My One-Night Stand With Fashion

I've never developed a long-term passion for fashion. As a child in Texas, my mother often took me to Neiman Marcus to dress me in pretty little Florence Eisemans, but my inner little cowgirl mapped out her own future in denim. Relieved to be sent to schools where uniforms stamped out visible distinctions and later to colleges where I could live in blue jeans, I've always adhered to the notion that as adults we find our own uniforms and stick with them. When not in farmwear, I sometimes played with clothes as costumes, accumulating a Janis Joplin-esque assortment of bracelets and feather boas. My graduation to fashion adulthood came with the discovery that jeans also came in black. The tendency toward dark colors has now fully transformed my closet into a black hole, a mysterious place that traps light and generates radiation.

I'm ambivalent about fashion. I appreciate the cut and feel of well-made clothes, but I'm not normally attuned to the trends of the season. I admire many designers, but I deeply distrust how fashion advertising can trigger low self esteem. While my brain is full of Gramsci and feminist theory, my psyche spins imagines of the rich, thin, and young struggling in a dialectic with the poor, fat, and old. I would love to own many beautiful jackets made from rich fabrics, but I'm too scared of the pricetag. While I love to shop in big city department stores, the intimacy of boutiques scares me. I'll spend money on my hair and sensible shoes, but big ticket handbags not so much. The recession makes it all worse.

Yes, I was ready for Fashion's Night Out on September 10, an evening of special events and open houses designed to shore up the spirits and income of the city's fashion industry.

I'm sure I started the evening at Vivienne Tam on Mercer and wound things up at Hugo Boss on Greene Street, but the order of the middle venues had already blurred a little by the next day. (Recreating this map helped.) Vivienne Tam was a good place to start the evening, because I enjoyed looking at the clothes, found many of them "affordable" ( a highly subjective concept, based on an ability to rationalize), and even envisioned wearing some pieces. I was therefore braced for the night. A different experience came soon thereafter at Nike on Mercer, largely because the party aspects were so fine. People enjoyed sharing stories of their comfy clothes, and I could have stayed there all night. Yet, I pressed on, chatting with revelers (in no particular order) at Anna Sui, Curve, Kate spade, Kima Zabete, and more. I particularly enjoyed my visit to the Kisan Concept Store on Greene Street, if only because I also saw so many books and gifts of the sort that can pry open my wallet.

So, I had a nice time. I finished the evening with my only purchase, the official T-shirt for the event. While I still haven't completed the final steps on the runway, and it will still take more than champagne and pink drinks to get me to try things on and hand over a credit card, new doors opened, ones that I had perhaps too easily slammed shut during my checkered life of fashion.

Images from the evening of September 10, 2009 in SoHo by Walking Off the Big Apple.

See also the related entry, Fall Fashion 2009 Edition: Walking By the Yard in New York's Garment District, Crimes of Fashion, and Fall Fashion Trends.

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