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Fashion in American Popular Culture

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Amongst my friend group, I’ve always been a bit of the Carrie Bradshaw.  Okay, maybe not the size zero part…or the Manolos, but definitely fashion-conscious in a Michael Kors meets Coach kind of way.  That’s why this Summer I faced two of my biggest challenges ever simultaneously…I moved to Washington DC and got pregnant.

Now either of these events ostensibly is not that bad by themselves, right?  They have Internet shopping in the District, don’t they?  After all, the District plate motto of “Taxation without Representation” isn’t actually referring to without style representation – or is it?  And pregnancy, well, celebs get pregnant all the time…so they must have SOMETHING to wear. 

Flash forward to reality – it’s August, I’m at the Mall, sobbing on my smart phone to my fashionista gal pal in Cali.  “The clothes are all so…boring!  The color schemes, the hem lines, the ballet slippers!”  My friend, while trying to assuage me, has no idea what she’s talking about… “Someone there must like non-boring clothes.”  Alas, she’s incorrect. 

Riding the Red Line in every day from Montgomery County, I am surrounded by government employees.  Girls wear flip flops in a nod to the humidity with monochromatic or unpolished nails.  Occasionally, on cooler days, they might have a Tori Burch ballet flat on.  Dresses are monochromatic, in pastels or somber work tones – even in the heat of summer.  Jewelry is small, and unremarkable, and make-up is essentially non-existent.  They may sell make-up here – as the lines of shoving consumers at the Mac counters of Tyson’s Corner attest – but apparently they don’t wear it, or at least, not on a regular day.

“Okay,” I think determinedly, “I am my own fashion plate…I don’t need to emulate, I can INSPIRE!”  And then, I hit my second wall – the pregnancy.  While it’s true that celebs get pregnant, apparently celebs don’t shop at pregnancy stores – even Heidi Klum.  Maternity store after maternity store offer the same ugly, stretchy, shapeless blobs of unfashionable nightmares.  Eagerly I seek out Olian, Japanese Weekend, and Noppies to find that their best stuff (who knew?) only gets sold in Europe – where apparently remaining fashionable while pregnant is more important.  I go on a mission to find a “spice” colored top for Fall, or a pair of tights in any color other than black.  Nada.  But all of this angst is nothing to the biggest challenge of maternity wear – finding work-appropriate clothes that don’t suck.  Apparently, I’m supposed to either be in naughty negligees from Hot Milk “reminding him how I got this way,” or ensconced in the snuggly sweats and mumus offered by Motherhood Maternity.  Anything resembling work-professional attire should be saved until after the baby is born, weaned, and in college.  

So what’s a high-powered Carrie Bradshaw-like fashionista to do? Clearly, this problem is my fault for having a “real” job while being pregnant, which I can neither drop at a moment’s notice, nor decide that the dress code of the day will become sweats.  I don’t know about my fellow pregnant Washingtonians, but as for me, I decided the solution was quite clear – revolution.  That’s why I took a trip to Vegas and went outlet shopping this Summer.  If you can’t beat them, leave them. 

Still, it’s not been all bad here.  I saw a few outfits at the maternity boutique in Alexandria which I might even wear if I weren’t pregnant.  As for Washington fashion – that oxymoron like cute suspenders or Super Committee – I guess I’ll leave that to the Washingtonians.  I’m sure that the government worker style is practical, and occasionally even more sensible than my 4 inch pumps.  But as for me, you’ll find me shopping online, and sneaking a few trips up the coast to NYC…for an emergency Betsy Johnson run.

January 2012

From Alex Chusid

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