Embracing the Geography of Dress
Last summer we celebrated my father in laws birthday with a family trip to New York. All the highlights were detailed on the agenda, broadway, fabulous restaurants, shopping and the latest museum exhibits.
We went to dinner at an excellent restaurant to which I wore a long black cotton/spandex dress, wedge heels and some dressy jewelry. The next morning I left the family festivities and met one of my closest girlfriends on the upper west side for brunch. It was an ideal New York summer day, we sat outside on the patio of the restaurant, drinking too much coffee and catching up.
We were chatting away, acting silly and laughing just as we did when we were 10, when the table next to us was seated. A tall and attractive woman, with Sunday morning hair, not yet combed but still beautiful from the previous night, was wearing large sunglasses and flip flops in addition to the identical long black dress I wore to dinner the previous night.
While packing for my vacation from the Detroit to New York, I had thought my dress was a great dress for the city. And while it was, it turns out that in NY it is the perfect dress for Sunday brunch not Saturday night dinner. The woman at brunch wore it exactly like it should be worn; she was NY cool, the sunglasses were oversized, the flip flops were slightly worn and there was no fancy jewelry to try to make the outfit anything it was not.
This was not the first reminder that what passes as dinner wear in the midwest, is daywear in NYC. Skinny jeans, boots and a blazer would be considered dress for a Saturday night where I live, but young girls are running around during the week hoping on and off the NYC subway in that outfit all day long.
When I went to college in Atlanta I remember shopping for the first time at Phipps Plaza, an upscale mall. I was coming from class and wearing an outfit I don’t exactly remember but do remember jeans being a part of it. I got to the mall and felt a little out of place, the women at the mall were all wearing short skirts or dresses. It was April, springtime in Atlanta, and the women had put their winter jeans in the closet and taken out their skirts.
Where I grew up in Detroit, jeans are worn year round, and the changing of seasons is mostly marked by not wearing a winter coat come mid-March. I made a mental note to pick up some skirts so I would not look like a yankee outcast for the rest of the semester.
Sometimes, at home, I think how lovely it would be to wear beautiful clothes on a Saturday night to dinner, and not feeI like I was overdressed or a great long dress to brunch the next morning instead of cut off shorts and a tank top. I fantasize about wearing skirts all spring long and looking like I just stepped out of a Lilly Pulitzer or JCrew catalog.
However, I have have learned that is one of the advantages of travel, to wear an outfit to dinner on Saturday night in NYC that I would not have occasion to wear at home, and to put on a skirt while walking around Atlanta and feel that I blend right into the Southern crowd.
And some Sundays, when we are in the mood, when my children have slept out at my parents, in-laws or a friends house, my husband and I go out to brunch in our midwestern suburb, I put on my long black cotton dress, flip flops and sunglasses and we sit outside together and discuss where our next travel destination will be.