There are places in this nation, I'm told, where people actually wear clothes according to seasonal cues. Tank tops and shorts are donned in the warm days of summer; sweaters are pulled out when the brown leaves of fall begin scraping along the sidewalk; pastels are brought out of drawers to welcome in the blossoms of spring.
But in Ventura County, things are a bit different. Mother Nature gives us very little fashion advice. The calendar on the wall often hangs in defiance of the weather outside.
Granted, we have had a few of those fall-ish, 60-degree days when local TV weathermen are probably under contract to wonder aloud how much longer the "cold spell" will last. But tell me this: How many among you have gotten up and happily thrown on that new sweater or wool jacket you just bought--only to be roasting like a chicken on a spit by noon?
All of which leads me to this pressing question of the day: Do Ventura County merchants and shoppers buy fashions that magazines say should be worn in fall, or do we have a seasonal style of our own?
Cheryl Romer, who works as a makeup artist in Thousand Oaks, echoed the sentiments of many. She said she's ruled more by practicality. "If I liked a certain print I'd buy it, but certainly not just to have a fall look," said Romer, dressed on a recent afternoon in a tank top and loosely crocheted blouse and cotton skirt. "You just don't get a chance to wear it enough to make it worth it."
Cindy Cherry, who moved to Ventura County last month from Washington, said she believes there is an "anything goes" attitude toward fashion. "Out here you can get away with a lot more. You'd freeze in Washington if you wore shorts in November," Cherry said. "People seem to wear what makes sense because of the weather, instead of what the fashion magazines say is in style."
It appears that department stores have come to the same conclusion.
"Last year we had sweaters left over for months because it was 80 degrees out, " said Sue Teal, a sales associate at the May Co. in Oxnard. "So now we don't have so many. We have a lot more year-round fashions. We just got in a lot of print dresses in both long and short sleeves."
Several salespeople at other stores said sweaters and coats sell briskly in November and December, but shoppers frequently inquire whether they are returnable. The warmer garbs, they say, are often for gifts.
What about fall colors? If you buy your fall clothes in Ventura County, you may need to change your vocabulary a bit. "In fall, white becomes winter white, yellow is mustard, green turns to khaki and pink is fuchsia," said Doris Lofton, a sales manager at the May Co.
The county also bulges with pastels in a typically earth-tone season. "Pastels are fashionable for the resort season," said Duke Hagenburger, associate manager of Club Monaco, a Canadian-owned clothing store in the Thousand Oaks mall. Resort wear, he said, began on the East Coast as spring clothing that people bought in winter "to take with them when they go on a cruise or to escape to a warmer climate."
I resolved not to ask Hagenburger what Ventura County residents buy when we want to escape. I was afraid he would tell me down parkas.
But there also is the issue of shoes. As I suspected, several salespeople said Ventura County residents are still buying footwear that won't be fashionable in most places until spring or summer.
Sales of white shoes--tucked away elsewhere around the country right after Labor Day--have barely slowed, shoe store owners say. Ditto for sandals. "They buy them whether it's cloudy or not," said Oscar Ruvalcaba, who works at Thom McAn's shoes in Thousand Oaks.
Isn't there anything we buy that gives us a shred of conformity? Is there nothing we purchase that is strictly seasonal?
"Boots," said Susana Reyes, who sells shoes at the May Co. "They buy them even when it's not at all cold. I think it's the one thing people wear that makes them really think it's fall."
Ventura County is teeming with the fashionable and not so fashionable. There are trend-makers and trend-breakers. There are those with style--personal and off the rack--and those making fashion statements better left unsaid. Twice a month, we'll be taking a look at fashion in Ventura County--trends, styles and ideas--and asking you what you think. If you have a fashion problem, sighting or suggestion or if you know a fashion success or a fashion victim, let us know. We want to hear from you.