Tailored Diplomat Mom on the Street Melissa Donham Welch has the gift for putting people at ease with her warmth and genuine smile. Whether she's wearing a stunning ballgown for an embassy event or moving her family to the next global adventure, Melissa embodies a classic American well-tailored style wherever she goes.
I am a mother, a military wife, diplomat, sister, daughter, and friend. I love photography, working out, snuggles on the couch with my family, and traveling the world with my husband, kids, and friends. My husband of 15 years is a pilot and Colonel in the Air Force. We have three boys ages 9, 10, and 12. Two of our boys were born in Istanbul, Turkey, and we are so thankful to be back in Ankara (the capital) to show them the beautiful country in which they were born. My husband is currently the Air Attache and Chief of Attache Operations at the Embassy in Ankara. This is our first time to serve as US Diplomats and we are thrilled to have this opportunity.
Before COVID-19, we had a very busy social life. As diplomats, we could attend an event every night of the week, if we chose to. Usually, these events consisted of National Day celebrations, dinners, exhibitions, or small parties in homes of other diplomats. My husband and I realized early on that maintaining a good family balance was important to us. We decided to limit our evenings to three nights a week so we could have family dinners together and continue to be hands-on parents.
Being a military wife and now serving as diplomats overseas is both a blessing and full of farewells. The greatest gift is making friends and experiencing new places. However, we say many good-byes and to those places that feel like “home.” Thankfully, our children have embraced our nomadic lifestyle. Some of my closest friends are fellow military spouses and we just “get” each other.
Recently, I just returned to work after an 11-year hiatus to raise my kids. I work for the Commander of the American Installation as a School Liaison for the American school situated on a Turkish military base. I'm also an advocate for our US military families. I’m still trying to find the right balance between work and finding time for myself. Though I find that it is way more challenging than I thought it would be as a working mom, I really do value being part of a team.
Despite all my moves, some things stay constant. Wherever I go, I swoon over art, especially when it’s tied to the local culture. In addition, I feel best when I’m in nature. Furthermore, I could also window shop for hours on end and anytime is good for a glass of super cold, crisp, bubbly champagne.
Which three words best describe your style? I’m Southern, so I can’t stick to three words. I would describe my style as classic. I love clean silhouettes, tailored cuts, and attention to stitching and detailing.
What are your favorite places to shop online? I love a good deal and I’m always looking for high-quality pieces at a discount. I love consignment shops, especially for timeless pieces, but also for trendy styles that I am reluctant to splurge on. Honestly, I don’t really shop online for myself. I love to hold the item, inspect the details, know how it feels, and appreciate the craftsmanship and design. I am currently living in Turkey and tailors here do more than just “hem and stitch.” They also create and collaborate. If you can describe it, sketch it, or show a photo of it, they can create (or re-create) it. I’ve had so much fun exploring the fabric shops here in Turkey and working with my favorite tailor to create beautiful, unique, or copied pieces (from Chanel to Dice Kayek) or to duplicate something loved from my closet.
Who’s your favorite style icon? Jackie O. Her style is timeless and she’s just so classy.
Stilettos or flats? Flats. I’m too clumsy for stilettos and they just hurt. I worked at a coffee kiosk on the beach in Niceville, FL, while I was getting my Masters in International Relations. I had the 5 am shift (because I’m an early riser) and dropped the window covering on my right foot! This was three days before my husband deployed to Afghanistan. If you see me in heels now, it’s the optical illusion of a kitten heel. I can predict rain and humidity through my right foot.
What’s your best style advice? I think confidence is the best style out there...so wear something that makes you feel good!
What article of clothing/accessory would you not want to live without? Hats! They’re practical, stylish, and can take your outfit to the next level, even when it’s a bad hair day.
Which trend would you want to see make a comeback? Polka dots. They're simple, whimsical, and playful but can be sophisticated at the same time.
What should NEVER make a comeback? Shoulder pads. No explanation needed.
What fashion/style did you love at the time, but now cringe when you see old photos? Velour tracksuits.
What’s your best style secret? A genuine smile. In my opinion, no one notices anything else unless you have one.
What’s your favorite way to spend time with your family? I have three boys and they never stop moving. My favorite thing to do is cuddle on the couch for a family movie when everyone is calm and snuggly.
What’s been your best family vacation? We met up in Italy with all my in-laws and my family (parents, sister, and brother-in-law) for Christmas. We spent a few days in Rome to catch up with some friends and my brother and sister-in-law, then our entire family (10 adults and 3 kids) rented a villa in Tuscany. It was a beautiful experience and we have the warmest memories. I would do it again tomorrow if we could!
Best parenting advice: Let them fail. They only grow through their own mistakes. This is so hard and I fight the urge to “fix it all” every day.
Parenting true confession: I sometimes sit in the car after getting home from work so I can finish a podcast or a chapter in an audiobook before I go inside (and the wonderful madness begins).
What’s your go-to family dinner? Tacos...taco bar.
What’s your favorite family cuisine? Homemade Pizza..everyone gets to help and pick toppings.
What’s your favorite show to binge-watch? I recently watched "Dead to Me" on Netflix (2 seasons) and really enjoyed the dark humor, but I’m usually watching something like "Nailed It!" with the kids. We recently embarked on "The Avengers" - starting from the very beginning. A good quarantine movie extravaganza!
If you could pick anyone to star as you in a movie based on your life, who would it be? While I’ve been told I look like Jennifer Anniston, I would choose Reese Witherspoon, hands down. Aside from being Southern (I’m from Arkansas) and an incredible actress, she is an advocate for other women. She’s authentic. She has a strong personality and, unapologetically so. I love that her production company develops films that represent and celebrate women from all walks of life. I’m really impressed by her, on and off-screen.
If you could go shopping with anyone from history, living or deceased, who would it be? Iris Apfel. She’s so chic and confident. She and her husband ran a textile company and her appreciation for beautiful fabrics is reflected in her wardrobe. I really relate to her in this way, as someone who has been obsessed with fabrics, tapestries, and patterns all my life. She chooses beautiful and sometimes really “out there” textiles for her clothing and it’s NEVER boring. I’d love to know her thought process as she chooses each piece. She can take a classic tweed blazer and turn it up about 5,000 notches with her accessories. She’s fun to watch! I want to be her when I grow up!
What’s at the top of your travel bucket list? The Maldives (before it’s completely underwater!). It just looks so remote and beautiful and relaxing.
What's your favorite thing about being a mom? I love that my boys can make even the smallest, most mundane moments special...with their curiosity, tenderness, goofiness, or wit. It never ceases to amaze me...
You move a lot as a military wife. What's your best packing tip? Get rid of what you don’t need! I purge a lot, but for the things that go with us, I use packing cubes (each person gets their own color - same goes for traveling). And for the bigger stuff, I use storage bins. Ideally, one color for each room. So when the boxes arrive, we know which room it goes in. Most importantly, I hope that we’re taking with us the things that remind us of that special place in our lives. Sometimes that might be a cuisine, an activity, a ritual, friendships, something we can take with us in our hearts.
What’s your favorite way to unwind at the end of a long day? I like to get my day started with exercise and I end the day with a glass of crisp bubbles or tea, depending on the day! But mostly bubbles...
We love Melissa's grounded perspective on her international life in motion. She picks a family first approach while juggling both work and embassy events. We also appreciate Melissa's eye for well-tailored pieces over fast fashion. We can all be inspired by Melissa's quality over quantity approach to life.
Furthermore, Melissa's effortless charm and the ability to authentically connect with people from around the globe serves her well in her role as a diplomat and military wife. We all can learn from Tailored Diplomat Mom on the Street Melissa Donham Welch to focus on creating lasting memories and fostering new friendships with a genuine smile in whatever environment we find ourselves in.
For more stylish moms, be sure to check out FamilyApp’s Mom on the Street page.