"You're not from here, are you?"
I used to get that a lot - most often from the out of towners who were in Providence, RI either visiting their kids at Brown or RISD or for business meetings at the Convention Center. In their defense, they were usually pleasant, well dressed and big spenders, especially when the weather was bad and all they could do to pass the time was shop for prestige brands.
They also wanted to believe that I was from somewhere else other than Providence. Most of the time that 'somewhere else' they imagined turned out to be New York City.
"Born and raised in PVD"
When the 'from here' question first started popping up in conversation, I was surprised. I mean for starters, I AM definitely from here - born and raised in the could-not-have-been-more blue collar West End of Providence during the hardscrabble 1970's thank you very much. It was the Providence of abandoned houses (that someone usually set on fire to celebrate July 4th or Halloween) or empty lots (after the fires), canisters of rat poison in backyards and rusty chain link fences. This was way before my old neighborhood became a hip place to live or have dinner. Or a place to brag about living or having dinner. As it is now.
Despite my humble beginnings, however, I have always loved a classic black ballet flat - I wore Capezio ballet shoes as street shoes for the entire summer of 1988 - and black turtlenecks. (The best ballet flats that are actual real shoes with a sole and everything are made by a French company called Repetto. Find them @ Net-A-Porter. Is that look more Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face, as opposed to 'Fake New Yorker'? I'm not absolutely sure. Maybe it's more fake student?
"What, you must be one of those RISD students interested in fashion. Is that why you're working here?"
Imagine THIS question being almost spit out, with a tone of disgust and distaste, and you will understand fully and completely that THIS was intended as an insult and not a question at all. Although, truthfully, I ultimately took it as a compliment because I happened to be almost 40 at the time it was addressed to me. After all, student = young, right?
And that was the thanks I got for trying to find that woman a flattering t-shirt.
Maybe it was the boho turtleneck and a chunky bracelet I was wearing that day? That could've been what had brought out such hostility. (I still say though that you can never have enough fitted black turtlenecks in your closet. Despite that lady's reaction. Some things are just timeless.)
And maybe I had become so accustomed to the RISD type 'questions' and having to field people's disdain that I could no longer process something as innocuous as 'You're not from here, are you?'
"So where did you think I was from?"
Fake New York.
Oh, of course.
It was my lack of a RI accent, a result (I've theorized) most likely of years of being an introvert, with my head either buried in a book or in front of a TV.
That was part of it.
But wait, there's more.
Here are the other key elements of what I like to call my '(I'm A) Fake New Yorker' style guide:
1) Wear black, but carefully. Details matter.
A black pant with a pointy toe heel is ok. A black pant with a clunky shoe is not. You want to appear worldly or sophisticated, not even remotely goth or counterculture. Save the artsy touches for when you're off duty, trying to de-stress from fielding all that disdain.
2) The 'Fake NY'er' look is all about being subtle and understated. And copying NY fashion editors whenever possible.
This is why when it comes to something like a mani or pedi, you want to be careful to choose either Essie Polish in light neutrals or pinks (a favorite of Linda Wells, the editor-in-chief of Allure) or Dior Nail Glow (the best thing to happen to nail polish because it's the only idiot proof super quick way to make your nails look just like you had a manicure when you didn't), available at Dior.
Less is indeed more.
3) Read the NY Post daily, especially Page Six.
Consider it your new best friend.
Also, don't be afraid to name drop. In fact, be on the lookout for any tidbits on Page Six that you can drop in conversation with people to further cement your status as a stylish faux New Yorker.
People really do love all that stuff.
And didn't you ever see Melanie Griffith in "Working Girl"? If she hadn't been reading Page Six, she would never have been able to put that deal together that, at the end of the movie, landed her a big promotion as well as Harrison Ford - who still looks phenomenal at age 70 mind you - Still looks phenomenal shirtless. There's an important lesson there for sure.
Photo Courtesy: Brownstone Photo, Pinterest