This month, I had the great opportunity to travel to Portland Oregon. My mother-in-law moved there two years ago and my husband has quite a few family members who live in the area. It was my first trip to the Pacific Northwest. I fell in love with the city. I LOVE it. I have no plans to leave New York City anytime soon, but if I had to move, Portland would be at the top of my list. It’s a city that is easy to navigate, scenic, funky and unique. Despite the fact that Portland gets more rainfall than average, it’s a small price to pay to live somewhere to refreshing.
Having traveled this country pretty extensively, I have learned that there is such a thing as regional style. I have affectionately said that Nashville’s rugged yet glamorous look reminds me of a Spittoon that has been rolled in glitter, New Mexico makes me crave turquoise jewelry and if I spend enough time in Florida Lily Pulitzer starts to make sense to me. Portland Oregon (I’d say the whole Pacific Northwest but I haven’t seen enough of it to confirm this) seems to have its own regional style just like other parts of the country do.
Now I’m not smug enough to say that four days spent in a city gives me the authority to be any sort of expert on Portland style. However, being the observant style watcher that I am, I’d like to say that I absorbed enough to write a post about what I experienced. Plus, as an outsider I had a desensitized view of what locals have likely become immune to seeing everyday.
In a lot of ways, Portland reminds me of where I live in Brooklyn but with a more rugged twist. It stands to reason. Both places are known for having “hipster” inhabitants, both places are strong on the local, organic, artisanal thing and both are exceedingly casual places to be. Whenever friends and family visit me with plans to go to dinner they ask if they need to get dressed up. I laugh. We don’t dress up here to do anything. The same seems true for Portland.
Yet, despite the similarities, there are a lot of differences. Portland style is a lot more “outdoor rugged” and I definitely noticed how many people wearing parkas boarded my flight to PDX. You get the sense that everyone has camped at least once and the urban sleek that we are known for in Brooklyn is substituted with a style that has greater appreciation for the great outdoors. It makes sense. Portland and its surrounding area is an outdoorsman’s dream.
I wouldn’t call Portland a stylish place in the traditional sense of what the average person would call stylish. Yet that doesn’t mean that Portland is full of poorly dressed people walking around. Just like all regions of the country, Portland has its own regional look. And that lack of “traditional style” is what makes Portland so stylish and unique in its own way. It’s also what makes being in Portland so comfortable. You truly get the sense that nobody bothers or cares to notice what anyone is wearing, and that in itself is what makes it so incredibly liberating. It’s a place that embraces individuality and at the same time doesn’t care if your individuality is rather humdrum. Wear a sweatshirt, jeans and sneakers or pierce your face, dye your hair pink and wear a boot on your head and call it a hat, Portlanders welcome it all.
PDX Style: What to Wear in Portland Oregon
I put together three looks that illustrate some of what I saw people most often wearing in Portland. If you have some plans to travel there any time soon, I hope these tips will help.
All my life I could never understand vests. The window of opportunity to wear them in the northeast always seems so slim. If you’re cold enough to need an outerwear piece, don’t you need sleeves? When I traveled to Portland vests suddenly made sense. The weather can be quite temperate often making vests ideal. Layers are also important because it can go from rain to shine in a matter of seconds. Outerwear vests also have that rugged pacific northwest outdoors look that everyone wears in Portland without even a hint or irony.
I styled this vest from Thread & Supply in blush pink over a basic grey v-neck sweater from Theory with a pair of dark wash denim jeans from Madewell. I finished the look with a printed scarf from Treasure & Bond to further layer this outfit, a pair of comfortable and waterproof booties from Blondo, functional grey backpack from Baggallini, and gold drop earrings from The Sak.
One of my best friends lives in Seattle. What she learned since moving to the Pacific Northwest is locals never really use umbrellas. Instead, they either just deal with the rain or use a hood. I couldn’t do a post about Portland style without creating a look that showed an alternative to an umbrella. It seems everyone has at least one parka in Portland and The North Face is one of companies that has a huge fan base there.
I styled this North Face parka with a basic sweater from L.K. Bennett and skinny ankle pants from J. Crew. Next, I accessorized the outfit with my favorite ballerina flats from Sabrinas called The London. I chose to feature these shoes because I wore my pair on the day I did a lot of walking in Portland. Six miles of walking and my feet never hurt. If you want to do it in style, check out Sabrinas, they worked so well for me. You can read my review of them here. I finished the look with an ice block bag from Mission Mercantile and, wanting to embrace local artisans like Portland does, this necklace from Claire Green.
Casual layering in Portland is what makes cardigans so ideal. In many cases they act as outerwear and can be stuffed in a bag when it gets too warm to keep them on. Sneakers are also a big thing in Portland. My mother-in-law, who has a closet full of Manolo Blahniks and who I never saw wear a pair of sneakers beyond the gym when she lived in New York City, spent a day wearing the Nikes. Nikes, being an Oregon based company, is sort of a big deal and perhaps why wearing them as streetwear is so embraced by the people of the city.
With such a casual vibe in the city of Portland, I styled this graphic t-shirt from Sub_Urban Riot under a cozy duster length cardigan from Halogen, a pair of boyfriend jeans from 7 for all Mankind and finished the look with burgundy Nikes, a crossbody bag from Sole Society, printed scarf from Michael Stars, oversized sunglasses from Nordstrom, basic hoop earrings from Argento Vivo and leather bracelet from local Portland Oregon designer, Stefan Merkl.
If you want to check out some other local designers, like Stefan Merkl, be sure to visit Portland’s Saturday Market that features features 252 booths showcasing a variety of arts & crafts sold by local Pacific Northwest artisans. Established in 1974, the market has a thriving membership of over 350 artisans.
One post cannot fully capture the feeling of Portland and its incredible eclectic style. You have to visit the city to truly immerse yourself in one of the most beautiful, creative and friendly places I have been to in a long time. To you locals who are reading this, I can only hope I did your amazing city justice. I can’t wait to go back.