Homecoming week festivities all went off without a hitch. Swam with the sea lions and wrassled with the kiddoes in Aptos; inhaled Berkeley's summery and luscious air (what's in that, anyway? The air was perfect, neither too dry nor too humid, smelling of eucalyptus in many places and of lavender in others); watched as fogged-in mornings on the Mendocino coast gave way to bright white afternoons.
Good, good, and more good.
And then, the bad.
And the ugly. And by that I mean how very, very poorly so very, very many of the locals were dressed. The shock of it. The "why." Why, if one can afford to dine in a twenty-dollars-an-entrée restaurant, does it not follow that one is capable of changing out of one's t-shirt, shorts, and tennies -- and possibly into a collared shirt, and perhaps even pants that feature a zipper -- in order to enjoy said dinner? Because. That's why.
Then of course, there is the unutterable footwear. Judging from the unforgiveable affronts to leather and the centuries-old art of cobbling, many of the residents of the 94707 are recovering from orthopedic surgery. Because there is simply no other explanation for what one sees passing for shoes on the sidewalks of Berkeley. During cocktail hour, no less.
And then, the bicycle shorts. Worn in the absence of bicycles. And then again, the shapeless polar fleece "things" (just because it has sleeves doesn't mean it qualifies as a garment) that made me avert my eyes periodically. Add to that a blatant disregard for such silhouette-enhancing inventions such as the dart, the hemmed pant (just let 'em scrunch up around the ankles; what the hell), or the fitted (i.e., non-elasticized) waistband.
And all this from reasonably sophisticated people, many of them with multiple higher degrees, and good taste in food and wine to boot.
It's simply that being away has changed my thinking the teensiest bit. Elegance (i.e., geometry and economy and -- yes, Coco Chanel -- refusal) is more important to me than it was before. I have simply come to realize the pleasure of dressing well, both for self and for others. And that dressing well doesn't mean dressing up. Nor does dressing comfortably mean foregoing metal closures, nor button holes.
Imagine my delight, my first day back, to spot this lady on the Boulevard St. Germain. She is on her way to do the marketing. That is her jacket; those are her jeans (which fit); those are her shoes with the slightest heel. Not too high for walking, and yet not so flat that they widen her rear.
And there is her grocery caddie. Which matches said jacket.
That is her hair, combed. And this, I know, will shock the Saturday-morning horde with whom I jockeyed carts at Monterey Market on Hopkins just last week. But this I say to you: watch.