This week I went to hear Ian Bostridge, a tenor of rock star caliber, sing Schubert lieder. It was an icy night, so I wore a black wool dress from the 1950s and a long Lilli Ann coat with velvet trim. I also wore a pearl necklace with a flower in the middle made of shimmering crystals, also from the 1950s (and purchased from The Xtabay, naturally). As I entered the Kaul Auditorium with the crowd, I felt like a tropical fish swimming in a sea of guppies. Everywhere I looked I saw fleece.
The friend who invited me to the concert said, "What do you expect? It's Portland." We Portlanders take pride in our no nonsense, anti-high-falutin' attitude, and I like that about us. But there is a point where bucking society's expectations becomes an excuse for laziness. After all, Ian Bostridge showed up to sing in a beautifully-cut tuxedo. Can't we show him the respect of leaving our Danskos home for the evening?
I love getting dressed up to go out. I don't mean being "fancy", but taking the effort to find an interesting combination of clothes to wear. I'm setting the tone for my night out, and I hope that my choice of a rhinestone brooch or beaded cardigan will set this night apart from the rest of the week's evenings of trips to Trader Joes and dinner in front of the television for other people, too. After all, a concert, or dinner out, or party is only as special as you make it.
And I don't mean that we need to spend a lot of money on how we look. At the concert I saw a man who wore a 1970s patterned knit vest over a patterned cotton shirt, with tailored 1960s trousers. He looked great: smart, interesting, thoughtful. His whole outfit probably cost less than $50, shoes included.
So, Portlanders, get off your butts and out of your fleece and put on a cocktail dress to go to dinner, even if it isn't your company's annual holiday party. The next time you stop by the Press Club to listen to music, try a vintage jacket and cocktail ring. I'll be the woman at the next table with the patent leather evening bag.