Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Someone forgot to give me the memo about the dress code

Sometimes I wonder if I'm an idiot savant. While I am often oblivious to things going on around me, I occasionally fixate on one thing to an almost obsessive level. Lately I have been focused on what people around me are wearing.

My personal style has been going through a bit of a revamp lately. This past summer I rediscovered skirts. I had been avoiding them due mostly to hating my legs, but advice from a co-worker inspired me to get over it: "Girl, summer in New York is too hot to worry about what the strange people say about your gams." (I don't think she said it quite like that but that's how I prefer to remember it.) And how freeing it was! And oh so much cooler -- temperature-wise -- than jeans. It led me to rediscover casual prep and reconcile my current self with my younger New England days. All of a sudden JCrew and I are best friends again after years of giving each other the silent treatment. I want pretty and ruffly and shiny and I don't care who sees it. I'm inspired by Madison chic crossed with Flatiron flash living on the Upper East Side Prêt-à-Porter. Or something to that effect.

It's led to a more sophisticated me and I kinda like it. Add in new haircut and I'm feeling pretty alright! But now that I've started a job in Soho my fashion conscious has been thrown for a loop once again. Leggings everywhere. Tee shirts and scarves on top. Hair pulled back. Canvas purses. Flats. Ack! Are these people who legitimately live in Soho? Visitors? Students? I have no idea. But I'm feeling overdressed. Nevermind that leggings or matchstick jeans are hell no's for me, I would look ridiculous at 77th St waiting for the 6 train. They remind me of things I would have worn in college during my freshman year when my diet consisted entirely of rice a'roni and breakfast once a week from Edwards Hall. Which is to say I'm neither hip nor young enough to be their target audience. That doesn't stop me from shopping at American Eagle though!

Last week during my week of re-sanity T and I voyaged downtown to check out my new work area. The area had of course completely changed since 2003, which I think is honestly the last time I was on Prince St. There was still shopping everywhere but all of the stores I remembered were gone and there are a lot more chains than I remember. But I wasn't there to shop. I was actually looking for places to try for lunch. T was pointing out places that looked decent but I was too busy taking in the looks and motifs of the people around me. On Prince St I blended in a bit more, but on Spring St I looked like had stumbled off my directions. Even T looked kind of overdone in cargo shorts and a polo. When I voiced this to him he classicly dismissed me as being oversensitive. "No one cares what you are wearing," he hissed. "Stop being ridiculous and just dress however makes you happy."

Two days later on our return visit he wore jeans and a black tee shirt. T never wears jeans. T never wears black tee shirts. I was also guilty as charged in jeans, a slouchy tee and flats. I felt 20. Irrational fears of being late to JT100 flooded my brain. The adjustment isn't about being a follower so much as it is about blending in. Sometimes I want to stand out. But more often I enjoy being part of the mass spilling through the streets. In some strange way it allows you to build a protective bubble of privacy around yourself knowing no one is looking at you. When I want to be seen, you'll know.

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