NY Fashion Views..from Paris
History was made and a cultural icon was born on TV when the series, Sex & the City made its debut in 1998.
For the first time, television made it acceptable for women to be self-centered, sexually aggressive, ambitious and ruthless. Men became an accessory just like shoes. The series inspired copycats throughout the years from Gabrielle Solis in Desperate Housewives to Blair Waldorf in Gossip Girls.
Those shows and their fashion icons helped elevate New York City fashion to a global scale that rivals Europe’s fashion capitals, including my own city of Paris.
When I decided to move in New York City, I pictured myself walking down the streets surrounded by fashion gurus in magnificent outfits. My expectations for New York City fashion were high.
In Paris, I am surrounded by couture, but after seven weeks of living here on the Upper East Side – the same neighborhood where Carrie lived on TV– I must confess fiction is far from reality.
Contrary to what Sex & the City led us to believe, I would say there are few fashionable people on the streets of Manhattan. It is also easy to categorize their style. In Paris, fashionable does not mean wearing the same trendy outfits everyone else wears; it is having your own style and pulling it off. New Yorkers seem to be fashion lazy. They copy what they see on the mannequins.
New Yorkers seem to prefer comfort to aesthetic. New York City is a war zone where you must always be equipped with ammunition for the outrageous heat and never-ending walks. A European would give up comfort for fashion.
But the aspect that I criticize most is the lack of originality. I can put New Yorkers in a box. Here is how I have categorized them.
Ghetto Style. Or should we call it, baggy style. The whole point of this fashion category is wearing clothes meant for sport as an everyday outfit. This style exists in France. It’s called the “American style.” You too can look like an American if you wear clothes one to three sizes bigger and walk as if you have something heavy in your back pocket.
Tattoo Style. No matter how they are dressed, these people express their style via their tattoos. Breaking news: it’s not style if everyone has a tattoo and you fit into the crowd. From my view, it seems like 80 percent of the people I see have a tattoo. But they don’t just have one tattoo. They have several tattoos that are ostentatious. Europeans think one tattoo in a discreet location is bold.
“Suit up”. If there is one city where there are more suits then people, it’s New York. At least you are making an effort, but it’s hard to look classy when you can barely stand your jacket because of the heat, and your shirt is covered with sweat. And the women, they wear sneakers under their dresses. The worst fashion faux pas you can ever make in Paris. But don’t be so quick to judge them. New York City is spread out and high heels are painful. In their defense, these women probably have their high heels in their bag.
Dog Accessories. I’ve observed how dogs in New York are an accessory. In my neighborhood, you can’t cross the street without running into a leash. I think dogs look like their owners, or the other way round. The tinier the dog, the manlier the owner.
Uniform People: In Paris and all over Europe, people change at home before going to work. They would never walk outside with a uniform. Not in in New York. From the UPS guy in his brown shorts to the blue scrubs on the subways, uniforms are everywhere. It took me a couple of weeks to get used to it.
In terms of fashion, Europe, and especially Paris, will never be overcome by New York. Trying to be in style is an everyday struggle in the streets of Paris. Be fashionable or be stared.
I think New York is the best place to practice your trendsetter skills because if there is one thing your TV shows don’t lie about, it is shopping in the city. New Yorkers never stare so you have the chance to experience outfits. Once experimenting turns out to be insufficient, come to Europe to enter the real competition. Be arrogant and say “I bought it in NY”.