Fashion Crisis Averted, Green Card to Thank


As explored here, the author of this blog has experienced a fashion meltdown upon arrival from the Mission District, SF to The Capitol. Skinny jeans are not a staple of East Coast’s professional world, flower (or my favorite: turtle!) patterns are more common in Spanish-speaking neighborhoods of DC, and hot pink is the stuff of kindergarten, or drag shows.

Walking by an elementary school playground in Dupont Circle yesterday, I saw a little girl with long pink fabric trailing behind her. Three girls held her train, like aspiring Pippas to Kate Middleton. The other kids pranced around: “Is this a wedding? Is this a wedding?” The pink girl remained silently dignified; her ladies in waiting shushed everyone with a whispered “Yes!” And the procession continued between the swings and AstroTurf. That’s the appropriate age for pink.

Anyway, upon stepping into the sea of greys and blacks of adults, at least on weekdays, I was a teenager again, fresh off the boat from Russia in Cupertino, California. Clothes ushered me back to the immigrant experience: cheerful middle school kids pointing at my yellow track suit from a Target sale and snickering in an alien language.

“Did you really do the Shasta marathon in 1984?” classmates would ask about the logo on my oversized t-shirt, donated by charity.

“It’s just a shirt,” I learned to reply.

There’s nothing ironic about ironic t-shirts if you don’t feel funny putting them on, and if your mother has picked them out for you in a synagogue backroom.

There was nothing ironic about my knockoff sneakers, revered/borrowed by friends in Russia, but a financially-obtuse curiosity here, along with my free lunch vouchers and ketchup on rice.

And, by the way, kerchiefs look cute in Fiddler on the Roof, but not in the nineties during Silicon Valley winters.

“Do you want my old clothes?” a Vietnamese classmate offered in front of the other ESL eighth-graders. I turned red as a beet of my homeland, declining.

“Whoa. When were you in Cancun?”

“It’s just a shirt.”

DC’s fashion has rekindled this awkwardness of immigration. DC, for that matter, is a gigantic school cafeteria, where reputation precedes you and word-of-mouth is what will land you on the throne of a prom queen or in the back of the class, with the Dungeons and Dragons enthusiasts with braces.

So, upon arrival to the District, I wasn’t about to be the “other” again. Enough. No more jeers in a funny language. No more ostracism. Before even starting to look for a new home, I went shopping.

This is what I initially brought along, to wear to work in DC:

And this was packed for a Parisian/bike-rider theme:

This is a new DC replacement:

Accessories, too, needed an overhaul. The “before” bag….

…turned into an “after” purse:

Swanky, shiny and new. Neutral and sharp-angled. Success-oriented.

But as weeks pass, one thing becomes patently obvious: I don’t actually enjoy dressing like a politician or an executive. The buttons have this clinical feel to them, and stiff fabric is entirely too restricting. Anyway, when I do put the appropriate pieces together, they end up looking different from the mannequin. They look like me.

I’m a perpetual immigrant who’s learned to overcome fashion disasters, linguistic embarrassments and social faux pas, if she chooses to. And while there will be a time and place for suits and for ironing my way into the most formal occasions, I, in the meantime, reserve my inalienable right to parade around in skinny jeans, untucked, bejeweled, frizzy-haired, and with as much pink as if Barbie threw up in the back of Ken’s cab, so help me Green Card.

2 thoughts on “Fashion Crisis Averted, Green Card to Thank

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