Sunday, June 28, 2009

In which the author wears pants that are fancy (and tight)

I mentioned last week a trip to Dubai. Clothes were involved. And now the truth can be revealed: I was sent to a boutique to find out what fashionable gents wear during the UAE summers.

Here's what I wrote in The National:

Stop me if you have heard this one before: “A journalist walks into a boutique to meet a personal stylist.”

That is the set-up. I just hoped I wouldn’t end up being a human punchline.

My wardrobe is in fine shape, I think, at least for a writer: jeans that fit, shoes that shine, a collection of ties that make me look more important than I am.

But I had never had a personal shopper on my side before, and that is why my editor delivered me into the hands of Boutique 1 in Dubai.

“I can tell you have a good handle on style,” I was told as I arrived. Instantly likeable, this place.


Its personal styling service is the kind of thing usually rolled out for supermodels and superstars, not 32-year-old word jockeys. Yet the shop seemed up to the challenge. The principle, I was told, was to find clothes that made me look great without making me greatly uncomfortable.

That was a few minutes before I was handed a sequinned T-shirt.

First, though, I was led through the boutique’s labyrinth of high style, from clothes to accessories to housewares to an art gallery. Upstairs, in a sun-splashed white-walled forest of evening gowns, the entrance to the VIP section beckoned.

Citrus-scented air, muted lighting, brown-on-beige carpeting, couches, mirrored tiles set in the ceiling, coffee, fresh orange juice, cookies that spelt “B1” – it was truly a place for the very important. But the clothes were the real stars.

My orders were to obtain a stylish summer wardrobe. Beyond that, I was a lanky blank slate. And really, that is the genius of personal shopping: my problem isn’t a lack of taste, exactly, but a lack of style vocabulary.

Looking good in the summer is about more than just short sleeves, according to the personal shopping team. Even dark jackets, for instance, add style without sweat, as long as they are lightweight. Skip the undershirt and stick with breezy fabrics for collared shirts, or wear a T-shirt – just make sure it stands out with an eye-catching design or clever wordplay. And trousers? Well... I’ll get to them in a moment.

First, I was coaxed into Diesel jeans, the Costume National sequinned T-shirt – less scary than expected – and a satin-trimmed jacket by Paul & Joe. Finishing the look, in addition to my first encounter with bedazzling, was another first: a white belt by Nigel Hall. My heart was only slightly broken that there were no white shoes grand enough to accommodate my size 15 (US) feet.

But we forged ahead. Next came the same jacket over a black shirt by Richard James. The Denim Is Everything jeans were “spray-on denim”, I was told, which apparently is fashion code for “walking is painful”. A clubby look: fashionable, but not necessarily something I could throw on for an evening of falafel and football.

We finished with my favourite outfit, a lightweight shirt by Daniel Alessandrini, a Richard James suit jacket and Missoni jeans that, somehow, were tighter than the second pair. Now this was an outfit that would allow me to both dazzle my co-workers and head off into the Abu Dhabi evening.

At an average of Dh4,000 per outfit, though, such sartorial services probably won’t be a regular activity for me. I am but a humble journalist: I like flip-flops and have no problem eating pickles out of a jar.

But the experience was a good one. Having an expert to hack a path through the fashion jungle makes it relaxing to look good, snug trousers aside. Everyone involved agreed: the Doyle Beautification Project was a success. No joke.

But you know what they say about pictures. In this case, it is worth about 650 words. But they are well-chosen.

Not pictured: My feet. That's because they are bare.

There is a video, too, painstakingly shot and edited by my talented multimedia colleagues. And it takes some serious talent to make me look like I am comfortable wandering around a high-end boutique.

I didn't get to see a ton of Dubai on this jaunt--the shop is at the end of Dubai closest to Abu Dhabi. But everything anyone has ever said to you about cranes in that city is true. It is a hurricane of construction activity. And there is enough dust in the air that the city center is invisible, even from just a couple of kilometers away, even with the tallest building in the world jutting from the middle of it.


Not-quite-downtown-Dubai.

And in between here and there? Desert.


Home on Al Range.

And no, I didn't get to keep any of the clothes. And through circumstances outside our control, the actual personal shopper--there was one, he had a name and everything--had to be excised from the story, images and video. But that's OK. Not only has the Fiance of the Blog already started my education in the Dark Art of fashion, but my salary is probably better spent on other things, like buffalo and firearms.

7 comments:

Karl Smith said...

Fiance of the Blog?

Gerry said...

ap style, sucka.

Pete said...

very cool. especially like the striped shirt and jacket. stylin' and profilin'!

Pete said...

love that hard hitting journalistic style of yours, my man.

Anonymous said...

it still looks like a lot of layers for 40˚C+ or 100˚F+ day, but I guess that is the price of fashion. KIpp

Jen said...

If your fiancee is a woman, AP Style requires you to add the 'e'. Just saying.

Gerry said...

who taught you that?

in any event, I know for a fact that it is tribune style, and more important, it's my blog's style, and most important, karl is wrong, the end.