Elements of Style

Like Mother, Like Daughter: Donae and Bella Chramosta Talk Style

The owner of The Vintage Contessa and Times Past has a mini-me.

By Abby Ledoux May 29, 2018 Published in the June 2018 issue of Houstonia Magazine

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Image: Todd Spoth

In many ways, 11-year-old Bella Chramosta is her mother Donae’s mini-me. The fifth-grader has grown up in her parents’ showroom, The Vintage Contessa and Times Past, full of pre-owned designer bags, jewelry, and other accessories. While the two appear together at swanky events, often in matching couture outfits, Bella denies that her budding sense of style is informed by her mother’s. Perhaps it’s just a coincidence, then, that they have the same favorite color (pink) and designer (Dolce & Gabbana).

As the precocious Bella discusses a recent trip to Hong Kong, photoshoots, and charity galas, it’s easy to forget how young she is, until the subjects of dance class, piano lessons, and summer camp come up. She’s her mother’s daughter, but she is just a kid—albeit one with a hell of a closet.

How would you describe each other’s style?

Bella: I don’t want to mess up, because last time people asked me, I said the wrong thing on TV.

Donae: You can say whatever you want.

Bella: I can’t really describe it, because it’s so many different things.

Donae: All right, I’ll pick adjectives for you. You are creative, and you even go in and help me pick out my outfits. … She always puts things together I wouldn’t think of, because she thinks outside of the box. She’ll put a different pattern with a different color. She’s not afraid of color; I love that. She also recently bought a black jacket, and it was so cute when she got dressed. She said, “I look like an attorney.” I love that you’re 10 and you want to look like an attorney.

Bella: But I did!

Donae: You did look like an attorney. You looked very smart and sassy.

Bella, what do you want to be when you grow up?

Bella: I either want to be a lawyer because I love to argue, or in banking because I love to do math.

How has your style evolved over time?

Donae: I’ve tried to move from being just classic to making it edgier. I’ll add a leather bomber to a lace dress or something like that to try to make it a little bit more hip. I’m pretty focused now on adding pieces. I’ll still do the basics at The Gap or Target, then buy a great piece that will last, that maybe Bella can wear one day.

Where do you like to shop?

Bella: Un Deux Trois … that’s where three-quarters of my closet’s from.

Do you shop together?

Donae: Yes. She gives me great advice. She’s so honest with me—brutally honest.

Do you share clothes?

Donae: She’s wearing my T-shirts now, and I have a couple of vests in my closet that I’m giving to her. I think it’s getting closer to that time. I love it, but it’s not just about that moment of having something. That’s why we originally wrote the children’s book [The Vintage Contessa & Princessa, back in 2014, when Bella’s friend was diagnosed with pediatric cancer], because I wanted to teach her that life has more meaning than all of this. You can get so caught up in the brands, in the labels, and she knows what everything is—so much more than a normal child—but I’m trying to remind her of what’s important.

Bella, what’s your favorite thing in your closet?

Bella: My customized David Peck dress for my book.

What about in your mom’s closet?

Bella: That’s a very hard question. I think a pink metallic jacket or her red Oscar de la Renta dress, or her Oscar de la Renta jumpsuit, or her customized David Peck full floral skirt. I have that, but in kids’ size.

What do you like about your mom’s clothes?

Bella: They’re pretty. They’re very, very, very pink—most are very pink. I’m very upset because my foot’s almost the exact same size as my mom’s, and she’s got 300 pairs of shoes that I will not fit. Thankfully, you can’t outgrow handbags.

Donae: It’s so funny that she’s already focused on what she’s going to inherit from me. Now she looks at my outfits in that way: “Oh, I can’t wait to inherit that.” I’m like, “Thank you, but I don’t plan on dying soon, Bella.”

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