I Have a Dream: Philadelphia, Fashion Capital

When it comes to style, most of us could stand to try a wee bit harder

There is a conductor on an evening train that I sometimes take home. We exchange the normal pleasantries—a little nod when I step on and off the train, as he does with all the other passengers. He must nod to hundreds of people a day. A few weeks ago, he looked at me curiously as I stepped off at my stop.

“Why aren’t you all fancy today?” he asked.

I looked down at myself. I had gone for a post-work run with a friend, and I was wearing workout gear. He looked slightly relieved when I explained this to him.

“Good,” he said. “Because I almost didn’t recognize you without your heels. So you’ll be fancy tomorrow?”

I’ve thought about this conversation a few times as I walk around the city. There are people—complete strangers—whom I recognize, too, even just from my short trek to the office from Suburban Station. There is the tall, thin girl with the fabulous pixie cut who can seriously rock a pencil skirt. There is that dapper guy with his impeccably tailored suits and his colorful pocket square. And that woman at my train stop who has a really great shoe collection.

Bottom line: People notice what you wear. Lucky for most of us, we’re not celebs who are hounded by paparazzi on our morning coffee jaunts, who wake up in the morning to a horrifically unflattering shot of our sweatsuit-clad selves buying a bagel on the cover of US Weekly. Still, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t put a little bit of effort into what we wear.

Some people consider clothes to be nothing more than window dressing. I say, clothes are a reflection of you; they are how you present yourself to the world. And who really wants to present themselves in a ratty t-shirt and ill-fitting jeans?

So, a call to fashion arms: We can dress better than this. We are better than tacky jerseys and buttcrack-baring shorts. We are cooler than Crocs and UGGs. We are more sophisticated than baggy, wrinkled suits.

Forget about getting it completely right. In fact, sometimes getting it slightly wrong isn’t so bad. (See: High-fashion ads where something just seems slightly off—mussed hair, incredibly odd pattern pairings—but in the very best way.) And remember, people notice you. And who wants to be forgettable?