Even in one of America’s most dressed-down cities, a few areas in and around Seattle stick out as anti-fashion hot spots. For example, in Union Hill-Novelty Hill, an Eastside community filled with tech workers, folks are 30 percent more likely to wear Tevas.
There must be something in the water. Seattle, suddenly, is going gaga over high fashion.
In our famously unstylish city, folks are lining up to gaze upon the peak of chic.
The Seattle Art Museum’s current exhibition, “Yves Saint Laurent: The Perfection of Style,” puts more than 100 haute-couture dresses by the legendary designer on display. It’s proved tremendously popular, drawing nearly 90,000 visitors so far in its run.
What’s more, the show may be upsetting the natural order of things here, making some Seattleites question their long-standing commitment to casual. According to Rachel Eggers, the museum’s manager of public relations: “Our staff reports hearing visitors say they’re inspired to dress up a bit more after seeing the exhibition.”
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Can it last? We’ll see — but I fully expect things to return to normal after the show closes.
An indifference to fashion is, after all, one of Seattle’s defining characteristics. And I don’t think that has changed much since 2013, when I reported that Seattle ranked as the most dressed-down city in the nation.
Comfort is king here. No matter where you go in Seattle — a job interview, a fancy restaurant, a wedding — the word “underdressed” simply isn’t part of the local vocabulary. Even the Seattle Opera, on its website, encourages patrons to show up in Birkenstocks and shorts if they feel like it.
But even here in the capital of casual, some places stand out from the rest — and I used market research from Nielsen to identify our local anti-fashion hot spots. Nielsen relies on surveys and a variety of other sources, plus some sophisticated modeling, to pinpoint consumer attitudes and behaviors down to the neighborhood level.
Few things say Seattle more than Teva sandals — they’re like the Subaru Outbacks of footwear. Though designed for hiking, the sports sandals are worn everywhere here — often with socks.
You’ll find the highest concentration of sports sandals just to the east of the Microsoft campus, in Union Hill-Novelty Hill (it edged out Seattle’s Green Lake for the win). Folks here are 30 percent more likely to own a pair than the average Seattle resident. Relevant fact: About one-quarter of the working population is employed in tech jobs.
From Prada to Gucci, the Eastside boasts some of the most fashion-forward retailers in the region. But Sammamish shoppers steer clear of anything au courant. They’re less likely to buy trendy clothing than anyone else around here. It’s not that they couldn’t afford to, though — the median household income here is nearly $150,000, among the highest in the area.
Vashon Island is another affluent area, but don’t be surprised if you see a lot of frayed and threadbare clothing here. Islanders stand out for saying they only buy new clothes when what they already own needs replacing.
If all you ever wear are jeans and T-shirts, you probably never set foot in a dry cleaner. By that measure, the most dressed-down place in the Seattle area is First Hill, where residents are 27 percent less likely than average to say they ever dry clean anything.
Rounding out our anti-fashion hot spots are SeaTac, where shoppers are least likely to open a fashion magazine, and South Beacon Hill, where folks say they won’t bust the budget on an article of clothing.
Residents of these anti-fashion hot spots may be less inclined to visit the Seattle Art Museum’s Yves Saint Laurent show. But if the mood strikes, the show remains open through Jan. 8, with attendance over the holidays expected to be robust.