24 March 2007

What will they expect at my age?

Cusp is a new, very high-end, very fashion-forward boutique that opened two weekends ago in the heart of Georgetown's uppermost upper-crust.

Though I went through a significant amount of trouble to wrangle an invitation to attend its champagne opening, I decided at the last minute, Bay Dayliner performance notwithstanding, to go for a run and watch a documentary on the rather creepy phenomenon of Purity Balls instead.

Why, you ask, would I so easily pass up this opportunity to mingle with women who love fabrics, cuts and Marc Jacobs tops as much as I do? Well, to be frank, I really wanted to see this documentary, and since my Tivo was already committed to another program, I had to be home to see it. Also, it would have been too painful in light of my new resolution to differentiate between that's-cute-and-I-want-it and that's-cute-and-I-need-it. Apparently, making that distinction and acting accordingly - i.e. only buying that which falls into the latter category - is something someone in my financial position should have learned years ago.

Cusp, unfortunately, doesn't carry a single item of clothing, accessory or beauty product, from their Milly eyelet mini to their Christian Louboutin patent-leather t-strap stilettos to their fast-dwindling collection of Chanel Vernis 'Black Ceramic' nail lacquer that isn't (a) cute (b) something I want and (c) not something I need. In fact, if you visit their blog, you'll see that for even the most casual outfits, following their recommendations will set you back $1300.

It's one thing to look longingly at these items in Harper's Bazaar or to covet them online, enlarging their pictures, gazing at them from every possible angle and in every available color, but it is quite another to physically enter through those two-story glass doors and surround yourself not only with every top, bottom, coat and shoe you could ever want but with people who can afford to just drop $444 on a black and blue Alice + Olivia sequined tank mini for no other reason than they saw Sarah Jessica Parker wear it to a charity event last week and the sparkles somehow made her pony-face look less pony-like.

Despite my reservations, I decided today, while I was in the neighborhood helping L find an ensemble fit for a Kennedy Center ballet opening, I would face my demons and just go inside.

So I did. And it was even better and even worse than I knew it would be.

Better was the selection and the spectacular quality of the DVF wrap dress collection, the Rebecca Taylor blouses with perfectly constructed sleeves and unique necklines and the bounty of Kiehl's products resting in what looked more like an armoire you'd find in a French castle than a toiletry display-case.

Worse was the clientele. Way worse.

Like a starstruck Midwesterner walking up Robertson Boulevard in Beverly Hills, I wove through the by-designer sections recognizing celebrity after "Sugar Daddy" celebrity. Everything was so beautiful, so well-crafted, so elegantly displayed. There were definitely items I didn't like, many I couldn't imagine wearing much less paying an entire month's rent for, but I still appreciated the aesthetic layout and loft-esque feel of the space. Had I not overheard the following conversation, I probably would've stayed a few minutes longer, shot a maybe-we'll-meet-again smile at my Catherine Malandrino wishlist dress and been on my way.

"Those are super cute. Super you, you know? You should get them."

"Yeah, I know, but they're like, not the ideal shade of pink for my dress, and I didn't get a Cavalli for nothing, you know? I have to get the right shoes or else it's not even worth going."

"How about these?" another girl, this one wearing a Sidwell Friends Crew jacket (a prominent private DC high school), asked her friend.

"Shut up, Lauren, those are hideous," the Cavalli-girl said in a shrill tone, "what are they, Nine West? This is prom, not a graduation party." And with that, she tossed the gold python Manolo Blahnik 'Ayers' strap sandals ($745 at neimanmarcus.com) to the hardwood floor as carelessly as she would a dirty tissue.

As soon as I shook the shock that anyone - especially someone so many years younger than I was - would treat such a lovely not to mention expensive pair of shoes so shabbily, something else hit me. Did she say "prom?" These girls were shopping at my fashion Mecca trying on and nonchalantly dismissing Manolos for prom? I looked around for an adult, some sort of parental figure, an immigrant nanny, anyone, but came up empty. These girls were alone, I realized, which meant they would be the ones signing the four-figure dotted lines. I looked at each one, there were five or six, and all of them had on premium jeans and designer shoes, and a couple of them even carried this butter-soft Kooba handbag ($635 at pinkmascara.com).

"Whatever, I'm just gonna go with these (picking up the first pair, ironically, also Manolos), try them on with my dress at home, and if I don't like the way they look, I'll just wear 'em with jeans and a cute top or something."

"That's totally what I would do," the insufferable sycophant on her left said, nodding vigorously, "Totally."

The two got up and started to walk to the front to charge their wares - which, in addition to these Manolos , included a pile of DVF, Twinkle and Milly that had been sitting next to them on the floor - when they realized they'd left their other shopping bags behind on the for-trying-on-shoes-only divan.

"We are such retards. We like, always forget, don't we?" one giggled to the other as they each snatched up their sizable Barney's Co-op, Kate Spade, Ralph Lauren and Intermix bags. "You're the retard," the Cavalli-girl whipped back in a tone I would never use with a friend, "you got your dress in DC."

As I walked instead of cabbing the 14 blocks back to my apartment in the grazing rain - a tidy savings of $8.80 plus tip - I couldn't decide for whom I felt more pity -- the girls themselves for having been raised with Black AmEx expectations, or the future husbands who would likely have to explain to them the concept of a lifestyle downgrade.


Anonymous said...

Good call on blaming the parents, not the girls. Not as much, anyway. The parents are the ones who either dropped them off in Georgetown or bought them the BMW they drove there in. The parents are the ones who gave them a joint credit card with a huge limit. The parents are the ones who taught them that kind of ungrateful attitude. And finally, the parents are the ones who showed them it was okay to talk to their "friends" in that manner.

Makes me never want to be a parents EVER.

Great post. Really well written as usual but also really thought provoking. One of your best.

AnĂ³nimo No Mas said...

I agree word for word with the above comment, this is the best post you've written. Very sharp.

knew you as hannie, too said...

You should've made friends with them and gotten them to buy you something. Sounds like a $400 DVF dress wouldn't have been more than a drop in the bucket to them.

In all seriousness, that sounds truly awful. People like that are one of the reasons (one of the *many*) I'm happy to still be in the Midwest. You run into that but certainly not as often as you do in the big city. It must've felt like college all over again.


knew you as hannie said...

These girls are why I thank god every day I went to public school in a small town in Michigan. We didn't go through any of that crap, did we? Girls like that make me want to never have children, either!

Anonymous said...

You forgot to mention that these are also the girls who, in the fall, are going to any university of their choice b/c daddy got them in, snort mommy's money up their nose all through college, marry some douche bag b/c he's got money, and finally get left in the gutter when hubby cheats on them with someone younger & prettier than any botox can buy!