One of the biggest aspects of our trip out East was my daughter’s budding fashion sense and chance to do her own shopping in New York.
Watching her as she dressed every day in the “ensembles” she packed for our ten-day-vacation gave me a glimpse of her sense of individuality and what looks good on her, very mature for only being a pre-teen. She had a keen awareness of what she wanted to add to her wardrobe and what pair of colorful jeans would be the perfect addition.
I kept thinking about the fashion magazines, runway books, and what they try to market as NYC style. I can tell you that it is very different from reality. Take Times Square, Manhattan, Central Park, Harlem, Little Italy, Chinatown, Soho, Chelsea for example. I saw lots of simple skirts, jeans, t-shirts, and flats.
NYC is a town where walking is the order of the day, up and down city streets, on and off subways, from women headed to work on Wall Street to the students headed to NYU, everyone had a simple sophistication with their sheath dresses, slim skirts, tucked in blouse, and flats or jeans and a simple t-shirt. The people were thoughtful, no one looked sloppy, but I could tell that it was effortless, much like my daughter’s innate ability to put together something simple yet sophisticated.
DC was pretty much the same thing. We stayed in DuPont Circle, not far from Georgetown University, Embassy Row, and lots of Washington Interns. I would say the style had a bit of simplicity, skirts with simple flats or soft heel sandals. The styles in both places, especially DC, was made for walking so lots of messenger bag cases slung over shoulders for men and women.
I noticed that in DC there were more women in simple summer dresses and skirts, perhaps paying homage to the southern spirit of the city and the easy walking style. It was comfortable and not stuff, assured, classy, perhaps a lot like First Lady Michelle Obama who now calls DC her home.
We had a chance to pop over to 5th Avenue, undoubtedly the Manhattan Maven’s shopping venues. We ventured upstairs to the haute couture floor in Sax and my husband showed me a simple shirt that was priced at $4500! Nothing magical about the styling, it was a summer skirt with eyelets, perhaps it was because it was on designer row, name one, they all had their own little “room” in Sax. There was a socialite shopping and a decidedly gay man styling the mannequin, it seemed to take him forever, and his outfit was fabulous from the skinny jeans, fitted jacket, and huge flower on his label and enormous glasses – he was probably the only one I saw in what the magazines dub NYC fashions!
Shopping along Georgetown, Capitol Hill/Barracks Row, and DuPont Circle/Connecticut Avenue was more my style. There were eclectic shops, vintage resale shops (made me think that Mrs. Obama popped into one of these), and independent stores from accessories to simple dresses featuring local designers, vintage resale, and unique items.
All-in-all, I would say that given the high cost-of-living, small living quarters, walking lifestyle, and fast pace of both NYC and DC, the style was more one of ease, versatility, and comfort. I did not see any of the frumpy Midwestern “mom jeans”, gym shoes (except for the runners on Connecticut Avenue on Saturday morning), and shapeless t-shirts. My daughter definitely felt at home with her high top converse, peace scarf, “business” jacket, and slim jeans as she swagged down avenue after avenue.
We ventured into neighborhoods and where real people lived, off the tourist path, and had a real sense of the history of the rowhouses (DC) and brownstones (NYC) and in both places, felt right at home…NYC sophistication coupled with DC simplicity and style...individualistic, unique, creative, alive...just like the energy of these great American cities!