Friday, December 15

Fashion as a Reaction to Your Environment

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I’m in the mood for some Hugo Boss right now. Left up to my own devices, I am not sure what I will come up with. But when I see someone else that is dressed well it piques my own curiosity, and I want to see what I can do to look well. Yet I often find that I am as influenced by what I see other people wearing around me, as I am by my own personal sense of style.

I think that an individuals sense of fashion needs to be able to adapt, shift, and change according to the environment they are in. While it is one thing to only compete with yourself, you do not want to be out of reach, or send out the wrong messages about what it is you wish to convey about your true personality. You want to look good, dress well, yet still be able to relate to those around you. So you find a way to identify with others, yet still assert yourself within the parameters of what everyone else is doing, rather than trying to rewrite the rules.

Fashion in this area of Virginia is a bit laid back. It isn’t all Black or monochromatic tones, and it is not dark or brooding, but a bit light, a little bit of fun, a little bit of the beach, and also a bit Southern as well. Culturally, this place is somewhere between Richmond and Northern Virginia, there are an awful lot of people from the Northeast, and what others might consider to be pedestrian is perfectly okay here. The fashion choices people make tend to reflect that reality.

It is not as though you have to knock every one’s socks off, but it is fun to see how far you can take things. When I went back home, to Akron and Cleveland, the fashion choices people made seemed to be a lot darker and had a bit of an edge from what I was used to seeing. I hadn’t noticed it as much until my sister, who lives in Atlanta, commented on it. My mind immediately went to what people were wearing down there.

The differences between Akron and Cleveland were the same as they always have been; clothing choices tend to be more expensive and exhibit a different level of sophistication in Cleveland than they do in Akron. On the other hand, people from Akron can dress up and make things look a lot more expensive or come at it from a different angle utilizing fewer resources than what someone may have at their disposal. It is easy to find anything, from any designer, somewhere in Cleveland, in Akron you might find something interesting in a discount store but for the most part you aren’t getting Chanel or Louis Vuitton. So you need to work with what you have to make the outfit look more interesting than what it really is.

That type of resourcefulness is also exhibited around here. If Hampton Roads is Akron, Northern Virginia is our Cleveland, and we aren’t going to find what you find in Richmond or Northern Virginia in Hampton Roads. But we can find that creativity to make it look like a million bucks if we need to. On one hand, I do not feel that incessant need to spend $150 on a pair of shoes but every now and again if I can find a way to do it I like doing so because it takes me back to those days when fashion was more of a competitive sport than the fun past time it has become now. I see a lot of urban wear these days, but even that is not really as expensive as you would think; I think the average person has the “look” but is busy trying to survive.

The last time I was out at the outlet mall I had to rethink my strategy though. Clearly, my outward appearance had been on an extended vacation, and my fashion sense was still in hibernation. So I checked out some stores and looked at a few things. I had the money at my disposal, but just did not feel like dropping the cash was the brightest thing I could have done at the moment, so I moved on. If I stay away from shopping malls like MacArthur and Lynnhaven I am okay.

One great thing about this area is that it is not far from cities like Washington DC, or even New York. In the past I would have this anxiety about the way I dress, but what I have found is that you have to take into context where you are at in the city and who it is you are observing. For example when I was in Manhattan there were plenty of working women who looked at those they were ripped out of the pages of Vogue, but elsewhere in the borough, such as in Harlem, high fashion did not seem to be as much of a priority. Harlem seemed to be down to Earth, with people just doing their own thing, and not caring so much what people thought about what they wore. It isn’t that people did not dress well, but those sweeping fashion statements were far and few in between. It goes to show that when most of us romanticize about New York, we’re still thinking about Manhattan, which is not the reality for the majority of the residents in the city.

I still want that Hugo Boss shirt, but I don’t want to spend “Hugo Boss money”. My luck I’ll run across something entirely different when I get around to making that committment …

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