Last week, Mr. Frump and I took a special trip to Oregon for our 20th anniversary. We spent a few days in Portland, one day traveling through the Willamette Valley wine country, and then a few days on the almost obscenely spectacular Oregon coast.
Seriously, people. If you get a chance to go there, do it.
I did one of my best packing jobs ever. I had my capsule wardrobe all planned. Knowing that the Pacific Northwest is often rainy and cool, I included a pair of long trousers, a long-sleeved shirt, and the brown, jean-style jacket that goes with everything. At the last minute, when the forecast told me it would be especially cool, I replaced two sleeveless tops with two long-sleeved ones, also adding a fleece vest. And it all still fit, easily, in my suitcase! I didn’t have to sit on my bag or fight with the zipper. This may be a first.
As always when traveling, shoes were a problem. The key is to pack (or wear) one pair that’s comfortable enough to walk in for miles, presentable enough to enter a restaurant, and versatile enough to be dressed up and down. In the cool weather months, I rely on ankle boots with a one and a half-inch heel. In the summer, I go with flat sandals. So you can probably predict the problem, right? Most of my cool-weather trousers are hemmed to go with a slight heel, whereas my lightweight summer clothes work with flats. I’ve found one or two combinations that bridge this gap, but not a reliable capsule wardrobe.
So my jeans stayed home. They’ve been a little tight lately, anyway (damn you, black raspberry Oreo ice cream!) They are also heavy to pack, and when you add in the shoe issue, it just wasn’t worth it. To hedge my bets, I threw in a pair of track pants and my running shoes. Even though they also take up too much suitcase space, I thought I might be inspired to go for a run. (Yes, I can hear you laughing from here. Shut up.) In an absolute emergency, if I was freezing to death, I knew I could wear these.
But there was further method to my madness. For awhile, I’ve been wanting to find a more casual pair of jeans to wear with lower-heeled shoes. Because not only are my other jeans a little snug, they were also made from a very dark, crisp denim, easier to dress up than to dress down. I figured if it was really cool in Oregon, I could use this as an excuse to find that new pair. And that’s exactly what I did.
The jeans were one of life’s happy little miracles. You can see them in every photo in this post. They fit me better than just about any jeans I’ve tried in recent years, and like all women, I consider myself difficult to fit. Even better, they were $15. They came from Talbot’s, originally, where I don’t usually shop. I got them at a secondhand chain store familiar to many of my readers: Buffalo Exchange.
The Portland store is conveniently located across from the most kick-ass independent bookstore on Earth, Powell’s Books. Oddly enough, I brought no books home. As an educator, I find this slightly disturbing. But come on: everybody knows that books are the heaviest things you can possibly pack in a suitcase! Heavier, even, than jeans.
Now, about those jeans. I am trying not to obsess about the fact that, in some of the photos, these look just a teeny bit like the dreaded “Mom jeans.” (If you’re fortunate enough to have never heard of these, just click here).
In real life, I don’t think they look like Mom jeans. They’re not tapered. And while the denim could be darker, it’s not too faded. Yes, that waistline is on the high side, but it is still below my natural waist! And who the hell decided that Mom jeans are any jeans with a rise higher than an inch above your personal lady parts?
But I digress.
The jeans fit very well, even from behind, which is often a problem for me. With my body type, it’s hard to find jeans that fit in the waist without bagging in the hips, thighs and seat.
Bottom line: I like these jeans. I need them, and I am going to enjoy wearing them, even if there are people out there who would brand them as “Mom jeans.”
But this was not the only clothing-related epiphany I had. The other was that bit about dressing for the elements. We were actually quite lucky, as we had a lot of sun during our trip. Though temperatures dipped to the low fifties, they were usually in the mid sixties to seventies. There were entire days when no rain fell at all; when it did, it was often a light spray that ended quickly. If you’ve ever been to the Pacific Northwest, especially along the coast, you know it often showers like this several times a day. You also never know whether your scenic drive will involve a walk through town, a visit to a fabulous little coffee shop or casual restaurant, or a scramble over rocks to stroll on a (miraculously!) empty beach. I needed to be prepared for anything, which brings me to the outfit pictured here:
The jacket, jeans, and shoes can travel from beach to town — provided that I unroll the jeans, of course. (Beaches are sandy, you know). The leather sandals are a little clunky, but again, if the jeans are lowered to the proper length, they blend in. The fleece vest came off as soon as I got out of the chilly coastal breeze.
I know the pink rain slicker is far from stylish, but it can be rolled in a ball and thrown in the bottom of my bag, and it weighs nothing. It also wraps oh-so-fetchingly (!) around the waist. This is actually very useful because, even if it’s sunny when you start your trek down to the beach, it could rain at any moment. We took more than one walk during which the raincoat came on and off several times in less than thirty minutes. And once that rain starts, you don’t want to be climbing back up those rocks, running for cover.
Once all the layers came off, I looked more like this:
Not a glamazon, by any stretch of the imagination. But still, in an area filled with casual, outdoorsy people doing rugged, athletic things in a natural setting beset by wind, rain, and constantly changing conditions, I felt like I could pretty much go anywhere.
Now, if I lived in the Pacific Northwest, a few things would have to change. I’d probably have to own something along these lines:
And perhaps, as well, some cool, outdoorsy, not-quite-sneakers, like these:
or perhaps these:
Because you know what happens when you wear open-toed shoes in a chilly rain? Your feet get cold. This is an obvious point that I still failed to anticipate, somehow.
In Oregon, people are quite casual, wearing their cool outdoorsy gear everywhere. They don’t look frumpy, just incredibly healthy and youthful and at home in nature. I know this, because while we were eating quite possibly the best restaurant meal I’ve ever had, I was sitting next to not one but two tables at which everybody was wearing jeans, windbreakers, and outdoorsy almost-sneakers.
Guess what? They swirled the Pinot Noir in their glasses just as expertly as the dressed-up folks. I am not kidding.
If I lived in a place like this, my perceptions of acceptable garb would have to change. But I promise you this: You will never, ever see me wearing my jeans together with the ugly running shoes. I will not waver; I will not settle. I am firm on this. Because everybody knows that nothing tips a not-quite-Mom-jean over into the Mom jean category faster than a clunky pair of sneakers.
I will not go gentle into that good night.
How does your personal style reflect the climate in which you live? Have you ever had to “recalibrate” your style in a new place? Be sure to visit “Visible Monday” over at Not Dead Yet Style, to see what all the fabulous women are wearing today!