Ladue High School's student news site

Ladue Publications

Ladue High School's student news site

Ladue Publications

Ladue High School's student news site

Ladue Publications

An Eye for Design

Fern Wagstaff brings a lifetime of design to Ladue administration
Mac Huffman
Fern Wagstaff talks with visitors at the administrative office. Wagstaff works with Superintendent Jim Wipke. “Someone has called me his boss, but I just manage his calendar which sometimes is a big job in itself,” Wagstaff said.

Right out of a fashion magazine, one cannot miss her bright orange heels clicking down the halls. A navy blue dress, large golden earrings and intricate bracelets compliment her leopard-print glasses and bright blue mini purse. As the Executive Assistant to the Superintendent, Board Secretary and Custodian of Records, Fern Wagstaff not only does it all — but looks good doing it.

Wagstaff hasn’t always been the design guru she is now. Prior to being an administrator in the district, she got her start working for the popular furniture and home design company, Crate & Barrel, for 23 years. She began in her home state of Indiana at an outlet store as a salesperson, and after years of hard work, she was offered a designer position. Wagstaff trained for about three months in Chicago and returned to her outlet store with new design skills.

“There is an order to things,” Wagstaff said. “There is structure and one of the big design things for Crate was left to right, light to dark. And as long as you kept that in mind…you [could] put your own twist to it.”

Eventually, after training further in furniture design in Chicago, Wagstaff moved to St. Louis as the sole designer for the Crate & Barrel in Richmond Heights. She and her husband bought a house, and after a few years of continued hard work, she was ready to shift gears and begin her career in education. So with a bachelor’s from Purdue and a master’s from Washington University under her belt, Wagstaff applied for positions within the Ladue District.

“At that point in time, I was at a different place in my life,” Wagstaff said. “I think I was almost 50 and needed to do something that I can at least do for the next 10-20 years.”

However, just because her job changed doesn’t mean her use and understanding of design have been minimized. From organizing schedules to taking minutes in board meetings – Wagstaff still uses elements of design. However, rather than having to follow the structured methodologies of Crate & Barrel, she is able to pull inspiration from important figures in her life.

“I don’t consider myself a trendy person; I know what trends are,” Wagstaff said. “My dad, when he was alive and when he was working, wore a suit to work and always looked pulled together and nice.”

Having those classic values in mind, she’s done everything from planning a new shed in her midcentury modern home to helping her friends and family decorate their own houses. However, no matter what project she’s tackling, Wagstaff designs her life to match her motivations.

“There’s that saying, ‘Dress for the job that you want,’” Wagstaff said. “I’d like to be a fashion model, but I think when you look good you feel good.”

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About the Contributors
Tarek Al Husseini, Panorama Editor in Chief
Senior Tarek Al Husseini is an Editor in Chief on Panorama. This is his second year on staff. One way Tarek spends his time is by teaching his cats (Cow, Apollo, and Tiger) how to be cute menaces. So far they have been very successful.
Mac Huffman, ID Editor in Chief
Chronic mispeller, usually outdoors, photo obsessed and founding ID Editor in Chief. When Mac's not editing, they're typically designing infographics or writing stories about identity, food and harm reduction. This is their 3rd year and final year on publications staff.

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