Let’s just say: a person leaves the Lower East Side, where the streets are paved with the Saturday evening regrets of Gen-Y financiers (Cornell ‘09) and discarded French fries, and arrives in that genteel, Rococo truffle we call the Upper East Side, where the streets are paved with fur-trimmed $10 bills. And the person ascends with an armful of Tsumori Chisato, with backless Risto vests, with giant shirts trumpeting themselves as dresses or tiedye that suggests the buffoonish color palette of the cupcake industry… What I’m asking is: when a person shoots dead north in Manhattan and is playing for keeps, how should that person dress?
Some might say that the punkest thing to do is nothing. Strut down Park in that lace-up kimono. Dart into the flower shop in that tafetta Carven confection with dunks and bovine, er, millinery. But a recent viewing of Bunuel’s The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie awakened the notion in me that we shouldn’t kick someone who’s already down (“It would be hard to imagine a less fair or accurate portrait,” said Stillman’s Charlie Black of the film). The WASP bourgeoisie is a dying breed, folks, with many a cultural idiosyncrasy that ought to be preserved in some small way—but, well, that’s a conversation to be had with E. Digby Baltzell.
The apotheosis of getting dressed should still be this, but rather than ruffling feathers uptown, the joke ought to be on the too-serious Williamsburg literati, on the graphic designers who think Nolita is their karmic reward for liking performance art, or, best of all, on the Tribeca-West Village tufthunters who buy things like piles of sticks dripped with Yves Klein blue paint and very old hummus without even a knowing wink.*
When I first moved here, I also contemplated throwing everything out and wearing black. The look was to be very, “I’m a lady in mourning; I need a whole new wardrobe.” But I consulted with my friend John, Spirit Animal to the Stars, and he told me that I shouldn’t desert my whackadoodle magpie aesthetic, because I don’t dress that way for fashion week or street style opportunities; I dress that way “because that’s how you really dress.” This was flattering enough that I chucked the idea, and moved boldly forward.
One of my favorite articles of clothing is a very crisp white shirt flounced with valences of lime green fringe on the back by a very cool Korean line for joyful aliens called pushBUTTON. I also recently bought a pair of Acne shoes which veer on aping those Balenciaga boots everyone is nuts about but are lime green and taupe and therefore very weird and potentially hideous and so, to my eye, a worthy acquisition rather than the Next-OK-Thing. Anyways, both felt indecorous uptown.
So I wore them like this: I added a very prep school Carven jacket, and jeans in that Barbour green, and a little wooden purse my Aunt Alita painted with horses, and a gold Asha by Adm ring that has my zodiac sign in a glowing teal blue. The fringe became a detail rather than a punchline, and with all that green, the boots became of a gesamtkunstwerk rather than a weird loud statement shoe.
Yes, that is Gossip Girl Academy.
And I went to J. MacLaughlin: The Restaurant and had a bloody Mary that helped me make up my mind about whether a man can live alone in a hotel when his spouse passes away, and then I went next door to the Corner Bookstore, which is the only level of heaven currently accessible to mere mortals, and you know what, folks? I felt at home. At long last, my aesthetic inclinations and my environs were in kismet.
Jumping like a blogger with my top-knot lopped off.
*Ah, the tables have turned: Nick Smith’s reply to Charlie: “The surrealists were just a bunch of social climbers.”