Saturday, January 26, 2008

"What do you expect? It's Portland"

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.


  1. Hear, hear! As Bravo TV Fashion Guru Tim Gunn once said... If you feel like dressing as though you never got out of bed - - don't!

    The next sunny day, Zuzu and I will stroll Hawthorne the Xtabay way: in my mother's 1960's "fur" trimmed and fancy-buckled purple wool coat.

  2. Thanks for your comment! Make sure you stroll down Clinton St, too, so that we can get an eyeful of you!

  3. This is one of the most insensitive posts I have ever read! I happen to think that fleece in the PacNW is quite fashionable.

  4. I know this is an older post but I had to comment as I just found your blog. I recent had the pleasure to go see David Sedaris speak at the Schnitzer Concert Hall. The Schnitzer is one of the most elegant venues in the city and should be reason enough to put on something nice. The fact that you paid a pretty penny for tickets to hear a fabulously talented author speak, well that should just require you to at least wear something that is not made of denim.

    This was not the case. I was in a lovely taffeta circle skirt with a black beaded sweater. My hair was done as was my make up. My husband, who is not a fashion person was dressed very simply and appropriately. I was so disappointed in the idea of evening wear the was exhibited. Jeans, tank tops, FLIP FLOPS!! I even saw men in ball caps.

    It hurts my heart. We have a beautiful city with rich, cultural experiences to be had. Step up Portandlers!