Somewhat serendipitously, as I was beginning to ponder this cacaphony of casual wear, I stumbled across an article in September Vogue entitled “The Sloppy Syndrome.” The author, Jean Hanff Korelitz writes, “I have always had a very uneasy relationship with the idea of elegance. Nice clothes were fine, but you didn’t want to look as if you were trying too hard or cared that much. I could never seem to get dressed up without feeling compelled to mess up my hair or skip the stockings, just to take the edge off. When it came to heels, I always chickened out just before I left the house and swapped them for something that wouldn’t look so…forced.”
She goes on to explore some of the cultural and generational differences in attitudes toward dressing up, “Women of my mother’s vintage have always been well turned out, from their smocked girlhood dresses to their teen cashmere sweater sets to the professional clothes they wore as they entered the brave new post-Betty Friedan workplace….Being elegant, looking mature–these were not problematic for them.” She wonders if in our youth-worshipping, individualistic culture, looking too put-together signals identification with having achieved a certain age or whether it goes back to a fear of looking like we care what others think, and wanting to avoid the risk of not passing muster.
Either way, Angelenos have taken this sartorial attitude to extremes. But recently I’ve seen signs that this tide may be turning a bit. Saturday night we finally got in for dinner atFraiche and I was delighted and surprised to see that the majority of other diners there actually Dressed Up, at least by LA standards. Granted, most of the clientele were themselves d’un certain age, but even some of the younger patrons had put on a dress and heels, and actually seemed to have washed their hair. I’m hopeful this isn’t either a passing fad or a sign of the Apocalypse, because for a city with so many “beautiful people,” I’ve never seen so many shlubs.
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