The Jersey Shore is Fashion Hell. When I finally realized it I panicked a little. But I’m getting used to it. Maybe, even, I’m beginning to enjoy it. A little.
I’m only an hour or two south of New York City, one of the premier fashion hubs for the world. Fashion migrates a bit south but for the most part stops at the Monmouth/Ocean County line. I live in Ocean County, the Land that Fashion Forgot. I think people like it this way.
It’s not due to lack of money. Actually there’s so much money at the Jersey shore it’s almost embarrassing. This just does not matter, however: The moment one crosses into Ocean Country it’s Flip Flop Living. When I get a picture of Spooky’s pile of flip flops I’ll post it year and you’ll know what I mean.
So shed a tear for me, boo hoo, it lonely out here for a fashionista! I have at least 50 pair of high heels but few places to wear them. Life isn’t like that here. High heels really aren’t appropriate most of the time. Besides, I don’t want my stiletto heels stuck between the planks on the boardwalk!
When living in an area more attuned to Philadelphia I wore dresses often, and sometimes went for the dramatic with hats and capes. And knee-boots! It was an artistic thing with me, maybe even a compulsion, an expensive one, but very colorful and cheaper than therapy. Today I still have subscriptions to fashion magazines to keep up with the general look and feel of the moment. Unfortunately it all looks silly and out of place in this beachy vacation paradise.
Ye olde shopping grounds
For a year I continued to drive over an hour toward Philadelphia to get my fashion fix, because the far-inland region of South Jersey is pretty fancy. After a year of sartorial confusion and making due I came to terms that I had a closet full of clothes but nothing to wear. Horrors! Lord knows I tried to make up for it, but I couldn’t find much of anything at the local stores. Mandees and Dress Barn do not count as “fashion” in Pinky’s world. I like good tailoring. And I can’t find it in Ocean County, at least I’ve not been able to find it yet.
Gotta cross the border to find this
So here the entire country is in an economic depression, and I’m worried about where to shop??? I know I know. LAME. For what it’s worth here though it seems New Jersey is doing okay, because the parking lots in Atlantic City are full and the beaches are jam packed. The people here are driving normal cars (Toyotas, Chevys, Hyundai, etc.) so I know it’s not just the BMW/Mercedes crowd spending money. They’re just regular folks.
There are a few high end clothing stores in Atlantic County, at the Pier, and sometimes both Spooky and I will cross the border to indulge ourselves there, but for the most part only foolish tourists with too much money pay those prices. Even the so-called “outlet” shops are too expensive. Unfortunately there are few alternatives because locals are not interested in fashion, and most tourists are trying to rid themselves of any concerns over their appearance, which I understand. I feel alone in my search for garb, but I carry on.
These guys/gals are from NEW YORK!!!!!
And we wish they’d STAY THERE!
The No Snooki Guide to the Jersey Shore
I’ve been watching the shore crowd and have come to a few conclusions. There really is a “Jersey Shore look” but it’s different depending on one’s age. If you watch TV, you’ve probably seen a lot of Seaside due to that unfortunate reality show. Teens and young adults at the Jersey Shore don’t necessarily dress like Snooki, who is a parody of herself and is from NEW YORK in any case. However teens do typically look as if they’re on their way to or from the beach, even when they’re not.
Just like teens all over the United States, who express their individuality by dressing like everyone else, Jersey kids and teen tourists have a kind of standard shore uniform. The dress code for younger women appears to be short denim cutoffs and spaghetti strapped or low-cut shirts that leave little to the imagination. See Nicole Ritchie on the left: She’s rocking a more conservative form of the teen-or-very-young-adult look.
Younger men either dress like basketball players or take on the California surfer dude look. Whether these dudes actually play basketball or surf is beside the point. The point is they must look as though they’re on their way to liesurely exert themselves, even when they’re not.
Teens and young adults are not at loss for things to buy at the Jersey Shore: There is a store offering t-shirts, sunglasses and flip flops on every block near the places where teens congregate. Grownups have a few more shopping options in Ocean County, but not many. There are three basic styles for full-grown adults at the New Jersey shore:
2. (men only) The Big Lebowski
3. (women only) Honey, You Shouldn’t Have (No really you shouldn’t have)
Style #1: Preppy. I could dress like this every day and do just fine, for the rest of my life at the Jersey Shore. But I don’t want to, because it means I’d spend the rest of my life dressed like a boy. A preppy boy named Sterling or Thurston or Biff.
Here I thought the Prep Army was clustered in the Hamptons or Outer Banks. I was wrong! Believe it or not the Jersey Shore is a major prep outpost. One’s preppy clothing choices include jeans/jacket prep, the plaid shorts/camp shirt prep, and the khaki/polo shirt prep. Clean cut and collegiate, preppy dressers who no longer wish to live in the logos from their alma maters shop at Tommy Bahamas, but only if they’re willing to leave Ocean County. Otherwise they shop at Old Navy, the Gap, Kohls or Target for their clothes, boat shoes and flip flops.
A compromise: “Sort of flip flops”
Yes, flip flops. The standard foot wear for all genders – and all three styles – is flip flops year round. Last year I overheard a woman talking about finding some “dress flip flops” and I wanted to scream. There are even “bridal flip flops” for sale at the Jersey Shore. Can you dig that? I couldn’t at first. Now I’m looking for my own pair. It took a year and a half, but I finally get it now: Flip flops worn inland announce “I’m on permanent vacation.” Only the very privileged can say that.
(I can’t believe I’m even considering it)
It’s a good thing both men and women embrace the preppy menswear look because otherwise I’d have nothing to wear. Girly prep is extremely difficult to find. I see the shops here and there, but the old school Lady Lily Pulizer look is only occasionally seen in Ocean County, like the rare tropical bird, and then generally only on the 60+ crowd. Sometimes I wonder if I could be instrumental in bringing the Lily Pulitzer look back for young and middle aged adults. More options = better for Pinky!
For what it’s worth I could cross the Monmouth border to Coco Pari to escape preppy boy-dum (boy-dum = boredom, get it?) for my fashion fix. Coco Pari probably the best fashion boutique in New Jersey, is less than an hour away, and features most of the big/hip designers. Unfortunately, when Spooky took me to Red Bank to find my wedding dress I stepped into Coco Pari and discovered, to my dismay, that most of what’s offered there falls into the “Honey NO” category. Maybe it’s fine for North Jersey club scenes, but not here in Ocean County.
Style #2 (men only) The Big Lebowski
The Big Lebowski I-don’t-give-a-damn look is not exclusive to the Jersey Shore although it MAY have its roots here, even before California. Today it’s country-wide, involving variations on the jeans-tshirt-sportswear-pajama look that mutter “Don’t talk too loud, I’m still hung over.” At the Jersey shore one can always get by dressing as if one does not give a damn, but only if one is a dude. Women are expected to put in at least a little effort, and generally they do. And that’s a shame sometimes, as you will soon find out. Read on . . .
Style #3: Honey, You Shouldn’t Have (No really you shouldn’t have). The “Honey You Shouldn’t Have, Really” look belongs almost exclusively to the female gender. I’m not busting on working class women who may not know any better because the only money they see is on TV. No ma’am, the Honey look requires lots of money. It requires dark tanning-booth tans, ample cleavage, shockingly bad taste, and the delusion that dressing in tight clothes makes one look young or thin (it doesn’t). Think “Jerseylicious” or Snooki playing dress-up.
I don’t understand women who, on the one hand, take the time for full makeup and inch-long nails, tons of gold jewelry, the whole feminine works topped off with two pieces of bubble gum, but won’t make the effort to dress with a little dignity. I’m at a loss.
If it were not for the local TJMaxx, which occasionally offers out of season remnants from higher-end designers, I’d be in despair. Tahari is my new design refuge because generally the tailoring is good. I also like Jones of New York for work. I recently found a nicely black shift dress by Tahari, the kind Jackie O wore. Plain. Dignified. Preppy-boring but it can be worn anywhere. However, I still had to take it to a tailor to make it fit! Now I have something conservative enough to wear to a church or a funeral.
One fashion challenge down, but so many to go. On to my next search, this time for “summer casual dress clothes,” that elusive hybrid necessary for genteel-but-not-fancy social gatherings, especially shore-based night life. I’ve never really been able to pull off the look, because it’s always been either casual or dressy with me, plus I’m socially retarded in general. Given a toss-up I tend to overdress. After a distressed survey of my local options I copped out: I followed Spooky’s lead and bought some long khaki shorts, drawstring linen pants, and a bunch of camp and polo shirts. All very cheap. At least I can dress preppy now, the standard fallback position for the sartorially confused. And think about how much money I saved! Now if only I could find the perfect dress flip flops . . .
Those are kittyprint flipflops!
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