Monday, December 22, 2008

Town and Country: The Real Deal

Did I ever whisper in your ear that for several years I worked for Talbots? I was in product development and sourcing; cashmere and so on.

Every year, the fall would roll around and a bunch of merchants would unload a ton of laptops in our conference room in New York and start throwing around a phrase that made me a little nuts: "town and country." And they would say things like this, "We need a houndstooth or some kind of heathered cashmere here and a shawl collar, you know, Cat, town and country..." I would go home from my perch above Broadway to horse country every evening and shake my head. That life, the one the phrase implied, I knew it well, wore it and still do. But in those days I knew no form of merchandising under labels who did not truly get it could make it saleable, and certainly never enviable.

As time passed, new neighbors moved in to our little community. Ralph. Martha. Among others. They mass marketed "town and country", they boiled the life we knew down to a lifestyle. But our paddock boots had seen worse. We muddled on and as blog posts from both those houses expose us, we still are just who are and we still dress in a style that is not as much purchased as handed-on.

This is me. Yes, it is recent. I am going to a horse show.


And that is what I wear in New York: Weathered polo. Good sunglasses ( I love Valentino). Diamonds. Sometimes a barn jacket or my oil coat. A fair number of pairs of boots because it seems I am always needing to wade through something. But if I do not need boots, I try to wear as many skirts as possible, which is largely in Florida as that is the way the weather has been this year and last. Many people here do the same, coincidentally, they are the same people I have seen around these parts for all time.

The gentleman who runs the local orchard is of this ilk: If I stop in to purchase fruit as his place, he is always waking the acreage in an oil coat, jeans, boots, and a cap. One day I asked him why he always wore khakis when I saw him at the store in town. He told me he always changed clothes before coming into town. "Who wants to see an old man in jeans?" He said. If he is fifty, I would be surprised. And even in jeans, he cuts a dashing figure. But "town and country" is his understanding of appropriate dress, not his style.

I know we are not alone, they hear me all over, even down south. Katie Crouch's book on Charleston's Camilla Society debs, Girls in Trucks highlighted this cultural mindset beautifully: Little girls and young ladies were allowed to wear dungarees and ride on the farm truck when at home. When they went into town, they did not wear jeans and they never rode to town in the truck.

By the same token, I never go to town in my country clothing. But, my "country" clothes have little to do with a color palette or a fashion genre, they are practical, the best on the market, and they will last forever. And I suppose, I have found ways to wear what I know best even in town. It just so happens our high boots are hip now, but even when they are not, we are still in them because it is the life we lead, not the trend we follow. Though I find it both a compliment and alternately amusing depending on the wearer.

The truth of the matter is that the "town" part is the complicated, edgier, trend-right part at which we need to work. I keep up with the Sartorialist and the fashion mags to be sure I have not been in the country too long. Still I find myself going that way... below are my Christmas gift, picked 'em out myself, can't wait to kick the tires. Ah-hem, I mean, I carefully selected them at Neimans, they should be nice to wear to town in inclement weather:

Tory Burch, Jackson Boot

These are my field boots. Vogel custom. I would never go out in these in town, they are riding boots after all. No matter the trend. And I get measured on-site, I don't trust those measure-yourself kits...


Paddock boot. I like a zip up after wearing laces for twenty years I gave in. Also Vogel Custom.
These are the coats I wear around here, they are Barbour because those are best. I had an ecstatic moment when they released the utility jacket below. It was as if they wanted me to look fabulous and be home in the country. That was not at all like Barbour. I still love it. Fabulous with high heeled boots, a pair of Paige's and a heathered turtleneck...
For that to be worn in properly and stay on for years, you need this:
Yes, it makes it smell like an oil coat. That's the best part.

They also make my barn coat, the Beaufort jacket.
No thorn dressing required. Great with loafers. Mine are Tod's. I have never had to replace them. Worth every cent. These are similar to my favorite pair:


But I am thinking I might really step out there and get these:

I know. Pretty crazy stuff.

Sometimes I need these. I love the formed heel and arch, great in mud season.

They are called Huntress, by Hunter, naturally, I love the name. I have a pair of J. Crew's high green field boot-style wellies, they are cute but work like a total joke in comparison to the Hunter's.

Marmont makes my layers and cold weather gear. This piece, the Kitzbuhel vest, is great:
Helly Hansen makes my foul weather gear. Right, it is not just for sailing.


I like TSE for sweaters: Really fine cashmere. Timeless styling. Deep, saturated colors.

I always wear an Hermes scarf in jacket weather in a contrast colorway for a little glam, even in the country, even with Marmot. I was in fashion, after all.

I am not partial to handbags in the country. And I never, never have carried a diaper bag. Not in town. Not in the country. It just isn't part of the thing, and come to think of it, I don't wear shawl collars either...

1 comment:

Pigtown-Design said...

This ticked a lot of my boxes... the barbour, both quilted short and oiled long, the vogel paddock boots, cashmere sweaters and a scarf, sometimes hermes, sometimes not, helly-hanson gear (one of the HH's went to school where i worked in the UK), hunter wellies in the past, but since i am all city now, no longer.

merry christmas!