Style Profile: The Harper Girls
Meet Dianne Harper Boyer and Jennifer Harper Fleck, the stylish duo behind fashion blog “The Harper Girls”
PHOTOGRAPHY BY LIV IN THE MOMENT PHOTOGRAPHY
The relationship that Dianne Harper Boyer and her niece Jennifer Harper Fleck have with style is deeply tied to family traditions and to the strong, fashionable women who have shaped and shared those traditions.
Jennifer attributes her love of style to her Aunt Dianne as well as to her grandmother, Joyce Harper, who is Dianne’s mother. “My grandma and I would pick out my fancy dress every year for Christmas and Easter,” Jennifer says. “And Aunt Dianne and I took an annual shopping trip each year to get back-to-school clothes.”
Dianne also traces her love of style to her mother, who she remembers as always being impeccably dressed and done up with full hair and makeup even when she spent the day at home. “Betty Draper from Mad Men always reminded me of her,” Dianne says. “When I was young, she even made some of my clothes for me so that I would have the perfect outfit. When the time came for me to start picking out my own clothes, she always gave me great advice and we went shopping together all the time.”
Following the death of Dianne’s mom in 2016, Dianne and Jennifer reminisced about all the knowledge — and the fashion and beauty traditions — she had left behind and wanted to do something to memorialize the beloved matriarch of their family. Dianne says one memory that was especially sentimental to both of them was her mother’s insistence that “you can’t wear white after Labor Day, even though that’s changed over time.”
In February 2021, the aunt-niece duo launched The Harper Girls, a style and beauty blog for women of all ages, where they reflect on the past as well as on the present through a variety of posts on fashion, beauty, and lifestyle. The Harper Girls offers a multigenerational perspective of fashion and features “How To Wear It at Any Age,” a popular series where Dianne and Jennifer style the same outfit to highlight the versatility of the look at two different ages and life stages.
Tell us a little bit about your career and your family.
DIANNE: I am a former marketing and PR professional who “retired” to start the blog. I put retired in quotes because I think I might be working harder on the blog than on anything else I’ve ever done. This is my third act and the one I am most excited about. My first act was in corporate marketing for General Motors for almost 20 years. I shifted gears to work for a local small handbag company, K. Carroll Accessories, for 12 years. My work marketing handbags inched me a little bit closer to working in fashion and beauty, which is how I spend my days now and I love it. I have been married to Jeff for 17 years and have three stepsons and daughters-in-law, and a 2-year-old grandson, Colin.
JENNIFER: I grew up watching Aunt Dianne’s career in marketing and attending the events she managed, and never really thought about doing anything else. I have a B.A. in marketing f rom Michigan State University and started working in advertising right out of college. I then moved into marketing and training, which I’m still doing during the day, and blogging nights and weekends. Outside of the blog being my career and life, I’ve been married for five years to my awesome husband, Mike, and we have a 3- year-old daughter, Eme, both of whom are my best friends.
What is your favorite piece of style or beauty advice you have learned as bloggers?
DIANNE: We started the blog intentionally as two generations because we really wanted to share our different perspectives. Our belief was that you can “wear it at any age,” and we wanted to demonstrate how to do that. What we’ve learned is to stop using the phrase “age appropriate.” We really believe there is no such thing — you can wear anything you want and adjust according to your personal style, not your age.
JENNIFER: What I’ve learned on this journey thus far is to not listen to what people say you have to do, have to wear, or how to look. I don’t want anyone thinking they have to dress like me or do their makeup like me to feel confident. It’s all about finding the things that make you unique — and embracing them! I love doing the research and digging into different topics, so it’s a lot of fun getting to share what I’ve learned. I encourage our followers to take what resonates with them and leave the rest.
What are three words to describe your personal style?
DIANNE: Chic, feminine, colorful
JENNIFER: Chic, neutral, hint-of-glam — sorry, I cheated!
Who are your style icons?
DIANNE: From a traditional standpoint, I’d have to say Audrey Hepburn (like a lot of people). It wasn’t as much about what she wore, but more about how she carried herself with elegance and style. From a more modern-day perspective, I would have to say Julianne Moore. We are very close in age and style preferences, and I love how she takes a current trend and makes it her own. I love her style choices
JENNIFER: Victoria Beckham — her style is simple, classic, and chic. I would love to dress like her if only I could afford everything from her brand.
What is the most cherished item in your wardrobe/closet and why?
DIANNE: Even before I started working at K. Carroll Accessories, I was obsessed with handbags. It’s the one piece you can have that completes an outfit and never cares if your weight is up or down. I honestly will change my handbag with every outfit if I think it’s needed. A few years back, I finally convinced myself to splurge on a Chanel bag. Besides loving its classic style that will be in vogue forever, it can also be a family heirloom to pass down from generation to generation.
JENNIFER: My most cherished item is a snake ring that is nearly identical to one my grandma wore every day — my Aunt Dianne owns it now. My grandma bought the ring in Athens, Greece in the ’70s, and it is very unique. I’ve always loved that ring and the fact that it was part of my grandma’s everyday jewelry. On the four-year anniversary of her passing, I decided to Google snake rings and see if I could find anything cool. Lo and behold, right there in the search results was a ring that looked like it was 98% the same as my grandma’s. I knew I had to buy it even though it was an investment — Grandma had led me to the ring because she wanted me to have one of my own.
What fashion trends or pieces are you most looking forward to wearing this spring and summer?
DIANNE: Trench coats are so in style right now, and I already have ones in pale pink and light blue that I can’t wait to wear. I love to take a classic piece and change it up, in this case, in a non-traditional color. I am also looking for the perfect gingham look. The reason I am attracted to gingham is because it reminds me of the summers of my youth. I do like to mix vintage with modern looks on occasion. I love the navy dress I have on in the photo because of the peplum. It’s a business look with an homage to the 1950s.
JENNIFER: As the weather starts to get warmer, I love incorporating bright colors into my wardrobe. This year, lime green and hot pink are big trends — and I’m excited to find ways to incorporate these colors into my wardrobe, makeup, and nails.
What are your top 3 wardrobe must-haves and why?
DIANNE: A great coat, a black dress and a classic handbag. I love a great coat because in a lot of cases, it’s the first thing people see you wearing. You can have on the most amazing outfit but if you’re covering it up with an old parka, it can lose its effect when you enter a room.
For a black dress, I am thinking of an overall simple black dress, not just an “LBD” for a cocktail party. It’s your go-to dress for when you need to decide on something to wear quickly. You can always add a scarf or some bold jewelry depending on the event.
Lastly, the classic bag. I think of the handbag the same way I do the coat – it’s a finishing piece. (a pair of black pumps was the runner up). It really is part of your outfit even if you place it down somewhere. At some point in time you may need to carry it with you and you’ll want it to round out your outfit.
JENNIFER: A faux-leather jacket is a must for me! It can dress up a casual look, and give a dressy look a bit of an edge. You can wear it with jeans, a dress, or anything! Well-fitting jeans are a staple in my wardrobe. I want to feel comfortable, like I’m not being squished. But I also want my butt to look good!
Finally, at least one bag that goes with everything! I spend money on bags that will never go out of style, like the Louis Vuitton Saintonge . It looks great with a dressier outfit, and makes a casual outfit look more put together.
Spring and summer are often full of fun events. What will you be wearing to a summer wedding or outdoor graduation party?
DIANNE: I have two weddings to go to this summer and I’ve already been thinking about that! There are a lot of great floral patterns out there right now and I am picturing something very feminine with almost a chiffon type material. For an outdoor graduation party I see a pair of cropped ankle pants and a sleeveless halter-cut top. (Not a 70’s halter top, but more of a cut-in shoulder style that I think are so flattering on most women.) With a matching bag of course.
JENNIFER: I’m a huge fan of Dress the Population, and got a couple dresses I wore to multiple weddings last year. I love midi-length dresses, and I try to look for a solid color in a classic silhouette that I can dress up in different ways! Depending on the graduation party (inside or outside), I would wear either a sundress and a jean jacket for when it gets colder, or a pair of paper bag shorts and a bodysuit!
Where are your favorite places to shop in Metro Detroit?
DIANNE: I enjoy a mix of traditional retail shops and smaller local shops. For traditional shopping I will shop at Somerset Mall and in the summertime I like to stroll around the Village of Rochester Hills. But I do like shopping in downtown Rochester as well – there are some great boutiques such as Hello Fancy and 4th Street Boutique. I am also always up for a great Target run for some basics too.
JENNIFER: Somerset Mall in Troy is my favorite place for shopping, getting my steps in, and catching up with people I love. I also really enjoy walking around Downtown Rochester and checking out all the different shops and finding new and unique things.
Who are some of your favorite local brands or designers?
DIANNE: There is a local brand/entrepreneur, Dallas & Dottie that I love (actually we both do). I’ve met the owner, Lindsay, a few times and she really is passionate about finding unique items that are on-trend and reasonably priced. She does not have a physical store but she often does local events or you can order from her website.
I also have to do a quick shout-out to my former employer, K. Carroll Accessories. The owner, Kelly, designs all the vegan leather handbags with her team in-house and three have been selected as one of “Oprah’s Favorite Things” over the last six years.
JENNIFER: Shinola – we love all-things Shinola! I got my husband a watch as a wedding present, and a matching leather wallet for his birthday a couple months later. I even got a watch from my parents on my 30th birthday! My husband and I love visiting the outlet at Great Lakes Crossing to see what they have in stock. We love their notebooks too!
Woodward Throwbacks – my husband and I love scrolling through their Instagram account with all their amazing furniture. We have one of their refurbished china cabinets in our dining room, and we love it!
What is your favorite local coffee/tea shop? What is your drink of choice?
DIANNE: I am a tea drinker all the way. I’ve tried to like coffee, but I just have never acquired a taste for it. My favorite local shop is the Bean & Leaf Cafe in downtown Rochester. It’s one of the few places around that has about as many tea varieties as coffee drinks.
JENNIFER: My husband and I are obsessed with Sabbath Coffee Roasters in Clawson. Any time we’re headed out that direction, we always make a stop. Even if it’s not really “on the way”.
The first time I visited was after they had been open for a couple months. I met the owner and we had a great conversation, and I told everyone I knew about my experience after! He made a customer for life that day!
My all-time favorite is a honey-cinnamon latte, but the monthly specials are always great and worth a try!
Favorite restaurant in Metro Detroit?
DIANNE: So, like a lot of people, we haven’t been to a restaurant very often in the last two years. So we’ve relied on some great takeout and found a local family restaurant in Lake Orion, Rio on Main Southwest Cantina that we love. It got us through a lot of dinner and movie nights during the pandemic.
JENNIFER: This is so hard to pick, since we don’t get out as often! We had a baby and didn’t go out as much, and then, ya know, lockdown. My husband and I used to live in Royal Oak, and loved trying out new restaurants. One of our favorite places to go was Voyager in Ferndale. This was where we decided to try oysters, and loved them! And what’s amazing, is all the drinks on the menu were selected or created to pair with anything on the menu. You can’t go wrong!
A close second, and local to me, is Lipuma’s. Coney dog with everything and chili cheese fries. There’s nothing better than stopping after playing at the park for a while!
Is there a hidden gem in Metro Detroit that you swear by?
DIANNE: A little secret about my husband and me: we love pinball machines and even own a couple at home. So our personal hidden gem is Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum in Farmington Hills. We are obviously kids at heart, so we’ll head over there on occasion to play some pinball and vintage arcade games….and maybe eat a little popcorn too.
JENNIFER: Glass Academy in Dearborn is so much fun to visit when you’re shopping for gifts or yourself (also called Batch Gallery). Or if you want to learn about glass blowing! We’ve done one of their happy hour classes and we got to design our own drinking glasses! Mine was a penguin, and my husband’s was a monkey!
We also got a glass blowing class for our birthday last year, where my husband and I got to pull our own glass star paperweights. I was obsessed! Made me want to learn how to blow glass!
And finally, what is your favorite quote or words to live by?
DIANNE: I have this Maya Angelou quote framed above my desk at home and believe it 100%: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” This is so true.
JENNIFER: Part of my life I plan as much as I can, and the rest I just figure it out as I go!
Thank you Dianne and Jennifer for sharing your story and style tips with us!
Be sure to follow them on their blog and Instagram for more great style inspiration!