your approach to dressing. What would Kiki wear?

Any rules you follow? It may be old fashioned because my Grandmother taught me, but no linen or white after Labor Day (especially shoes).

Signature color or piece? No particular color, black maybe. Piece? Yes. Always have on pearls even when racing my motorcycle.

Fashion addiction? Boots, all kinds.

Any fashion tips? No, I'm looking for some.

Has your style changed over the years? No. I have stayed classic. Still have an evening gown from 1979 and a suit from 1985 and I can still fit in both.

What are you loving right now in fashion? Short boots with dresses.

Predictions for what you'll be wearing in the fall. Blue jeans and boots

Most memorable fashion moment? I was at a fundraiser for AIDS in Dallas and a well-connected advocate for the entire event came up to me and said I epitomized everything he and all his friends wanted to look like. Best compliment I have ever had, and I can still fit in that dress, too.

If not you, who would you be? Danica Patrick, I always have an urge to turn off the TV when she is on because I'm so jealous.

Your idea of happiness. For all my children to be happy.

Where would you like to live? Exactly where I am living. Ten acres on the Bayou Teche.

Natural talent you want? To be able to sing like Aretha Franklin.

How do you wish to die? Quickly.

Favorite quality in a man? That's easy. Testosterone.

Favorite musicians. Bruce Springsteen, Bonnie Raitt, Lyle Lovett and any Motown singer.

photo submitted

Barbara Conner racing in her nude-colored leathers that boast a bikini design meant to throw off the competition.