I’ve spent the last eight years correcting well-intentioned friends and colleagues who introduced me as the fashion editor of this magazine. “Style editor,” I’d say, the emphasis polite but clear. But where that conversation ends is actually where a much better one should start.
Fashion is something you buy. Style is, as novelist and editor Heidi Julavits asserts in the recent essay collection Women in Clothes, “posed on the precipice between reality and fiction.” Style is about everyday habits, but also calculated risk. It’s an outward display of inner character, a way of saying, “Here’s what I want you to know.” Those we perceive as stylish are equally adept at expressing themselves at relaxed dinner parties and in corporate board rooms. Style is balance.
And balance is something—like tech, gay marriage, and weed—that Seattle owns. After all, our city sits on the edge of the natural world; it’s a metropolis that appears from a distance as both deep foliage green and burnished microchip steel.
Perhaps you’ve noticed that high-end houses like Céline and fast-fashion sources like Zara have copped their own versions of Birkenstocks, puffy coats, and ’90s-era plaids—the very things that once landed this town on worst-dressed lists. Now they’re worn here and everywhere with elegantly minimal sheath dresses and expertly asymmetrical trousers. The modern mix is about being practiced, and practical.
And if you need help with either, you’ll find it here. In fashion cities—like, say, Paris—shopkeepers can be smug gatekeepers. You are, it might seem, what you can purchase. But in style cities like Seattle, where shopkeepers are allies, it’s about what you can glean. What you can aspire to be.
When I see leather leggings paired with luxe Swedish raincoats on Tuesday-morning bus commutes and neon Nikes worn under taffeta skirts at SAM, I’m reminded that we’re too smart and too sly to simply take fashion off the rack. We slip into the very spirit of this place, and we run with it.
This article appeared in the November 2014 issue of Seattle Met magazine.