Guest Blogger Melanie Bernstein: From Texas to ‘The Big Apple’

Growing up in Manhattan is one thing. Native New Yorkers come out of the womb wearing Prada and Gucci , right? They find nothing strange about folks that can’t leave the house if their earrings don’t match their skirts. 

I, on the other hand, have spent the last three years living in Texas. Although I am originally from San Francisco, New York fashion makes the City by the Bay look like Mandy Moore in Birkenstocks; beautiful, yet fashionably clueless.

But, Texas . . . that’s a whole other can of worms. During my three years at the University of Texas, I grew completely accustomed to seeing students show up to class in PJ bottoms and wife beaters. I didn’t blink an eye when I walked into the (somewhat) classy bars and clubs in town and sat next to a guy in a pair of Levi’s and a cowboy hat. Fashion is just not a priority among most of the folks in Texas. It’s not a bad thing. It’s just not a New York thing. But, then again, who cares about New York when you get your kicks by line dancing and cow tipping?

Hmmm . . . somehow, I decided that Texas might not be my ideal living location, which is why I high-tailed it out of there after graduation.

I knew that I didn’t want to go back to the West Coast (at least not yet), and what better place to be young and single than in the city that never sleeps? Thus, I packed my bags, found a cozy (read: SMALL) studio apartment on the Upper East Side, and spent the next few weeks bonding with my new best friend: Manhattan.

It didn’t take long to learn that people are different here than they are in a small college town. Folks don’t look like they rolled out of bed and picked up the first clothing items they spotted on the floor. They look like they actually gave thought to their daily attire. I felt very out of place in my University of Texas sweatshirt and my three-year-old, I-think-these-were-originally-supposed-to-resemble-the-color-white sneakers.

Along with wardrobe changes, I noticed that jewelry took on a very different meaning than I was used to. I had thought of jewelry as a small token, meant to add a subtle complement to a given outfit. But in New York, it seems that a piece of jewelry is not only significantly bigger and more extravagant, but is also often the focus of an outfit. Never in my life would I have thought I would wear giant, pink, dangly earrings or a jewel-encrusted brooch, the size of my fisted hand, except on Halloween when I was sporting my over-the-top, rich-old-lady costume.

I went back to visit my alma mater not long ago, and brought my New York fashion sense with me. I was so proud of my new look and couldn’t wait to show it off to my less-knowledgeable college friends. However, when they looked at me with my frayed scarf and my giant, butterfly necklace they just stared in disgust and disbelief. I guess you can change a small-town girl with a big city, but you can’t change a small town with a big-city girl.

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Comments

  1. Black Girl Superstar says

    Everyone has this bizarro notion about New Yorkers that we’re all these rich designer-clad types. It’s such a narrow view of life here, continually perpertrated by television and similar media. New York is a large city with many different ways of life, and thus many different styles of dress, not just one archetypal style. – Black Girl Superstar, who has lived in Manhattan for all but four (undergrad) years of her life

  2. says

    I know your post was written in humor, but we Texans get such a bad rap/stigma, I feel I need to go on defense!! Yes, college is a casual time in Texas – but Dallas & Houston both are huge fashion & shopping centers of the USA. Texans sometimes have their own style and flair – but come on! Being a Texan gone New Yorker, I do feel more pressure here to be a step beyond fashion savvy. Yes, a fabulous chic outfit that will turn heads in Texas might look a little less exciting here. I see just as many people as worried about fashion in Texas asI do here. In fact, Dallas & Houston are known to be quite materialistic. And I still see just as many people dressed like they slept in their clothes here in NYC as I did back in college days in Texas Only here, they are in their 30s, not college kids, and it’s “chic” to look like that. It’s all perception.

  3. says

    Aww, as a Texas ex-pat living in NYC (and a graduate of Southwestern, only 25 minutes from UT), I gotta stick up for my home state.  Okay, so we have some weird dress habits (big hair, strict rules about when you can and cant wear white, a tendancy to be super matchy-matchy that i havent been able to shed in the last 3.5 years since leaving…) but over all, we tend to care about a lot about clothes.

    You may look down on that guy in the cowboy hat, but odds are, he’s wearing a $500 stetson and has on $3000 Lucchesse boots. (Especially in Dallas or Houston) Furthermore, Texans know luxury – after all, Neiman Marcus was founded in Dallas, and if you want to see some college students with some great clothes, all you need to do is drive north on I-35 until you hit SMU.

    NO college student is dressed to the nines all the time (trust me, I currently live amongst NYU and New School undergrads and there are enough jammies-to-class types down here to keep you satisfied), no matter where they live. So don’t take your view of UT undergrads and generalize it to Texas style – anybody whose lived there knows the last thing you wanna do is piss a texan off ;o)

  4. well rounded says

    While it is good to see someone so proud of their latest fashion reinvention, I can’t help but feel that you’ve missed so much in 3 terrific cities.  I’ve spent considerable time in each of these places, and I can assure you that there is no single style in any of them.  There are so many sub cultures in NYC with their own spin on fashion that it’s easy to lose count.  Austin and SF are no different.  There is no right or wrong fashion as long as your style fits you…and you have the confidence to pull it off.  So, stop stereotyping and draw from your diverse experiences to put your own mark on fashion.

  5. Samantha says

    Alright, as a student at UT, I do agree that many kids show up to class in t-shirts and flip-flops, and they wear an ungodly amount of burnt orange. But considering that this is a public university (meaning a lot of people are here on scholarship and spend their money on education, not clothing), and not a high-powered executive job or important internship where you are supposed to be dressed to impress, I think that is fairly reasonable. As a school with 50,000 students, UT is going to have a wide cross-section of people and not every single one of them will be fashion-forward. If you were to randomly gather 50,000 New Yorkers and survey their fashion sense, I doubt you would find a higher proportion of well-dressed people.

    As for your description of Austin, it is entirely prejudiced and based on stereotype. I don’t know what you did or who you hung out with, but as a native Texan, I have neither line danced nor cow-tipped, I don’t own a cowboy hat or boots, I don’t own a single piece of apparel that is burnt orange or involves a longhorn, I hate country music, and all the people I’m acquainted with here are of the same persuasion. True, Austin is a great deal smaller than New York City, but that hardly means it is unrefined.

    Saying that fashion is not a priority for most people in Texas is a gross overstatement and a major setback for people from Texas who care about what they wear, like myself. If you had tried to explore Austin a bit more, you may have been impressed by the many independent designers and boutiques or the abundant vintage/thrift stores with truly excellent finds (and they are far less picked-over than the vintage stores in New York). You might have found company with the many “cultured” Texans who bemoan the lack of a Neiman Marcus and pray for the day when H+M will dot every street corner like McDonald’s. If you ever come back to Austin, let’s go shopping, and I’ll show you what you’ve been missing.

    One last thing – just because you wear a scarf and a big necklace doesn’t make you fashionable. Fashion means innovation and open-mindedness, and anyone, absolutely anyone (even people from Texas) are capable of being fashionable. I’m disappointed that TBF would endorse such generalizations, but c’est la vie. Don’t believe everything you read, people.

    -SG

    p.s. – how does this post relate to budget fashion?

  6. Mel B. says

    I can completely relate to how you felt initially in NY. I was going to college to be a fashion designer, but when I realized CO fashion and NY fashion were entirely different, I unfortunately changed my major. It all worked out for the better though. Now I love NY and dread going back to CO at times to visit.

  7. says

    I don’t know when you went to UT, but if you went there anytime in the last ten to fifteen years, you weren’t really exploring Austin. I’m a current UT student (studying costume design) and I’ve lived here my whole life. My family, however, is all from the north east so I’ve been greatly exposed to that way of life too. Austin is sooo far beyond different than any other city in Texas.
    We’re a huge center for independent designers and the DIY culture. No, we do not have a Chanel boutique or a terribly “high fashion” scene, but we’ve definitely got our own very distinct fashion culture that includes dozens of Green or local specific shops and revamped vintage places.
    Yes, a fair portion of our 50,000 UT students like to wear burnt orange sweatpants every day, but hey, it’s a huge university, it’s not Parsons. Also, anyone who thinks that Austin women are anything like the usual Texas stereotype of Bedazzled jean jackets and bleached hair with giant bangs is completely confused.

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