Lady Project Woman of Style // Cailie Burns

I have found that mutual love and appreciation for style can be the least uncomfortable most comfortable, and most genuine way to break the ice between two strangers. When I worked in the Advancement Department at Brown University, I got to meet and know Cailie through our shared passion for style and great bargains! We would often cross path in the hallways and when we did stop for a quick chat, our conversations were 1 percent about fundraising and our individual projects, and 99 percent about clothes, shopping strategies, and containing our excitement that ZARA is coming to Providence this fall. What I began to notice was the fact that Cailie had her signature style pegged down pretty well - making her this month's Woman of Style!

Meet Cailie, Development/Alumni Relations Officer for The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

What does style mean to you, in both your personal and professional life?

“Style (along with your smile) is the base for your first impression. It provides you with the opportunity to express yourself in any environment.”

What defines your signature style? And, how did you come to realize it?

“I am consistent with my style but in two very different ways. For the most part my wardrobe is built around great staples—jeans, pencil (or A-line) skirts, chambray shirts, sweaters, and OPI’s Big Apple red nail polish. My professional wear is classic, simple, and far from what most would call creative. Then on the weekend, vacations, etc. my style relaxes with the help of more ‘bohemian-esque’ pieces.”

Do you have a style muse? Who and why?

“I have many muses, some based on style, others for their confidence and personality. Audrey Hepburn’s style was classic and timeless—I often think of her and the character Claire Underwood from House of Cards when I am shopping for professional pieces. In my personal life, I am inspired by women I pass on the street and pieces I see that make me happy.”

What is your go-to workday uniform?

“My go-to workday style is simple and streamlined. I tend to be attracted to sophisticated, classic pieces like pencil skirts, simple blouses, suiting dresses, cozy sweaters, and trench coats. My color wheel during the workweek is fairly limited—often includes a black base and a small pop of color.”

Were you always this secure about your style?

"No, when I was younger I questioned myself a lot and tried to fit in with the crowd around me. Luckily my mother had always set the stage for dressing for yourself and I took her advice.

My 'weekend' style was adopted early on in high school. I can remember deciding it was more important for me to feel comfortable and confident than to follow the trends set by others. I have stuck with that mindset ever since."

Where do you like to shop?

"Anthropologie, J. Crew, Banana Republic, Nordstrom, and Ann Taylor are my usual haunts."

What are you splurging on this spring season?

“Spring/Summer shoes! I often find myself falling into "shoe ruts," purchasing black pumps and more black pumps (at least I am consistent). This season I am looking to add a bit of color, some playful patterns, and fun new styles to my outfits, via my feet.

For example, for my weekend wear, I currently have my eye on the dark cognac Tassel sandals from J.Crew. And for work wear, I am being pulled towards the Jaylen heeled sandal in menthe from Banana Republic and any D'Orsay flat in coral.”

You feel most creative when you're wearing…

“Something I feel confident and comfortable wearing all day.”

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned as a Fundraiser?

“To listen and to be able to adapt. Even the best-laid plans don’t always go as expected. You need to constantly listen for cues from a donor and adjust on the spot without appearing flustered.”

What does success mean to you?

“Success to me means to love what you do and to do it well.”

Cailie Burns is the development/alumni relations officer for The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. Cailie works with alumni, parents, and friends to ensure their philanthropic interests are met and they are excited about the impact they are making through their leadership and major gifts. Prior to returning to Rhode Island and joining Brown in 2012, Cailie worked in the non-profit development sector in Vermont with The DREAM Program and the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps.

If you know someone with style chops, who is doing pretty awesome things and ought to be featured on the Lady Project blog, I want to hear from you! Please email me at

Photography: Brittanny Taylor