Jeggings and Jitneys: NYC Part I

tiny hello kittyBack from NYC, a whirlwind tour of Manhattan by subway and foot. There would have been a ferry involved as well if the wait to get on it had not been an hour and a half.

Now back in the Midwest, I bring stories to my Midwestern brethren. Stories about jeggings (and leggings) and buses called jitneys. And lots of things lying on curbs and clothes, glorious clothes, and people who are not at all well in the head.

But first, jeggings.

I never took this trend seriously. Jeggings? Leggings made to look like jeans only tight, tight like leggings with no real zipper or buttons but perhaps the imitation of them, plus seams, drawn onto the fabric? Yes.

If I were, say, Great Britain during the time when GB controlled India, jeggings would be Ghandi. Someone, something, that I didn’t take very seriously at first and then… and then… oh, shit. Something like that.

The people of New York are storming the stores for jeggings. One might say, “Jeggings are so last season.” Well, let me assure you that they are not. Jeggings are alive and well and moving down the streets of New York on the legs of bona fide New Yorkers. This means that the Midwest is still in for an onslaught of them. I’ve seen a few here, more in stores than out walking around, but the illness seizing the East can only trickle towards our wheated plains and rolling hills. I saw them on women. I saw them on men. I saw them on children. I saw them everywhere. On students. On adults. On the corpse of Dr. Seuss.

This doesn’t even take into account the people wearing super tight skinny jeans (STSJs). Basically, the people of New York do not want to have jeans that move independently of their bodies. They do not want to feel fabric – denim, to be more specific – flapping as they walk. Everything must be contained, held close, suffocated. If there is hair on their legs they want nothing more than the compaction of their denim to wear that hair away or to cause it to become ingrown.

It must have been a long, hot NYC summer for wearers of STSJs and Jeggings Aficionados alike. It was hot most days we were there, despite it being October, and I was sweating in my trouser-cut jeans. Yes, jeans cut like trousers. Like real pants. Many New Yorkers mistook me for an Amish man.

Just kidding. I think.

And then there are leggings. Because leggings, mostly in black, are the other acceptable leg wear of the moment. Which might comfort you if you are a woman in the Midwest who shops at GAP, J. Crew, etc. etc. because all of these stores sell black leggings. We’ve all had black leggings (well, I haven’t had any since maybe the 90s but I’m weird; I’m wearing jeans cut to look like trousers for Christ’s sake).

But before you get too comfortable here you need to hear something else. These leggings are worn mostly with nothing covering the ass. What?


A Midwestern woman wants to wear leggings under a dress. Or under a big old shirt, button down, sweater, etc. Cover up everything from the knees up through the entire torso. You can do this if you want.

But in New York they are letting their asses show. That’s right. Don’t bother with anything too big on top. I mean, it’s fine to let that ass hang out there. Because it’s not really hanging. It’s New York. They have tight asses. They walk miles and miles and survive on caffeine and speed and cigarettes and frozen yogurt. Frozen yogurt. More about that later.

What I’m saying is that I think I’ve stumbled upon a major difference between Midwestern philosophy and Eastern Seaboard philosophy. We want to cover the ass. Because it’s big and round and imperfect. New Yorkers want to show the ass. They want to showcase it in leggings and riding boots and cropped military-style jackets. It’s right out there and if you don’t like it, too bad, except you do like it. You do. Because, hey, it’s a cute ass.

And while I’m on the topic of fashion, let me tell you about TopShop. I went to the TopShop store. I’ve browsed the website many times but I thought going to TopShop would be an altogether different experience. A whole new vibe. And I was right.

Now, on the day we went to TopShop the city was absolutely packed with people. It was a perfect Saturday in October. To say there were swarms on Broadway, where TopShop is located, would be to misrepresent the feeling. I was literally engulfed in people. I could not see anything on the sidewalk as I moved on the street. I could only see the people in front of me and those coming at me and tiny dogs trying to negotiate the melee as they quivered and shook from the fear of being a small dog, maybe nine inches high, trapped in an ocean of moving legs.

It was not much better inside the store. Of course, it didn’t match Uniqlo, where the unveiling of fall and winter coats designed by Jil Sanders caused a line to form down the entire length of the store as people waited to get into some back room to view the new coats. Yes, there was a line just to see the merch. One had to wait to see the merch to see if one wanted to purchase it. I didn’t get in that line. But I digress. Because this is about TopShop.

When I finally got to see TopShop’s entire aesthetic presented as a whole I was quite shocked. I had a moment, standing on floor 2 or 3 when I thought, “OH! This is all the stuff I’ve ever seen at thrift stores made into $90 items.” And don’t get me wrong – I came to TopShop to buy. I was convinced I was going to walk out of there with something incredible. But no. Didn’t happen. Because for years I’ve been seeing cream-colored lace shirts and mother-of-the-bride tops and dresses festooned with bugle beads and sequins at thrift stores and I’ve said, “Who will end up buying all of this?” And there it all was, regurgitated like owl pellets on the racks at TopShop.

And it was so interesting to see. To see what they did with the concepts. And it inspired me – not to buy but to create. To go out to Arc’s Value Village and buy up some of those horrible sequin tops and see what they can be made into. To realize that I had, in fact, bought some items in the past that could be pawned off as current TopShop. A blue lace dress. A black dress with gathers and sequins and bugle beads at the waist that I paid more to have dry cleaned than I did to purchase. It made me think about how it’s October and the thrift racks are BURSTING with pieces they are trying to sell as Halloween costumes that I would wear for everyday clothing.

It reminded me about what is fun about dressing. It made me a little misty for home, where the thrift stores might be busy but certainly not TopShop busy. And not with that throbbing, intense music that makes one’s fillings shake. The most you get at the thrifts in Minnesota is a little Christian music, some inoffensive Christian pop, played at a very, very respectable volume.

And so I can tell you what seems to be “in” this fall, if you care to know, and then you, like me, can twist this into something that you make very much your own.

Military anything. The more ornate-looking the better. Old-style military. English military. Some camo.

Black leggings. Black leggings with boots. Stick with knee-high boots and skip all this blather you hear in fashion rags about over-the-knee or thigh-high boots. Only certain people can really pull those off and five of them live on the Upper East side. One of them lives in Chicago. The rest work as call girls in L.A.

STSJs. If you can swing it. I can’t swing it. Therefore, trouser-cut jeans. But always, always DARK. No matter what cut, go dark. They are trying to bring acid-wash back. They are now referring to it as something else. Enzyme wash? I saw that somewhere and it took me a moment to realize they meant acid wash. But acid sounds so toxic, doesn’t it?

Big cardigans. The cardigan is having “A Moment.” Which is great because I love me some cardigans. The longer, slouchier, bigger the better. Stripes. Cashmere. Black. Gray. Blue. Yellow. Whatever. Wear with jeans, skirts, over a dress, with boots. Get some cardigans. But don’t get a cardigan set. You know, with the matching tank or shell? Yuck.

T-shirts with drawings on them. Hand drawn. Line drawings. Hard to figure out. Portraits. I love anything drawn. Anything that doesn’t look like a graphic made by a computer. This is a personal bias. Doodles. Something that came out of a journal. Something that looks like a sketch by Picasso.

Things that don’t match. Don’t try to match. Don’t try NOT to match either. The best way to think about it is to decide that you don’t know anything about color theory and just wear things that make you feel good. Black and brown go together. Purple and blue go together. Yellow goes with everything.

Longer skirts. Skirts that reach your knees. Your calves. Yes, this has an almost Amish feel. This has the feel of that weird girl in grade school who was some strange religion you never found out the name of. Tiny skirts are still for sale in all the stores but beware. Longer skirts are on the make. Longer skirts worn with socks and heels. Mid-size heels, not necessarily pumps. Its not 1984, after all. Or worn with ankle boots.

Ankle boots. Not done with those yet. The stranger the shape, the cut of the heel, the better. Not 1990s black leather ankle boots with those square but skinny heels. Not those, for Christ’s sake. A triangle heel. A platform. Not a square. Something in suede is nice. Plum suede. Gray suede.

Anything in plum.

Pendelton sweaters. Trust me on this, good people. What’s a Pendelton sweater, you ask? Check it:

The Dude In Sweater

Put on your Pendelton sweater, your black leggings, your ankle boots, your plum Hobo bag and you are ready to rock.

That’s it for now. I’m tired from the trip. And talking about TopShop/thrift stores got me all worked up again and I’m finally coming down. More tomorrow… Oh, yeah, the jitney part. I’m talking about the Hampton Jitney, which I saw all over. The Hampton Jitney will run you from Long Island to Manhattan and back. Do you think Little Edie Beale ever took the Hampton Jitney? Wearing one of her turbans? Clutching a make-up bag, ready to move into the Barbizon Hotel and make it in the Big Apple? It’s something to think about anyway.

2 thoughts on “Jeggings and Jitneys: NYC Part I

  1. In true Midwestern style, I had not heard of jeggings until my mother-in-law came to visit over Labor Day weekend. Her friend in Plano, TX is all about them and told her to get some. I am appalled by them. Yes, maybe I do belong in MN.

Comments are closed.