Monday, July 28, 2008

Adapting Fashion for Neighborhoods

Perhaps it’s just my impression, but I swear that different neighborhoods have distinct personalities. Revisiting them at least once a year allows me to feel that those old pals are still doing just fine. And just like getting reacquainted with someone after a long absence, I take pleasure in enjoying their unique gifts once again. They may not remember me, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t missed them! They are so diverse, in fact, that I can indulge myself in dressing for the locale-sort of like saving eccentric fashion looks for Soho or Greenwich Village, and designer looks for the Upper East Side.

Although Pittsburgh is not New York, we still have opportunities to dress for outings. One of my favorite places is Squirrel Hill. As the Jewish center of our city, many Orthodox and Hassidic followers fill the streets, wearing yarmulkes, dreadlocks, traditional black attire, and women in long, dark skirts. Visiting ethnic stores and dairy eateries, a woman may feel just a bit out of place showing too much skin-or she might not. Since stepping into this world is escape into old world living, I prefer to err on the side of conservatism.

A neighborhood not far from there is Shadyside, consisting of older, expensive homes and an upscale shopping district is only about 4 blocks long. I go there to treat myself, as it’s a little too fancy for every day shopping. You could easily pull out those items that are one of kind or logo-labeled and fit right in, using this visit as the chance to finally use those long scarves or out-of-the-ordinary jewelry.

A slightly more bohemian neighborhood is found in older parts of our city’s South Side, where antique and specialty shops compete with tattoo parlors and biker bars. There is a newly recently section, but my verdict about that is still not in. The preppy folks gathered in the central rotunda outside of the Cheesecake Factory prove that it’s popular, but I’m still partial to the original blocks.

Oakland is the academic hub of town, home to two major universities, two colleges and an extensive health complex. Young adults abound everywhere, as do their band clubs and bars. Since people flock from all over the world for education and health care, there is a huge diversity of population. Seeing saris, turbans, and mid-eastern veils mingling with a sea of denim means wearing indulging your identity and youthful creativity-such as hand painted shirts, tie-dyed items, baseball caps, and university alumnae gear-especially if you studied in this ‘burg.

Then there’s the Strip District-quaint, comfortable, and exciting. Primarily known for wholesale provisions, it’s where restaurants obtain their wares at dawn. But anyone can enter a fish market and pick out dinner from huge tanks of eels and lobsters and enjoy the dozens of ethnic markets, restaurants, and shops. Walking here is like stepping into other countries; employees speak their native tongues, and the vacuum-sealed atmosphere we’re used to isn’t always evident. Neither are grocery carts. What you buy, you carry, and since parking is at a premium, it could be a long haul. Since this is the place where working folk go for good deals, one doesn’t want to look too conspicuously fancy. Think packing district décor, where comfy, closed shoes are a requirement. The old world charm of mesh shopping bags carried by the little old ladies and the brown wrapping paper of meats and cheeses echoes nicely with today’s Green movement. This is not a place to dress to impress, at least not during daylight hours. (There are some dance clubs on the outskirts for that.)

Going to any of these places is a great break chain stores. They show us what life is like outside of our own little circle. These towns are also close to my heart for their original and residential living not far from its business area, allowing residents to forgo cars. Energies are different from the suburbs, and I find the cultural mix stimulating-along with the wide variety of focus in fashion. I love neighborhoods with personality; just like individuals with personality, they’re hard to forget!

Consider your wardrobe before visiting unique parts of your city and your visit may be even better!