Fashion Statements: ready for the worst | Calendar | Chicago Reader

Fashion Statements: ready for the worst 

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We discovered Jim and Sue Gill braving the line for Passion Fish. Their outfits--two sets of prerumpled weekendwear--were rigged for a long evening slouched in folding chairs.

Though everything seemed foursquare and shipshape, our Fashion Explorers, ever curious, ever cautious, scouted around to chart the territory.

Both outfits might have been poached from wardrobe at Northern Exposure. According to Fairchild's Dictionary of Fashion, the pattern for Sue's mackinaw jacket in blanket plaid (larger than but similar to lumberjack plaid) has been tromping around since 1811, when Captain Charles Roberts, a wayward Brit, washed up stranded in the Straits of Mackinac. Alone and chilly, he ripped apart his spare blanket and ran up a rough--but blissfully toasty--hip-length jacket. After Roberts and his mackinaw were rescued, the woodsy set took to hiking around in square-cut blanket plaid with patch pockets, taking cold comfort in the style's hearty practicality and adventurous heritage.

Some similar nautical disaster on the Mediterranean might explain why Jim's French fisherman's sweater has been cut down to a snuggly cap. His waterproofed anorak, originally lifted from Greenland Eskimos for World War II pilots, comes outfitted with handy hood, wind-resistant drawstring waist, and oversized supply pouches. It clearly expects the worst.

The foul weather gear teamed with jeans (sturdy tent canvas drafted into dungaree duty for those rough and rugged prospectors of '49), work boots, crew socks, and Sperry Topsiders (guaranteed to grip the deck, even in 40-knot winds) provisions the outdoorsmen with the derring-do to negotiate the North Woods, packing nothing but a Swiss army knife, a packet of dried peas, and a bird whistle. The Fashion Statement, buddy-system style: "Be prepared. Be prepared."

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Yael Routtenberg.


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