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Palo Alto - Get Style!

Original post made by PAStyleMatters, Crescent Park, on Oct 13, 2011

I have come to the conclusion that Palo Altans are among the worst-dressed people in the Western world. I'm from here, so this is an auto-critique = don't shoot the messenger.

Seriously, we should be ashamed of ourselves for showing so little passion, sensuality, vivacity & artistry in our & our youth's clothing!

The situation is so bad that there are virtually *zero* clothing boutiques that can stay open more than a couple years, with most people dutifully going to the big clothing chains for their entire wardrobes.

Downtown Palo Alto has a bunch of great stores, but leading edge or high-end fashion? Fuggedabout it, nothing, nada. We are the center of Silicon Valley, the universally-recognized home of tech, and yet a woman visiting from out of town wouldn't think in a million years to stroll University Ave. for clothes, would she?

Go outside, look at us & how we dress, then think about places like Chicago, Miami, NYC, LA, Paris, London and Shanghai. I submit to you that we are a major global player of a city in every respect except fashion, where we are a barren wasteland.

I know a lot of my fellow Palo Altans visit this site frequently, and so I'm hoping this kicks off a bout of fashion introspection.

Comments (69)

Posted by Umm no thanks
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 13, 2011 at 10:36 pm

High tech people plus suburbs is going to equal bland dressing any way you cut it. Which is fine with me - people are free to dress as they wish, and if that means tee shirt and jeans, then good for them. Its fine if you want to dress up and be fashion forward, but no need to put pressure on others to do so.

Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 13, 2011 at 10:44 pm

You want to see some baaaaaad fashion choices? Check out the ladies shopping at the Ravenswood 101 Shopping Center. It's like never ending episodes of What Not to Wear.

OP, I hate to break it to you, but PA is no Shanghai, Paris, Chicago, etc., & when it comes to fashion, neither is San Francisco!

Ironically, one of the chicest women I know lived in PA for many years, but hey, she hailed from Chicago. The other two chicsters I know are both in Menlo Park.

Posted by Paly Alum
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 13, 2011 at 11:29 pm

Palo Alto has always attracted nerds because PAUSD has a good reputation. 78% of Palo Altans have a Bachelor's degree or higher. Nerds just don't care about clothing because they are too practical. I have mixed feelings on this because I appreciate that I don't have to dress up as if we lived in the South. And I think it is funny that multi, multi-millionaires are not flaunting it through materialism. However, I understand the poster's frustration because I am often surprised at just how poorly parents dress for school Open Houses. But again, it is a nerd city. I prefer living amongst nerds than living with Orange County types.

Asking for nerds to shop at boutiques is too much. Agree with Hmmm that S.F. is no big fashion city either, although the big stores at least offer more than the ones at Stanford. I just wish people here would be a bit more fashionable than wearing REI and Land's End clothing.

A digression . . . with all the nerds, it's not so easy for my children to find "normal" kids with good social skills.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 14, 2011 at 8:14 am

I don't really object to parents dropping off school kids wearing a jacket over pajamas, or people doing grocery shopping while wearing sweaty gym clothes even though I don't like it. But what I do dislike to see to are those professionals or doing their jobs who are dressed inappropriately for work. Teachers, wait staff, receptionists, shop clerks, etc. dressed more suitably for the beach or for a Saturday morning clearing out their garage rather than for work are my bug bear on this one.

If people aren't dressing appropriately for work it gives a poor impression of their expertise, their respect for their jobs and also their employers' respect for their customers.

How can we instill professional standards in our youth when the professionals they see in their daily lives look as if they rolled out of bed and grabbed the first clothes they can find?

Watched part of the PAN AM show on tv recently and then flew United. The difference in the appearance of the past and present was striking! It was not just due to Hollywood, standards have just dropped.

Posted by nerdwear
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 14, 2011 at 10:18 am

Do you know how much money Steve Jobs paid for those black turtlenecks? Nerdwear is not cheap. Make your own style.

Posted by Not just fashion
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 14, 2011 at 10:25 am

I see two problems. One is professionals and sales people who wear their garden work clothes to work, and
women (and a few men) who wear close-fitting and revealing tops and pants that proudly display their obesity, and way too much skin.
The ugliness is overwhelming sometimes.

Posted by nerdwear
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 14, 2011 at 11:20 am

I gotta agree that it is really hard to be stylish when you are obese and obesity is a much bigger problem in America than in those stylish foreign cities. Like Sarah Palin says, there is only so much lipstick you can put on a pig.

Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 14, 2011 at 1:03 pm

I really understood Paly Alum's post. The truth is that a lot of academics, which PA is full of, really have no fashion gene. I've seen this all over the US. But what's striking is in this area, w/cutting edge technology, where people love product design, is the *utter* lack of overall love of product design for the body.

I just thought of another friend, a former PA resident, who dressed beautifully & w/much originality, a blend of modern & vintage. But she was originally from Canada!

Recently, on the coast w/an Eastern Euro friend (who thankfully has good taste), we noticed an appallingly dressed woman. Sequins on your evening top w/tennis shorts & heels for the beach? Really? My friend guessed aloud where the woman was from, then when we heard the woman speak, it was confirmed she was from where my friend guessed. So this isn't just an American problem - but this woman's clothing challenges were the opposite of nerdwear.

Much of the time - when gardening, cleaning out the garage or working around the house, it's not necessary to dress like Donna Reed or even fashionably. But there are comfy, chic clothing choices for when one goes out. Well-dressed, frankly, means a variety of things to me. It doesn't always mean dressed formally or uncomfortably. It generally means dressing at the financial level you can afford, in clothes that fit your size, age, type & coloring, whether you want to stand out in vintage or blend in via something blandly contemporary. Moreoever, one of the keys is being comfy in your own skin, no matter your gender, size, age or style. I see larger women do this a lot of the time & admire them. So many people in this area live in their heads, not their bodies, so that's a big part of why we see so little fashion chic in this area.

The inappropriate clothing choices extend well beyond the overweight. There are great plus size choices these days, but it takes time, a bit of money & effort - just as it does for the thinner folks to dress appropriately. "If you got it, flaunt it" isn't always a wise fashion mantra. I'm around a number of Europeans ongoingly & they have a lot of the same fashion challenges we do, because many of them are academics.

And finally, what is it w/GROWN MEN wearing pajama bottoms when running errands. Really? You don't have a pair of real pants in your Eichler? Dude, I'll BUY you some just to avoid looking at you!

Posted by TheLostShopper
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 14, 2011 at 1:57 pm

...and I thought t-shirts, flip-flops and long grey hair in a pony tail was the "Bay Area look". I have to agree that there is a lack of shops carrying professional clothes, especially for women. I had a devil of a time finding crisp blouses and chic suits for interviews. The shoe stores puzzle me the most. It's either ultra-glam "Sex and the City" sandals or a selection of toad shaped mud-stompers. Where are the sensible pumps?

Posted by DD Mom
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 14, 2011 at 2:00 pm

Disagree with you.

I came from a different country. I think the best part of American culture is how it makes ordonary people feel good about themselves. Desinger clothes cost money. I don't want to live in a city where you can tell a people's income from the way they are dressed.

In my son's Kinder class, there are parents who are Senior VPs and there are standford students, but you can't tell who is what at the parent meeting. For the benefit of our children, let's keep it this way.

As for the fashionable cities you listed, I lived in one of those for many years before came to US. Trust me, unless you are tall, thin, beautiful and have lots of money, it does not feel good to live in a fashion capital.

Posted by Dad's view
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 14, 2011 at 2:44 pm

Yes, the average Palo Altan's IQ is high, EQ is alright, but FQ (fashion quotient) is questionable.

Palo Alto has more than enough fashionable stores in Stanford Mall - Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale's, Nordstrom, BCBG, Armani, some parts of Macy's, etc...

Palo Alto is not a catwalk nor would we want it to be.
But you can be a nerd and still dress decently at a reasonable cost.
Most of our elementary kids' clothes come from Target.

Here's the bar: Wear stuff that fits you. Match colors. Coordinate accessories.
Shouldn't be too hard to do.

Posted by daniel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 14, 2011 at 2:44 pm

We should wear what makes us feel comfortable. Imagine spending an entire day wearing "fashionable" but uncomfortable cloths. One of the great things about California, particularly northern California, is that we are casual, informal and understated. The great weather also contributes to the casual style. Formal and fashionable cloths are an old concept and it's great that it's ignored here.

Posted by nerdwear
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 14, 2011 at 3:10 pm

The official uniform at Facebook was a grey cotton hoodie. Glad we kicked those ghetto kids out of town. Maybe the FQ will go up now. Yes, Zuckerberg still lives here, but he doesn't show his face around town nearly as much any more.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 14, 2011 at 3:12 pm

Interesting discussion and interesting that it seems to be both men and women who are posting.

There is a big difference between dressing in uncomfortable high fashion clothes and dressing like a slob.

I see nothing wrong with women in flat shoes, but sneakers for work, even if they are on their feet all day, just seems wrong. A dress shirt even without a tie, needs to look as if it has been ironed. Some places stipulate no blue jeans, but that doesn't mean that black or other colored jeans are appropriate. People who live in sweats and flip flops, no matter the occasion, look like slobs - not someone just dressing down.

There are smart clothes in Target, Kohls and Walmart, as well as at Stanford. It is nothing to do with the cost of the clothes.

When I see someone nicely dressed for whatever the occasion it tells me nothing about their income just about the respect they have for that occasion. Regardless of whether I am having a meeting with my child's teacher, visiting my dentist, my accountant or having lunch in downtown, I feel that it is only respectful to who I am with to dress accordingly. And, if I am meeting with one of my child's teachers, I find it very hard to take what they say seriously if they are dressed in something more suitable for yardwork than a professional environment which it is for them. If I take the trouble to dress to a certain standard for my meeting with them, then they should certainly be dressing to a similar standard for their day at work. I know I wouldn't dream of dressing for work the way some of the professionals I encounter dressing for their work.

Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 14, 2011 at 3:33 pm

Interesting posts! I like this subject. It's interesting that some people think that to be fashionable, one has to spend a lot of money & be uncomfortable, when it's not at all true.

One of the best places, if you like designer wear, to buy items, is the resell shop atop the Goodwill Store on Santa Cruz Ave in Menlo.

Depending on your style & budget, you can easily wear classics & update them relatively inexpensively via Target, online sales, resale shops, sales at Macy's, etc. Heck, you can also get deals on Ebay, of course, whether you're a fashionista or it's just easier for you to shop.

Women can also easily wear inexpensive skirts & dresses w/flat shoes that aren't flipflops during warm weather & look very presentable.

The comment on footwear is telling & I find the same thing.

I think a lot of it comes down to a lack of knowledge about how to dress & a lack of focus because it's not a priority for many.

Posted by DD Mom
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 14, 2011 at 4:45 pm

I searched my memory and tried to find someone in the neighborhood dressed inappropriately, but could not get any.

Boring\Plain, probably, inappropriately, no. You are inappropriate only when you are dressed dramatically different from the people around you, such as wearing sneakers in a funeral or a suit with a tie at a teacher\parent meeting.

At my work place, a few fashion disasters I observed are all mistakes made by people with large wardrobe and spending too much time shopping. Fortunately, none of these people live in Palo Alto :)

Skirts? if you don't want to look like a grandma, forget about it.

Posted by Old Palo Alto
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 14, 2011 at 5:54 pm

Palo Alto is the ultimate 'can't judge a book by it's cover' kind of place. I think it's fantastic. I actually enjoy fashion and dressing well. However, I think people here are smart enough to understand that at a higher talent threshold, appearance really doesn't matter that much. Dressing to impress is required when the talent level is low and you need an edge.

Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of another community
on Oct 14, 2011 at 6:52 pm

There is one group in Palo Alto that is extremely fashion conscious.

They follow every trend, and always have the best and most expensive in both clothing and accessories. Indeed, they distinguish Palo Alto as the "fashion capital" in their particular area.

They are a "make-a-need-and-fill-it" marketer's dream and prove the old adage that some people have more money than brains.

Who are they?

The Bicyclists.

Posted by bicyclists?
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 14, 2011 at 7:09 pm

The people I see riding their bikes to work are mostly wearing the same clothes that they wear at work (jeans and T-shirts).

Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 14, 2011 at 8:00 pm

Who cares about style--in Palo Alto it is all about money.

Steve Jobs wore cheap shoes, cheap jeans and a cheap shirt.

Who cares how you look?--it is all about how much money you have in the bank--for men

You see some well dressed women in Palo Alto---they are on the prowl for rich potential husbands.

Posted by JustMe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 14, 2011 at 11:24 pm

Who can afford style after paying their mortgate? Sheesh!

Do you know what a "Yeichler" is? It's an Eichler with a 7-digit price tag. If you dress in one of those, you are in PA style.

Posted by PAStyleMatters
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 14, 2011 at 11:46 pm

Fascinating conversation! Clearly many Palo Altans either find the idea of fashion outdated, irrelevant or unimportant. At the same time, though, many point out how much they don't like seeing fellow Palo Altans' who dress poorly or in an unattractive manner.

That dichotomy is what led me to post in the first place. How can fashion and external appearances be unimportant to us if we clearly are at critical mass here in terms of understanding how poorly we dress and how unappealing that is?

My view is that we have so thoroughly sterilized our workplaces, schools & community (neighborhoods even?) that we now deem it normal to take little or no pride in our personal appearance. It is perhaps only a slight exaggeration to say that sensuality, playfulness & flair are no longer collectively, publicly-acknowledged traits worth cultivating & searching out. From the 1st grader who, upon kissing one or more girls at recess, is told by the principal that we are never, ever, to touch each other, to the geek-filled startups whose essence is great coding and horrible charisma, and of course the total lack of dance clubs, vivacious music joints and night clubs, I fear we're literally building a sensual pleasure void.

I think it'd be great if the city established Fashion Week & encouraged citizens young & old to dress to the nines for a few days, perhaps in conjunction with a series of outdoor runway parties & music. Any other thoughts?

Posted by daniel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 15, 2011 at 5:46 am

When it comes to women, when they are tall with beautiful bodies, they will look great even when dressed only in a garbage bag, and unfortunately, they will not look so great even when wearing the classiest high fashion designer cloths, if they are short and overweight. A case in point is a woman in my gym. She wears the baggiest, sloppiest, shapeless, most unrevealing exercise cloths I have ever seen a man or woman wear, yet she is such a stunner that the gym seems to be charged with electricity when she walks in.

Posted by iSez
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 15, 2011 at 12:09 pm

iSez is a registered user.

Ooh, Daniel is gonna set off the feminists. But he has a point. This posting won't be popular either. Me, I am attractive and when I dress nicely and look good, people treat me better. I admit, charm and attractiveness has has also allowed me to "win" more in certain aspects of life. And no, this does not mean one has to go overboard and dress to the hilt. There are plenty of stretchy fabrics these days that feel like sweatpants but appear nice. There are also nice fitness outfits (Lululemon, Lucy or yoga outfits) that are comfortable but are not the typical sloppy sweatshirts.

Those who downplay appearance do not invest in their appearances. Human beings are basically subconsciously shallow. Everyone can find ways to present themselves well, even if they are not naturally attractive.

But as noted by daniel, most people need to lose some weight to improve their appearance.

Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 15, 2011 at 1:54 pm

This thread needs to stay on track re fashion, NOT on body hatred because someone is overweight. Frankly, I've seen well & poorly dressed people of all ages, body sizes & both genders. Being attractive is subjective & we need to respect that & not tear down others based on body size.

This is a sentence that I also respectfully disagree with:

"However, I think people here are smart enough to understand that at a higher talent threshold, appearance really doesn't matter that much. Dressing to impress is required when the talent level is low and you need an edge."

I understand that opinion, but find that it's likely formed based on narrow perceptions & the idea that dressing well is somehow shalow, vapid or a distraction from more important things. People who enjoy fashion do so for many reasons, be they aesthetic, for status, creativity, self-expression or to represent their role in life. All of those are acceptable reasons & don't necessarily have anything to do w/being low level talent. All of the people I've referred to in my previous posts who are well-dressed are also professionally & personally successful people. When I see someone well-dressed, I appreciate it aesthetically & that makes me happier than I was the moment before. Perhaps because I consider how one dresses to be a possible avenue for beauty, even if they aren't traditionally attractive. One can express beauty in how they dress w/out being a slave to trends. As Chanel famously said: "Elegance is refusal." Okay, she was a Nazi sympathizer, but she had an excellent eye.

I used to think the love of couture was all empty-headed, shallow blather, but I've learned that's not usually the case. The love of textures, history, textiles, color & shape come together in couture. Much of couture is historical, wearable art that is worth preserving. While it's not my thing to collect or invest in it, I understand its history, aesthetic & worth. I also believe that it's a disappearing art as most of our clothes are mass-produced so couture is true high art.

A wonderful, easy, enjoyable book for women interested in historical clothing is "Dreaming of Dior: Every Dress Tells a Story" by Charlotte Smith & Grant Cowan. You can get it from the library & it's really a treasure trove of women's clothing & women's stories, interwoven & worth preserving. You do NOT have to be a fashionista to appreciate this book.

If you can summon up the energy to hit the Sunnyvale Lace Museum you might learn something useful. The history of lace isn't all granny's doilies & the museum is a window into the past that many think is worth preserving, a past that is rapidly fading away but is a reminder of how much time, energy & focus used to go in to making clothing.

Posted by Jeans only
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 15, 2011 at 1:56 pm

I emigrated from fashion conscious London to Palo Alto and really had to learn to dress down!!

Posted by Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 15, 2011 at 2:40 pm

If you like to dress well, dress well. But please don't judge those who don't have the time, energy, style, money, body, interest or whatever to dress in the style or at the level you desire.

Posted by Umm no thanks
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 15, 2011 at 3:16 pm

@Hmm, perhaps your statements are correct with respect to "couture" (I don't really know what that is) but many/most people who dress up do so to reflect status/affiliation and often do look down on those who fail to meet their standards (think high school or Hollywood). I distinguish between clean and neat (appropriate for most professional settings) and brand/style conscious, which is strictly for show. As another poster said above, we should all wear what we like and judge others by their character and actions, not the cut of their clothes. To judge based on clothes (or look to be judged by clothes) is, by definition, shallow.

Posted by Paly Alum
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 15, 2011 at 3:46 pm

@Hmmm: Couture only applies to skinny, tall people. You are reaching for the stars talking about couture in Palo Alto ($1500 purses, $900 shoes, $1800 dresses). Palo Altans are too level-headed to buy couture - they would prefer to donate their money to PiE, which is a more appropriate use of funds. Hillsborough or Atherton might more be receptive to couture talk.

What I find frustrating is that some Palo Altans feel inferior and assume a person is a snob if they dress well and look good, which is completely judgemental. (And I'm only talking aout a nice sundress or nice top and fashionable jeans). But then again, they were probably nerds in high school and it's their defense mechanism.

Part of the issue with the poor dressing in town is as someone mentioned above, some people move here and can barely pay their mortgages.

Posted by no fashionista
a resident of another community
on Oct 15, 2011 at 4:22 pm

The key is appropriate-ness. Nothing wrong with techies wearing T-shirts, hoodies, jeans, flip-flops. That's their look. What bothers me is seeing people wear those things to church or to a holiday dinner or a classy restaurant.

It's not just Palo Alto. Watch Antiques Roadshow some time and take a look at what people all over the country -- who might appear on TV! -- are wearing.

In old movies from the 50s, men and women dressed up (hats, gloves, suits & ties) to go everywhere, even ball games. Somewhere between then and now, most people have lost a sense of what's appropriate for different events. We see skimpy tops, bare midriffs, shorts, sagging pants, flip-flops on airlines, at weddings and in offices. Casual Friday has become sloppy every day.

Seems like there's no sense of shame, no respect for others, no sense of occasion.

Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 15, 2011 at 4:41 pm

I hope I don't come across as snotty re fashion. Honestly, I notice what people wear because of my aesthetic sense & don't judge their goodness or intelligence or competence based on their clothes. I do itch to get people into better *fitting* clothes though because then, the ones in ill-fitting togs would look 80& better immediately - no matter their budget. Some of the biggest fashion faux pas I see here in EPA.

I am not a fan of labels, & my appreciation of couture is based on history, quality & artistry, not so much that people need to go around buying purses for 10k or be label-slaves. So I'm sorry that I'm not good at getting across what I really meant re couture. It's weird for me because I avoid label fashion, never have been interested in it & that actually made me very biased against couture, which I now have an appreciation of. Notice I didn't state that I buy it ;-) I was never a clique type in school & avoided the cliques who had to wear what the other one was wearing. To me, that's not what makes fashion interesting!

I love vintage items that are well made & find many of the accessories timeless & fun - to me, that's an example of appreciating texture, shape, quality & usefulness in an affordable way.

Paly Alum, I hope I've made my thoughts clearer on couture! I agree that being well dressed doesn't make someone inferior or weak - that does seem to be an adolescent holdover. Sure, we all see slaves to fashion who're also imbeciles, but that's not my point, or the OP's point.

I still know for a fact that one can dress well while paying their hefty PA mortgage. I don't know this from personal experience - I rent. But it's more about fit, attitude, imagination, sensibility & knowing where to shop.

As much as it's a bummer that we have lost our sense of appropriate dress as a culture, we have a lot of options. One can find unusual accessories such as affordable jewelry online & in person. One can mix thrift store, Target & classic finds together. Or one can just save & buy classic, quality pieces that wear well.

As much as I'd love to drift around the house in some Jean Harlow number, I know that if I was crazy enough to even try, I'd be covered in dog hair in a minute! But if I dress w/an awareness of what works for me, is affordable, *fits well* & it reflects my personal style, it hurts no one & makes me happy - no harm, no foul.

Posted by daniel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 15, 2011 at 5:05 pm

I have spent my entire life in shorts/T-shirts/jeans/tropical white cotton pants/Hawaiian shirts. I just don't feel comfortable in anything else. I never wore a tie in my life and I wore a jacket maybe 5 times. I managed to call the shots in my professional life so there was no one to tell me how to dress, although in this area men can pretty much dress anyway they wish unless they work in a bank, finance or are attorneys or doctors. I also allowed the people under me to wear casual, comfortable cloths. Having said that, I must say that on my various visits to Italy(and France to some extent) I felt a bit awkward. Italian men dress very fashionably. I would walk into a restaurant in Milan or Sienna, two fashion conscious cities and the maƮtre d' would give me a disapproving look as all the other men would be dressed in fashionable jackets and designer shirts and shoes.

Posted by ca_sunshine
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Oct 15, 2011 at 7:21 pm

When a see a frazzled mom in ill fitting jeans and a boring old t-shirt, no makeup, not proper haircut I wonder if her husband wishes that she would make a little effort for him?

Posted by HawkeyePierce
a resident of Stanford
on Oct 15, 2011 at 8:09 pm

When I see a dad in a stained old ugly sweatshirt and baggy jeans, poorly groomed, I wonder if his partner wishes he made a bit of an effort?

Posted by clueless?
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 15, 2011 at 8:45 pm

When I read some clueless man's remarks about frazzled moms and how they don't take care of their appearance, I think, now here is a man who has never taken care of young children -- except maybe to play ball with them sometimes.
He is clueless and wants this overworked overwhelmed woman to make herself beautiful _for him_. Never mind that she is carrying a big load of work and responsibility and who knows what else she is taking care of. Maybe her husband is as self centered and self important as Mr. Sunshine.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 15, 2011 at 11:09 pm

I do actually know a couple of well-dressed nerds. But I tend to think, as a group, they're not focused on clothes because they don't tend to be strongly visual people.

SF actually used to have a reputation as a fashionable city--but the dress-down Silicon Valley aesthetic kind of took over in the late '90s.

There are actually a handful of decent boutiques around.

You don't need designer clothes to dress well. I do think, though, it takes time to develop a personal sense of style. And it has to matter to you. Once you know what looks good on you, it doesn't take time to dress well.

Posted by On-the-Catwalk-owww
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 16, 2011 at 5:16 am

Thanks, I will now go fetch my fur coat from the Neiman Marcus Fur Locker for the winter season.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 16, 2011 at 8:12 am

The recent overblown media stories of one man who wore sagging pajamas on a plane flight and another man who wore women's panties on a different plane flight, tells me that this story is not just Palo Alto but can happen anywhere. I for one, would not like to have been sitting beside either of these men on a plane.

I don't really care about how much someone paid for their clothes or whether they are the latest fashion, but it does make a difference to me if they are inappropriate to what they are doing. There is nothing wrong with wearing Lands End or REI (Lands End has some very stylish clothes) if they are appropriate for the occasion.

Our high schools have no dress codes, so the kids are not really learning how to dress appropriately for work. Seeing girls wearing tiny shorts and minimal coverage tops, while many of the boys dress as if they have just finished playing their favorite sport for school tells me that they have not got the message about dressing for success. Their teachers should be setting the guidelines, but many of them are not.

Many office workers look as if they are clueless, even when dressing for interviews!

It does make a difference. The clothes a person chooses to wear for a certain occasion does make a statement. It is not judging whether they are fat or thin, goodlooking or ugly, or something harder to change. It is about telling those you come in contact with that you respect and feel good about those you are meeting.

Wearing pajamas to bed or at home is appropriate, wearing them anywhere else is the sign of disrespect to society.

Posted by daniel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 16, 2011 at 9:26 am

The Walls Street thieves and other corporatists who damaged the US economy perhaps beyond repair and devastated the lives of so many millions all wear "appropriate", dress for success cloths. Frankly, when someone dressed like that shakes my hand I immediately check to make sure my hand is still attached to my body. Save me from "appropriate" cloths. Wear what makes you feel comfortable as long as it's clean and don't worry about what others think about how you dress.

Posted by narnia
a resident of another community
on Oct 16, 2011 at 10:27 am

Daniel, right now in Siena, Milano or Roma (all cities I know very well, lived in Italy, more precisely in Italy) they would indeed give you a look. It would be the look of envy. In all countries that I know the poor their middle class is, the more the middle class dress well...Would you like to live in Italy right now? Great economy. The more they dress "well" .....
Palo Altans are indeed getting more judgmental and not about morals or ethics or things that really matter, no, it's about policing the looks of others, policing in fact any exterior aspects they THINK they know about, like fashion. But like one poster I only take my "fur" coat out when the weather gets cold in the East Coast. How provincial can you get policing, gossiping, trying to make others ashamed of themselves and looking out for the "Palo-Alto fashion transgressors" according to a middle class mind set. I must say that many Palo Altans, no matter how much money they have , have lower middle class attitudes and tastes.Maybe that what they mean by fashion....

Posted by no thank you
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 16, 2011 at 10:50 am

Style by someone else's standards is not style.

Palo Alto has it's own style.

It has to do with weather, university environment, nerdy/tech jobs, outdoorsy hiking and biking lifestyle, and Northern California history which is more adventurous, and nature loving than your average Euro old world-centric types.

Our celebrities are not John Galiano, they are Steve Jobs.

Imagine Zuckerberg in tight pants, and a silk shirt? no thank you.

Posted by narnia
a resident of another community
on Oct 16, 2011 at 11:21 am

you parochial "fashionists" (or facistionists? ) trying to make other pople conform to your great style , get this:
it's in very poor taste and poor personal style to comment on others people's looks let alone policing them....Well bred people do not do that, but maybe you are orphans and that's why you never had the opportunity of learning stylish manners
poor manners defines you as someone whose "worth" comes from criticizing others
worth like this is always negative

Posted by daniel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 16, 2011 at 11:29 am

namia, I'm in complete agreement with you and no, I wouldn't want to live in Italy right now, definitely not Italy's Berlusconi. What's appropriate to "Resident" may not be appropriate to me or you. How more superficial can one get? Since when do we need to bow to his perception of what appropriate dress is. The only appropriate dress is the one you are comfortable with and the one that feels natural to you, period. However, I still got disapproving looks from maitre d's in Italy for my casual dress.There disappointment didn't bother me, but my jeans and Hawaiins shirts certainly bothered them.

Posted by tooeasy
a resident of Meadow Park
on Oct 16, 2011 at 11:34 am

You went to Itlaly just to visit.Imaging what would happen if you live there and constantly doing business with local.Yeah, you have to change in order to meet their custom or dress culture, same is true in a marriage, you bring two people together,both need to change their natural habits in order for the relationship to work.

Posted by narnia
a resident of another community
on Oct 16, 2011 at 11:49 am

tooeasy, in Italy I or daniel or you may get a look, but that's because the waiter is the waiter and you are NOT. But then I woud address them and ask them to bring me something in a tone of voice that sugests that he/she is the waiter. They would back down very easily...
I have never had any "looks" in Paris and it's perhaps because you are just imagining, (you actually never lived in those places?) you think that that's what most people would do, but that's not true. Check out Lidia Bastianichi going about in Italy and you will see that most people dress like her, casually. So, no Palo Altans need to change their clothing, we are all happy dressing how we like , as we always have. Or are you assembling a task force to study the "problem" that is those who do not conform to some defined parochial style (yours?
I am sure you are not terribly successful in what you do in life otherwise you would be less concerned with others' clothing.

Btw, when I stayed at The Standard in New York last fall, nobody gave me " the fashion police look" they were just happy I could pay their prices. I was happy with their clothing....

Posted by narnia
a resident of another community
on Oct 16, 2011 at 12:00 pm

I actually LIVED in Italy, Tuscany and MIlano.
In Tuscany lived as on a student stipend (paid by the Italian Government, years ago, of course)
and In MIlan I lived as a regular person in a very fashionable condo at the Trevi Plaza at the center of top addresses. Never had a problem dressing the way I do, making friends, going to restaurants or shopping at the galeria (Vittorio Emanuele). Well, maybe a look or two just from those whose economic status makes them want to aggrandize themselves by pretending to be better....
time for lunch. let me go downtown and get "the look"

Posted by HawkeyePierce
a resident of Stanford
on Oct 16, 2011 at 12:15 pm

Hah, look at Narnia playing the snob card with his attitude toward waiters. Was he an orphan, never learning how to treat wait staff? Clearly, Narnia came across as The Ugly American and got "the look" because no matter that he went to school there, he came across as a gauche tourist.

Note that Lidia is American. While in Italy or during other travels, she dresses casually for the market and for cooking. When she goes out to dine, she dresses up more. She makes the important distinction between dining and her work and dresses appropriately for each. The points of this discussion regarding inappropriate dress are because people are too ignorant, lazy or uncaring to make distinctions for how to dress for various activities. No, life isn't a Cher concert where a change of dramatic dress isn't required every 15 minutes. And if you're short on time and have to run to buy milk in your gardening clothes, no big deal. That's not the point.

Posted by narnia
a resident of another community
on Oct 16, 2011 at 1:14 pm

M attitude is not towards waiters if you care to read what I wrote . It's a comment on what somebody said in this persons' experience with italian waiters social disdan with the clothing exhibited. And no, you are wrong on almost everything else..... Dress however you like or you feel that gives you "social security". But it's still parochial, ignorant and in poor tast and style to be policing others. and that's why you are doing it, as if you were a Plumed Lizard.....

Good by to all. I have other important things to do then this and believe it or not so do you.

Posted by former Paly parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 16, 2011 at 1:27 pm

What I see is some Palo Altans substitute fashion-clothes fixation with something also rather frivolous and pretentious fashion AUTO fixation - in the way of driving cars with ultra-large "fashion symbols" as seen on Mercedes SUVs and "fashion status" cars such as BMWs. If one is a lover of autos, fine. Some of these persons ARE judgemental of others driving standard autos.

Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 16, 2011 at 2:06 pm

former Paly parent is right. The point of this thread, imo, and the OP's perspective, isn't to police others, or judge the quality of the person. It's to talk about fashion sense, or the lack thereof, of the residents in the area.

I agree that what we see around here, in addition to the changes in culture resulting in less formality, is also specific to this area: a university, the west coast lifestyle, outdoorsiness, etc.

Here's an article that's relevant for those who think plus-sized women can't be stylin': Web Link
I'm glad it mentions both polka dots & lace - 2 of my fave things that are misunderstood & underrated, imo.

FWIW, narnia did come off as judgemental as he assumed posters here were being. I think it's more useful to enjoy fashion instead of using it as a means by which to judge others. After all, we can use nearly anything physically displayed to judge others, be it cars, homes, handbags, hair cuts or even what pet we have.

If fashion doesn't matter to you, that's fine, but please don't assume that people who enjoy it use it as a weapon - you're using your weapon of judgement against those who enjoy fashion posting here and you don't really know them.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 17, 2011 at 8:30 am

It is interesting to note that Americans often are disliked in Europe because of the arrogant attitude they have while visiting Europe. Europeans are critical of what they see as the typical American who comes to visit their cute country and assume that just because they have money they can disregard the local customs like disobeying the rules to cover arms and dress modestly in an ancient cathedral by wearing shorts and tank tops, or a restaurants rule of ties and jackets for men by wearing loud shirts instead. Now we can see just how true that stereotyping is.

People here often criticize newcomers for not fully embracing American traditions and customs and yet it seems they do not want to do the same when visiting Europe.

Anyway this is an aside to what this thread is about.

No, I don't want to sit on a plane next to someone wearing pajamas or ridiculously short shorts. I don't want to talk to my child's teacher who is half my age wearing a pair of pants with enough pockets for carpenters or gardeners to hold all their tools. I do not want to be served by someone whose cleavage is more noticeable than her smile. If these people are dressing for their own comfort rather than being respectful of me, then they are being selfish and arrogant in their choices. We do encounter other people in life and we should consider their reaction to what we wear.

The average American would be shocked if Europeans came here and women were topless on the beaches as they do in Europe. Topless beaches are not appropriate here. Likewise, let's remember that standards of dress, appropriate attire, does make a difference and does make a standard. If you don't care about your clothing it tells me a lot about your character. If you do care about what you wear, it tells me that you are more respectful of me than someone who doesn't care and wears just about anything.

Posted by no thank you
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 17, 2011 at 10:10 am

Nice points about enjoying fashion and dressing respectfully.

But, the post is about style, and style is not necessarily about fashion or graceful and appropriate dressing.

Original poster,

Is your concern for the boutiques that don's survive here? Maybe they should have clothes that fit the style here

Or is your concern for what you say that "... we are a major global player of a city in every respect except fashion, where we are a barren wasteland."

I'd submit that Palo Alto is actually a global leader of a city because it doesn't make a big deal out of fashion.

Fashion requires following, and that may not be the style here.

Posted by barren
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Oct 17, 2011 at 10:20 am

It is correct,when people put on stylish clothes,they want others to see their great bodies and movement in their finest clothes,look at our city,it is a barren place,onone steps out of his car,there is a dissert everywhere,who cares about your clothes,when they are in their cars and nobody is on the street 24/7 monday to sunday.

Posted by FrankBooth
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 17, 2011 at 12:40 pm

So true, but bear in mind that it is the nerd capital of the world.

Posted by RussianMom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 17, 2011 at 12:53 pm

I don't get how the style contradicts the 'rich inside' of the person? Why should it be one or another? There are stylish people among nerds. Different from Galiano or mcQueen, but still stylish. And it's not class, education, financial dependency. It's a talent for some, and 'growing into' skill for another. Takes time to develop your style and adjust to an effort. Not caring for being stylish, not looking good is an explanation of ignorance or laziness. and by the way, let's start from the same point - WHAT DOES IT MEAN 'BEING STYLISH?'

Posted by Liberal Formerly a Democrat
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 17, 2011 at 5:40 pm

"When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes."

Any time I decide I want to be a sheep and waste my money, I'll pay attention to fashion. The only women I see dressed to the nines around here are trophy wives.

Posted by Alex
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 17, 2011 at 6:56 pm

First world problem, much?

Posted by Frank
a resident of another community
on Oct 17, 2011 at 7:14 pm

The 1960s ended the 'dress for success' theme for the West Coast. Comfort now dictates fashion. Besides, ties for men are merely one step down from water boarding when it comes to torture.

Posted by Observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 17, 2011 at 7:56 pm

Yep, lots of dismissive snobbery on this thread. Also demonstrated are peoples' assumptions about style. Men can be stylish without wearing ties. If style matters to people, that's fine. No one is trying to force residents to accept stylish dressing if it's not their thing. But some of these comments are so snide it's a little strange.

Posted by WHParent
a resident of Walter Hays School
on Oct 17, 2011 at 8:44 pm

"Resident," I am surprised to hear that our high schools don't have a dress code because our elementary school, Walter Hays, is implementing one. About a month ago, the principal, Mary Bussmann, visited our classrooms and talked to our kids about what is considered "appropriate" to wear to school.

Are you sure that the PA high schools do not have dress codes? It seems strange for the district to implement dress codes in elementary schools, while allowing high schoolers to wear whatever they want.

This was the principal's written message:

From Mary Bussmann:
"Shorts need to be at a length about the end of the students finger tips, when their arms are at their side. If they are wearing sport shorts, (these tend to run just slightly shorter), this is ok, but they need to be loose fitting, not tight and not rolled up at the waist band. The students can also wear the short shorts, but must wear tights underneath that are at a long enough length to reach their finger tips (same length as shorts worn alone) or longer. If mini skirts are worn, they too must reach the end of their finger tips, but can be shorter if they wear tights underneath."

Posted by Observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 17, 2011 at 9:29 pm

This thread about threads isn't about kids. Please, keep kids and school issues out of it.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 17, 2011 at 11:12 pm

Yes, WH Parent, middle and elementary schools have dress codes but not high schools.

This thread is about style (whatever that is) and to me style is about appropriate clothing not whatever is the latest fashion trend.

It is important to teach our youth how to dress properly and particularly teens because they are going to go out into the world before too long and if they don't get it while they are at school then teaching them what is appropriate to wear on certain occasions, then when will they learn it.

Posted by WHParent
a resident of Walter Hays School
on Oct 17, 2011 at 11:35 pm

"Resident," I agree with you. If middle and elementary schools have dress codes, high schools should also have dress codes. It is very important to teach our youth how to dress.

Posted by daniel
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 18, 2011 at 11:06 am

But who decides what is appropriate dress? What may be appropriate to "Resident" may not be appropriate to me. How about adopting a live-and let-live attitude. Don't try to force your tastes, religion, values and philosophy on me and I won't force mine on you.

Posted by been around
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 18, 2011 at 11:23 am

Having lived in big cities myself, I, too, love living somewhere where the way people look is not power or status, and does not mean you are excluded from activities. People do still dress up (some) for the symphony or local theater, but if you at least look neat, no one gives you a second glance and lets you enjoy the music.

I love seeing the high school students on their way to school -- sure, there's always a certain amount of appearance angst at that age -- but these kids, especially the girls, have such a better set of priorities than the kids I went to high school with and they're going somewhere in life.

Aside from not wanting to spend the money on fashion, I think most people don't want to waste the time. This is a place where most people have advanced degrees -- and in such an environment, it displays one's insecurity and perhaps lack of accomplishment to use the title. No one does. What you do is important, not what you wear.

That said, I disagree that we are tops in everything else. Sorry to say, our available hair styling at salons is grossly overpriced and second-rate. And ingredients in restaurants even high end are (with only a few exceptions) not on par with the freshness of Berkeley or SF. It's getting better, though (with the food).

Posted by TheLostShopper
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 18, 2011 at 12:50 pm

been around: I completely agree with you about the hair salons! It is impossible to find a good stylist who charges under $100. Even at that, I once (foolishly) paid $150 for the worst haircut of my life.

I think the high school kids around here look fine, but occassionally I am alarmed when I see girls dressed in short-shorts, tshirts and flip-flops on cold, grey mornings in January (true story. I saw many like that last year and a few on a chilly day this year. Some would walk beside boys dressed warmly in long jeans and bulky hoodies). I just wonder if they are conforming to a fashion trend and ignoring their personal comfort.

Posted by Memories
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 18, 2011 at 6:19 pm

When I transferred to Paly, my mom and I were surprised at how many girls dressed in a deliberately ugly, dour manner. I sure wasn't a va va voom glamour girl, but there seemed to be a determined effort to look as plain as possible - and these weren't nerdy kids, either. So they get it from their parents and peers and many never grow out of it.

Posted by Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 18, 2011 at 8:44 pm

To "residents" and others worried about kids:

After college I went to work at a (then Big 8) accounting firm. When I started we first had training. All the training was about technical matters, how to do our job. We were all dressed in suits at the time, with shirt and tie (including the women).

After college, 2 years ago, my daughter went to work at a (now Big 4) accounting firm. When she started, she first had training... A half day of training, or more, was dedicated to teaching the new hires: proper clothes and shoes (vs. inappropriate clothing), complete with illustrations, proper manners, proper ways to address clients. I had never gone through anything like that in training.

I guess this shows things have changed...

Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 19, 2011 at 3:36 pm

Mom, I find your post interesting.

Since much of traditional etiquette is something not passed on anymore, I understand why etiquette and appropriate dress were taught to the newcomers. I find that impressive, actually. I recall not being aware of business etiquette in dealing with the Japanese and a co-worker saved me in the nick of time, gave me a 15 min. business etiquette intro and a book to read. Phew! Major face-saving, thankfully.

Author and businesswoman Mireille Guiliano has added business attire and business etiquette to the training of her US-based employees. I was lucky to also receive a crash course in French business etiquette from yet another co-worker.

Being able to learn from those more knowledgeable and read up on the pertinent issues really helped me out. Flying the freak flag is not for most business! I at least managed to get the business attire correct.

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