Friday, February 27, 2009

SF: Fashionistas

In Paris, women are hard-wired with fashion sense. Check out a girl on the street (of any age–it doesn’t matter in France) and you’ll see chic. Not the put-together look that was originated in an online catalogue, but a sexy, distinctive appearance that may be a careful mix of vintage and vogue. San Francisco is cosmopolitan too, but in this one arena, Fog City has let me down.

You’ll see exceptions in the financial district, but most San Francisco women dress as if their closets yield only one or two options. Uniform one is the yoga-pants ensemble, and it comes in only one color: black. Pair the black yoga pants with a short jacket, ill-fitting and possibly purchased at La Goodweel, and lace up a pair of sensible black shoes. The shades of black absolutely should not match, the yoga pants being slightly over-washed and faded against the more pristine jacket. On top of it all, notice a looping neck scarf...layered in a third shade of nothing.

Uniform two is the jeans uniform. Worn long and slightly battered (as if retrieved from the closet floor), the jeans uniform gives relief from the tedium of the yoga-pants ensemble and is positively showboat in comparison. Top with the same jacket (to give continuity throughout seasonal changes) and, yes, finish the look with the neutral-hued scarf, avoiding any references to the color wheel. In deep summer (that's 60 in San Francisco) polish off the outfit with flip-flops and a pair of sunglasses. Makeup is taboo. The San-Fran-Face is straight out of Ward B.

It’s easy to spot a tourist in San Francisco. She will be shivering from lack of layers. New white running shoes are a dead giveaway. An expensive tangerine-colored jacket paired with sharply pressed slacks from Brooks Brothers screams East of the Mississippi. Add an expensive, hand-crafted necklace (so large as to put one’s face in the shadows) and you be looking at wealthy , of-a-certain-age, and South of the Mason-Dixon line.

I’ve yielded to the uniform–but only so far. I’ve shocked San Franciscans by wearing my capri pants and huaraches in July. It’s a pairing that wears well under multi layered scarves and jackets. I have in fact shown up in church wearing colors, and occasionally jewelry. I know, I’m always one to push the rules.

I did leave my makeup trowel in Kentucky, but–even in San Francisco–I’ll never answer the phone without my mascara.

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