Thursday, August 31, 2006

What We Wear! Or Do We Care??

The Sunday Seattle Times had yet another article in the magazine section about.....guess what.....ourselves. But you know, I love to read about our local culture and I must not be the only one. The Pacific Northwest Magazine reported on Seattle Style in "Casual Chic" by Pamela Sitt.


I actually went shopping this week for clothes for me. I hate to shop which has caused some issues between my daughter and me. She was born in Seattle and true to her heritage, she is a "Nordy" and I gave her that nickname when she was only three. "Nordy" is our word for all of the little Seattle divas who grew up shopping at Nordstrom. She enjoys fashion and being stylish but also true to her heritage, she bargain shops and likes to be comfortable.

You cannot live here without jeans. Kaley has tons of jeans which all look similar to me but each pair is appropriate for particular occasions. I have two pairs of ragged jeans I wear gardening so now that I have time to spend on me, I went shopping for a nicer pair that I could wear to parties and out to dinner. It took me ten pairs to try on and three stores before I came up with just the right fit.

Evidently, my family is typical. For me, finding the perfect pair of jeans is like an East Coaster looking for the perfect little black dress. Kaley's style is very hip but it is simply a consequence of her artistic expression rather than an overt attempt to be cool. Lucas does not care at all and wears T-shirts that reflect his travels and passions. My husband buys clothes at Costco and all of his shirts and pants are exactly the same color. If he wore anything nice, like a suit or sports jacket at the University, people would probably think he was a little crazy.

Do we care about our clothes? I think we care about our bodies and whether we are healthy and if so, we look good no matter what we have on. I am very happy with how I look and feel in my new jeans. Definitely, we are not caught up in the East Coast or California angst to be on the cutting edge and wearing the latest trend. Being a part of all of that is simply too stressful, expensive, and ridiculously shallow. So we are how we are!

And now for some quotes from the article:

"We have our own feeling up here in the Pacific Northwest, and fashion is about feeling," says John Fluevog, the Vancouver-based shoe maven who opened his first U.S. store on Pine Street in 1986. "I would say there is a freedom to be able to do what you want. I sense that Seattleites, in general, are not dictated to. Some people would say it's non-fashion. I say, no, it's liberating."

Right. That's maybe the nicest way to say that we simply don't seem to care. In theory, our free-spirited, independent-thinking town should be teeming with personal style. Like the hipsters in the music scene, or the fashionistas who shop the boutiques downtown, or those girls on Broadway. But for most of us, fashion is too fussy to be a priority. We'd rather be comfortable. We'd rather be smart. We'd rather spend our money on something else. Like a cute little kayak, maybe.

Still, Seattle continues to be a place where natives will wear a rain jacket, an ugly one, when it's raining. We're sensible like that. Seattle may be home to Nordstrom, but it's also the birthplace of Eddie Bauer, and with good reason. No self-respecting native would carry an umbrella, and rain gear can go anywhere without discrimination.

"It would never occur to me to walk into a shop in Italy dressing how I would dress here," says Susan Gaylard, an assistant professor of Italian studies at the University of Washington. "I had the experience of wandering into an expensive Seattle boutique wearing shorts and ancient Birkenstocks and being treated very well. It's astonishing. That's never happened to me anywhere else."

In a city ranked among the nation's most literate — where a library is a tourist destination — Seattle has a reputation to maintain: We're smart, so we don't have to be pretty.

"It's a place where people who are very liberal and very socially conscious go to feel they're around their own kind," says Sarah Caples, owner of Impeccable, a local image-consulting company. "It shows an assertion that we're not going to care about this sort of thing."

This is, after all, Microsoft country, where the smartest man of all favors khakis and navy-blue sweaters. And it's not because he can't afford a designer suit.


"I thought Seattle was very cosmopolitan before I moved here. Since then, I've been slightly re-educated," he says. "Everyone dresses like they're going to climb Mount Rainier once they've finished lunch."

Lin, the owner of Betty Blue, had been to the REI in San Francisco, where she used to live. The experience did not prepare her for a recent visit to the REI sale in Seattle.

"It was a Sunday morning at 10 a.m., and the store is jam-packed. There was a wait to get into the parking lot," Lin recalls. "I was literally flabbergasted. I thought, 'Only in Seattle . . .' "

There's a simple explanation: Our love of the outdoors translates to our streetwear. What we wear to walk Green Lake is what we wear to dinner at the Green Lake Bar and Grill. That magazine-bred concept of "daytime" and "nighttime" wardrobes? Not so much.

"When I think of style, I think of form and function. In Seattle, it's all function with no form," says Caples, the personal stylist. "People wear outerwear clothes and yoga athletic wear as if it were appropriate to every situation, whereas people in other regions might only wear it for the particular task — camping clothes for camping, that sort of thing."

The article began with what is appropriate to wear to the opera and the answer is "Whatever...this is Seattle!" Jeans or designer dress and nobody will notice or care. Curiously, however, more folks here watch Heidi Klum's "Project Runway" on TV than anywhere else in the country. I laughed because my family watches "Project Runway", too. So what's up with that? Hubby says it is Heidi but I say Seattleites like to laugh at the complete outrageousness of cutting edge fashion.

Nope, give me my jeans, please!