The Inner Sanctum

Handbags and shoes and Barbies, oh my!

I have gone where no one has gone before: into the closet of Denver's most stylish woman, Holly Kylberg.

This was no easy feat. It took weeks of begging before she would allow me to tread in so private a realm. Few people have even been inside Holly's house, so getting in to see The Closet was rather like getting in to see the Ark of the Covenant. There was no telling what might happen. Would I be blinded by so glorious a collection of garments? Would I die on the spot? Maybe of envy.

Holly actually shares the huge walk-in closet with her husband, Rich, whose cowboy hats and Harley-Davidson leathers line one side. "That's just wrong," Holly says of having to share. But the space is big enough for both.

"My closet is very private, and in some ways a collage of my personality: mysterious, quirky, colorful and maybe a little disheveled," Holly explains. "It's like a kitchen full of various ingredients that are mixed and matched into unique personal concoctions, but it's also a place where I hold some of my fondest memories."

Every piece of clothing has a story or a memory behind it. Like the Gabriel Conroy ensemble that Holly wore to the Western Fantasy Ball, a gala benefiting several charity funds. Or the fuchsia dress that was one of Tom Ford's last designs before he left Gucci. Or the Roberto Cavalli gown that she might wear to the Mask Project gala on May 1.

Unlike a lot of women who purge their closets at the end of a fashion season, Holly keeps everything. The clothes are wonderful and all, but it's the shoes and handbags that make her closet so heavenly. One of her favorites is a tiny red velvet purse from Tuscany. She also has whimsical bags like the pink one with the smiley face, or the one shaped like a book, or the box-shaped pink purse with flowers on top. And let us not forget the to-die-for handbags like the green Gucci made of a buttery leather, the simple black Givenchy bag with interchangeable straps or the classic black quilted Chanel bag. But the ones that bring her the most compliments are the two Dior bags fashioned out of the seats of old Chevy trucks, complete with doorknob handles. "Men love these more than women do," Holly says. "I've had men offer to buy them on the spot for their wives."

Like any smart woman with expensive taste, Holly only informs her husband of her purchases when she has to -- like right before the credit-card bill arrives. She explains that she's just ordered the latest Gucci bag -- you know, the gold one with the snake -- and she worries that Rich will make her send it back when he sees the price tag (he won't, of course; whatever Holly wants, Holly gets).

She estimates that she owns more handbags than shoes, but I disagree. Another section of her closet -- a sort of closet within a closet -- houses a collection of stilettos, slingbacks and pumps that would do Imelda Marcos proud. There are high heels in gold, high heels in silver, high heels in pink and high heels in turquoise!

And then there are the Barbies. Holly jokes that they make up her own little Valley of the Barbie Dolls. On a shelf beneath a collection of English-designed hats lovely enough to wear to the Royal Ascot sit Burberry Barbie, I Dream of Jeannie Barbie and Marilyn Monroe Barbie. The dolls she owned as a child are still at her mom's house in Rockford, Illinois; the ones she owns now are newer dolls that remind her of different vacations or events. Rome Barbie brings back memories of Italy, while Safari Barbie was a gift from Rich after she chaired Do at the Zoo.

As Rich says, "They're kind of like Holly action figures."

 
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