Style Double Standard

I used to live in Los Angeles, where it’s all about style. While there, I made a concerted effort to spiff up whenever I was out in public. That was never a big challenge, since I inherited the love-to-shop/love-to-play-dress-up gene.

I currently live in a small town in Northern California that I have alternately described as arty, charming, friendly, and touristy. Of all the labels this town have received–from others and from me–the one that stands out most is tolerant.

Tolerance is a good thing when it comes to allowing those who are different to let their individual flags fly. But there’s a flip side to tolerance, which is marked by an anything-goes attitude that can often generate some pretty questionable results.

I’ve blogged before about bizarre outfits I’ve seen on the streets of our fair community. We’re home to many earthy hippie types of all ages–ranging from authentic ’60s throwbacks to their offspring–who dress in multiple layers of long flowy things. We have back-to-nature folks who wear nothing but hemp and other natural fibers. We have cowgirls at heart who cling to denim, flannel, and dusty boots. And, really–all of that’s okay. Unless those not-fit-for-the-big-city outfits are on me.

Most of the time, I maintain my fashion sense wherever I am, thanks to my love of style. I often dress up more than the local rules require, and I’ve gotten used to the fact that when my husband and I go to a restaurant in town, we’ll be more decked out than the majority of diners. (A server once said to us, “You both look so nice! Where are you going?” to which we replied, “Um…here.”)

But occasionally, much to my dismay, I find that I wear things here that I would never wear in LA. I’ll spare you the details–and myself the embarrassment–but suffice it to say that I’m beginning to notice a very real double standard. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it scares the heck outta me.

It might be a when-in-Rome thing: a settling-in to a quieter, less fashionable lifestyle and trying to fit in with what surrounds me. It might be a lowered-profile thing: not needing to stand out from the masses. It might be a let’s-not-be-so-superficial thing: after all, they’re just clothes, not accomplishments. It might be a practical thing: I’m just going to the grocery store/gym/post office, so I really don’t need to focus on fashion. I can live with any of those meanings, but God forbid it should be a slackening-of-style-values thing. That, I just can’t accept.

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