We Arizonans like to think of ourselves as rugged individualists. Yet most observers of the Tucson fashion scene will agree that when it comes to style, it appears that the unisex uniform is de rigueur for the masses: from the baseball cap (worn backwards adds an extra touch of "coolness") to the faded t-shirt moving on down to the well-worn jeans, cargo pants or gym shorts with requisite message on the tush and ending in a grand finale of flip flops or athletic shoes that have seen better days. Hoodies often complete this cookie cutter ensemble.
Has individual style gone the way of white gloves and top hats?
Au contraire! Northwest Tucson boasts a variety of clothing stores and styles for both men and women: from resale to upscale (even upscale resale) … from vintage to va va voom. I decided to ask some local celebrities, most of whom live and/or work in Northwest Tucson, how they relate to fashion and style. Their answers were as diverse as the interviewees themselves.
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords
I believe it is important to dress appropriately for the office but also important to be comfortable. In Washington the days are very long, and I often race from one meeting to another. I try to wear pant suits that can go from day to night and withstand a lot of walking, as well as plane travel.
I try to keep it simple but enjoy wearing a few things that reflect my Arizona roots, such as Native American silver and turquoise. When there is a formal occasion, I like to do it up western style. At the White House holiday party this year, I wore a vintage-looking black and turquoise western dress with black cowboy boots and a silver concho belt.
Back at home, dressing can be a little more casual. I get a lot of my basics at a few local boutiques, which have a good selection; the clothes also hold up well. If I get the chance I like to stop in at resale stores because you can find some great deals and it is a green way to shop.
A couple of nice outfits with different accessories are far better than a closet full of items that no longer fit or are really out of style.
Paul Loomis, Mayor of Oro Valley
Tucson is a city of casual dressing. Yet because the temperature can go up 30 degrees in a day, it is always best to dress in layers. I wear slacks and a sport shirt for everyday wear and a sport coat and slacks or suit and tie for meetings. When I'm not working I like jeans and a sport shirt, sandals, moccasins or athletic shoes.
I like to shop in department stores and also discount stores.
Crystal Stark, professional singer and church music director, finalist on American Idol
Style is very important to me. I love the way an outfit can make you feel. The right clothes can turn a good day into a great one. There's nothing better for me than finding the right outfit for every occasion. I also find shopping a stress reliever for me. It's nice to just let your mind go and look at all the pretty clothing displays.
I like formal attire for Jazz Society events, such as the Sweetheart Valentine's Dance this past Feb. l3 at the Marriott Starr Pass. I wore a floor length flowing red gown with silver accessories. For a recent dance band gig, I wore leather pants with an indigo blue strapless top and very high heels, of course. For normal day-to-day wear, I live in jeans and v-neck t's, with a tailored black suit jacket over my jeans and t for a look that's a bit more polished.
Never worry about what someone else might think about your fashion. If you love what you're wearing, that's all that matters.
Ivor Lichterman, Cantor, Congregation Anshei Israel
My parents were both very immaculate and impeccable people and it is likely that I acquired a sense of fashion from them. Most professional occasions call for a tie, etc. On the pulpit, although many professional cantors have gone more casual and informal, reflecting the trend in American society in general, I still find occasions when it is appropriate to be in formal canonical attire, complete with six-pointed (like the Star of David) cantorial hat.
As an observant Jew, I am required to wear a head covered such as a kipah/yarmulke at most times. That is an easy base for appearing stylish. I always try to match my kipah with some of my other clothing. I must have 50 different kipot in every imaginable color, some solids, others created with contrasting colors.
While it is true that one cannot judge a book by its cover, nevertheless I believe that first impressions are important.
Amy Miller, wife of UofA basketball coach Sean Miller and full-time mother of three
Fashion has not always been an important part of my life. On the other hand, I think style is what every woman has. We all have to find our own, one that fits who we are and how we want to be perceived.
I am a fan of comfort. At home I can be found in sweatpants and a t-shirt or sweatshirt. At a Wildcats game, I am the most comfortable wearing jeans and a Wildcat t. For a formal event, I like to select a feminine dress or suit … always with an eye for comfort.
I have learned that no matter what a woman wears, she has got to wear it with confidence. Confidence transcends all fashion trends and stands the test of time. Being comfortable with who you are makes a statement that is worn more decoratively than clothes.
Joe Bourne, professional singer
Style has always been important to me. At home, my dapper dad, who knew how to dress for every occasion, influenced me. Easter Sunday was always fun and the time for new suits and hats. While living and working in Europe (l975-2000), I had the opportunity to work with clothing stylists who helped me pick the right clothes for the right look.
Tucson is a very relaxed town. There are only a few events here that call for black tie, yet some people still show up in jeans. This tends to bring down the event for those who made the effort to follow the requested dress code.
Someone once told me, "People also listen to a performance with their eyes." But whether you are on stage or in the general work place, appearance should be important. Nowadays it does not have to be expensive. Our First Lady Michelle Obama reminded us of that when she made headlines buying clothes off-the-rack when her husband was running for president.
Chuck George, chief meteorologist, KOLD, News 13
Television is a visual medium. Although style isn't everything, it's certainly a huge part of it. I like three-button suits. They help hide what needs hiding while slimming the mid-section. Picture standing at a weather wall, moving, pointing, bending and turning. Even when I'm at a good weight (and it's a struggle for me), stick me on a wide screen TV and well … you get the point. People say TV adds 10 pounds, but for meteorologists it's got to be 20.
If a suit isn't tailored well, it might as well stay in the closet. Finding a good tailor is not easy, but it pays off in the end.
I prefer a look that is clean and crisp. Bold patterns don't flatter anyone, especially not me. On the advice of a style consultant, I retired a suit that I thought (wrongly) looked great on me. With its bold stripes, it looked like only the machine gun was missing from my outfit.
In my off time, I like jeans. Both department stores and discount stores work for me.
The above well known personalities have shown us that wherever your fashion sense my lead you, a great look is always in style. And it can be put together right here in NW Tucson. Now all you have to do is make it happen.
Barbara Russek is a French teacher and freelance writer. She welcomes comments at Babette2@comcast.net