martes, septiembre 19, 2006

D .C. Style, or Lack Thereof

On 3 September, I was in Akhila and Jeff's apartment in Crystal City reading the Sunday Source section of the Washington Post, mimosa in hand and glad not to be in New York. By the by, all of you must join me in congratulating Ms. Khi and Jeff on their recent engagement! Anyway, there was an article about DC's style, or lack thereof. The author had moved from NYC to DC and related that Washingtonians are not really all that concerned about fashion, which struck her as quite odd. Let me tell you, their non-chalance shows: Toes hanging over the front edges of perfectly cute peep-toe pumps, dry and cracked heels hanging off the backs of strappy mules, color combos gone pathetically awry, thinking Marc Jacobs clothes are all available at their local Target or Big Lots, I could go on. Don't get me wrong, I love DC and I love Washingtonians. They are head and shoulders above NYC in terms of manners and politeness, for one thing, and although this often hovers on the verge of annoyingly perky, I consider it a very welcome change to the constantly grey outlooks of most New Yorkers. But Washingtonians can also be just a tad provincial about things, and let's not even touch the subject of Chocolate City's Vanilla Suburbs. And they seem to fear change, which is not good considering Washington needs a big one right about now, and I'm sure you all know of whom I speak.

New York is such a "fashionable" place (there are exceptions - go to Dyckman Street in Washington Heights for proof) that it undermines all the good things that fashion can bring, because many believe that being fashionable makes it OK to judge others who don't quite meet the standards. I admit, I fell hard into this trap when I first started going back to DC to visit. My mother can tell you how I yammered on, nose perched in the air, about all the fashion faux-pas's in the Metro, for one. I think I even offended her with my talk. But I realized that that is the beauty of a city that doesn't pledge constant adoration to the fashion gods: they judge you based on other, more concrete factors, such as what government contractor you work for, what kind of education you have, etc. Snap judgments are never good, but they are inevitable, and they go down a lot better if they are made for valid reasons other than the label on your coat.

As DC becomes more expensive, however, interest in good fashion is becoming more prevalent. Cute little boutiques selling Cynthia Rowley and Kors, among others, are springing up all over the city, especially in newly-revitalized areas like Adams-Morgan and Shaw, even in Southeast. Other areas, like my dad's neighborhood in Arlington near the Pentagon will always stay the same, conservative, and boutiques are doomed to fail there. I know this because a couple of them in the Pentagon Row and City shopping centers bit the dust after a year or so. For that reason, I don't think Washington can ever reach the depths to which New York has sunk in this regard. New York is now the best example of a "fashion victim" ever. So DC, I totally forgive you. Better to be smart and cultured and not look as hot than to be stupid with a supermodel's walk.