Holbrook: How do Summit County women strut their stuff? (column)
Very “Middle Earth” was my first impression of the Summit County fashion scene for women. Leggings, high boots with flat sturdy soles and a woolly tunic à la Frodo Baggins.
I was not particularly keen on this look for myself.
As a New Yorker, I had at one time a closet filled with an entirely black wardrobe. Black slacks, blazers, a black leather jacket, various high-heeled black pumps and boots, black cocktail dresses. My one capitulation to the urgings of color was the green lining on my favorite black Armani blazer. A shopping trip to buy something new would generally end with me choosing the black option: “ It goes with everything!” On at least one occasion, I tried on half-a-dozen dresses and at last chose — surprise! — the black one. Only to discover when I got home that I already had in my closet a nearly identical black dress from a previous shopping excursion.
Moving to Florida, I was confronted with color. And sequins, lace and flounce. From my New York perspective, it appeared at first that women in Miami were perfectly comfortable going out more or less in their underwear, as long as the outfit included some serious high heels. I experimented with sequin-studded sandals and considered the possibility of wearing the color pink. Eventually I, too, was working out in a lace-trimmed sweatshirt, teaching yoga in white silky pajama pants. Business meetings could be attended in sheer or backless blouses with not an eyebrow raised.
Initially, it was difficult to get a fix on what women in Summit County felt was important, as far as fashion was concerned. Was it all woolly tights and tunic tops? Then I participated in my first group sporting event: a bike trip along the Kokopelli Trail with friends from Summit. Not thinking of the fashion implications, I had packed only two pairs of shorts and two tops – it was just a bike ride, after all. My fellow female bike riders, however, emerged each day from their tents in a yet another new and sporty outfit: fitted tops, shorts of varying lengths, gloves, detachable sleeves in a multitude of patterns, camelbacks, helmets and more in all sorts of colors and styles. They were cute — and had flowers on them!
Love of the outdoors — with its high peaks to scale, single track routes to bike, icy slopes to climb, ski and snowshoe — has a definitive impact on women’s style choices in the mountains.
How do Summit County women strut their stuff? I recently conducted a poll amongst my girlfriends to get a clearer sense of fashion and beauty “musts.” From the tips of our toes, to the tops of our heads, here’s what the experts have to say:
What About Shoes?
Boots, with leggings, “calf height for trudging” and a “burly pair of sneakers to get you through mud season and into summer” are fashion staples. Cinderella might be disappointed to discover that chunky Dansko clogs, in flowered designs or fancy patent leather, are the choice for dressy occasions.
Short and Sexy
Do not expect mountain women to forgo practicality even when wearing something that shows a little leg. Skirts are definitely a style option — but only if they are the padded variety, or the all-purpose skort (zipper pockets preferred).
Larger than Life Outerwear
There are many places where women would not choose to make a fashion statement with an item of clothing that actually makes them look bigger. Summit is not one of those places. Here, the “Puffy” reigns supreme. One friend admitted to feeling positively out of place without her “Puffy”: “I was picking up my nephew from the schoolyard and looked around: I was the only person out of about 50 without a puffy coat!”
Hair & Make-up
Do tubes of Chapstick kept in every pocket really count as make-up? And the only nod to the important question of What-Do-I-Do-with-My-Hair was the advice to adopt “a helmet-compatible hairstyle.”
It’s not much of a stretch to say that, no matter what time of year in Summit County, a woman’s wardrobe is not complete without the appropriate helmet. There are helmets for skiing, helmets for every form of biking, helmets for climbing — and social get-togethers and fundraisers reminding one never to forget one’s helmet. The “Tweener Hat,” another important fashion item which I understood to be appropriate “between seasons,” was in fact described as an article of clothing to be used: “between the helmet and the shower.”
Colorful scarves and pink sunglasses add a whimsical note to mountain fashions. Still, a no-nonsense attitude rules, with “a roller tape for removing dog fur” being the must-have accessory.
Summit County hosts a couple of fancy galas each year. Attending one of these events is almost like going to the prom: Local residents hardly recognize each other as we teeter on high heels, burnish our faces with make-up and squeeze into formal wear that is frivolous and impractical. A few giddy hours of this are all most of us can take.
This winter, I made a stab at asserting my Summit County fashion sense by purchasing a cute Melanzana dress — an article of clothing that seemed feminine to me, yet practical for rugged mountain life. It is “safety orange,” a color that is not too hobbit-like, and that would make it easy to find me should I wander off into a blizzard. In addition, what if I were to find myself in the backcountry, the light fading, night coming on? I would deftly pull the hood over my head and curl up inside of the waffle-textured dress — instantly transforming it into a high-country sleeping bag.
And like my fellow mountain women, I would breath a sigh of relief, knowing that I had dressed prepared for anything.
Christina Holbrook lives in Breckenridge.
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