Steve Lacy sings “Bad Habit” to me as I wait at the Cesson bus stop to board my near-daily bus to the center of town.
My eyes dart from this page frequently, expecting the C6 Aeroport to be in view. I can’t tell if they are always late or all early, but the bus always exhales in labored exhaust, sometime between the time you waited for and the next. Either way, I board five past and make it to Republique anyways.
I don’t know how long I have kept to this habit of taking iced coffee at Mokka and observing everyone who passes on the ever-populated Rue de le Bastard.
What I have seen these past weeks comes in a few variations.
Overwhelmingly, black covers the shoulders of these Rennes walkers. All ages seem to have an attachment to this base, the young and feminine accentuating with perhaps a pop of color or contrast of pattern.
Among this swarm, new women dress in black tights, either end landing in boots or under dark skirts. These girls don oversized coats, two buttons unbuttoned as each side hangs open on their first layer. Their breaks in black often come in white or tan, basic color blocking for a population that keeps one toe in homogeny.
Cream-colored sneakers see the world from millennial feet as they walk into light creases against the uneven stone. These women wrap their necks in soft cotton scarves and top their heads with the ascribed bennie. Brown hair curls under and into their XXL button-up sweaters, warm and puffed like shag carpet.
I don’t hate it, though they drone on in the same colors, black, cream, tan, brown, and pink, barely distinguishable from white.
Naturally, within any herd of dressers, the brilliant and beautiful stick out, and Rennes’ diamonds are no exception.
For the older generation of women, most of whom are under the universal urge to chop their hair with the same sharp shortness, these feats of fashion come in coordinated color schemes and fabric attention. As they pass, there is a certainty that even their socks match and mirror what they wear on the surface.
In youth, colored fits find my focus and pull me in pinpointed directions to pink floral buzz cuts and wide-legged denim. Their identity hemorrhages from their patterned skirts and oversized sweaters. Legs slid between thin tights, torn and running, while their canvas-bagged shoulders rock back and forth. Earrings hang heavy from stretched lobes and chart empty spaces on their faces.
And then there are the leather ladies, and I do love them. 20, 30, 40-something girls creaking down the street with arms crossed over silver ornaments in black boots, invariably. Their hair is always pinned and pulled, cheekbones leading their walk.
Made in the USA
When she asks what I want, I want to tell her I love the way her nails, dark green and noir, match her drawn eyes. I want to tell her exactly how much I prepare just to hear this question. I want to say the words I mean, effortlessly, with the same loose twist of tongue that comes after I’ve gotten my spirits up. I want to hold on to this moment before she knows my whole truth. And I can’t tell her, not without stumbling, words invariably slurred by my American mouth. I try anyways, but it is too early to tell if she will let me finish.
At times, a young boy strolls by with a matching sweat set in tan, gray, or some other soft color. Most men, on the other hand, stick to their black scripts. They layer t-shirts and sweatshirts, pulling puffers over all of this and ending over black pants that brim their Nike choose-your-own-adventures.
Another look frequents this male population in tan pants and tucked t-shirt. Layered above is a blue or deep green button-up, and over that, a similarly dark sweater. The collar of their ironed blue peaks out from v-neck scoop.
Perhaps, though not necessarily, they don a comfortable jacket and scarf below the rim of their cotton caps. All this over business boots laced up and double tied with stiff hands living outside their week-day keyboard station.
Iced coffee and pen in hand, I turn my pinky to the sky in my version of Rennes’ fashion.
A black base, of course, is worn over my legs in faintly patterned tights and a clingy velvet skirt. I have an aversion to the feel of velvet against my fingers, so I try not to think too much while I snake the zipper over my hip and slip a black and white turtle neck over my head of loose hair. Next, I tie it all away from my face with an orange pop of color. The bright scarf is lined with white strokes that call to their counterparts on my chest.
Secured with four crossed bobby pins, I can fasten the four buttons that fall over my wrists. This final layer comes in a faint cream button-up dotted with a second dollop of cream in polka dots. And, since it is me, my fingers are crowned in gold and silver bands, a brick and a stone of purple, as gold joins the fabric on each wrist.
The remaining hair is tossed over my shoulder as I pull Kyle, Cartman, and Kenny dressed as pirates and vampires over each end of my tights, it is Halloweek after all. Finally, I stomp into my white platform docs and lace them around my South Park secret.
This is my Rennes, or as close to it as my wardrobe allows.
Are they supposed to see through my grin? Past the stiff cock of my head to the side? Or feelings I plaster across my face?
Does my one-handed San Pelligrino sell nativity or betray my naivety?
I dress in color because I live in color, but I don’t have the key to unlock the glass ceiling that takes the context out of everything.
Either way, I can’t stop finding people who want me, want to strip my words away see what body is my truth, like that.
Am I paranoid to think that the table over is talking about me? They must be, either blase or smelling it on me, before I can speak.
Once I open my mouth, wet dog damp and almost alright. Half-way clean, half-way soiled, I just don’t have the soap to wash these abstractions away.
Let’s start with a bit of honesty. Vienna is not my favorite.
The streets are beautiful but slow and quiet, where I am fast and loud. Too American, not out of pride but of speed, finding the fastest route through the crowd and passing pedestrians with each stride. I hover my two suitcases a few inches from the ground and take the stairs as people with pockets take the escalator- legs stick straight and arms gently crossed as they ride. Why would I take the escalator to stand there?
The Viennese are lovely, as I leave them on the street behind me, but I thought this was a city! I want constant chatter and 24/7 corner stores. A fight in the street just to prove the city is alive, breathing, and bleeding. But Vienna doesn’t breathe; it sighs, blowing low clouds over its streets and turning time at half speed.
The air is warm, a humid embrace. The sun pierces through constant clouds until the next fever break. The rain never lasts more than fifteen minutes, though it does chill my skin and mark the windows with its tiny universes.
My AirBnB does not have Wi-Fi. Thrice, I have searched for Vienna coffee shops equipped with outlets and Wi-Fi, pulling out my laptop only to be told that laptops were not allowed. What?
They said talk, just sit here, sip your hot coffee slow. But I don’t speak that language, or German for that matter.
Yet, I am in a foreign country! How can I complain when I am not in America? My biggest problem is a lack of internet and nightlife; it could certainly be worse. I took this nine-day pill as an exercise of patience and leisure. A challenge, but a simple one.
Taking to my task, I walked for hours a day, gazed at monuments and cathedrals, read four books, and drank too many red wine spritzers- my new drink of choice for the bubbles and to make the wine last longer on my lips.
I could pass the time like this, but, I wanted more. I wanted something new to look forward to each day. Something to stamp each sun with distinction.
I knew what would make me feel better- fashion. If I was going to laze around for a week, then I was going to look good doing it! Having only two suitcases and an average-sized backpack to my name, I do have more than enough articles to keep things interesting.
And so, with no further adieu, I present you with my Vienna Fashion Week!
Starting the week strong with a Daphnie-esque look. I have been wanting to wear these purple pants for a while, but in Munich, I never found the right weather/activity combination. Thankfully, with Vienna’s cloudy days, I was presented with the perfect time for purple.
Chico’s green tank from Chicago’s Village Discount (oh, how I miss you <3).
Purple pants hand-made vintage from Shangri-La (lovely shop, but the owner can’t help herself from fat shaming everyone).
White Doc Martin Boots (not pictured).
Floral headscarf from my mother’s cousin.
Gold earrings from Thrilling Vintage (thanks, mom xoxo)
Standard jewelry: pearl necklace from Nordstrom, gold bracelet found in Arts and Letters (DePaul building), gold Fossil watch, daily rings (L-R): silver hand and onyx, gold purple stone, silver Chicago skyline, block purple, silver sun and moon, gold grandfather’s university band, and gold band (thanks Amani <3).
A casual Tuesday, I chose a classic flowy white shirt and basic jean shorts. I wandered the streets aimlessly and indulged in an accidental ice cream when I ordered the Eis Koffee. A simple fit for a simple mistake.
Button-up sleeveless Canda white top from a Viennese thrift shop, Hansel & Gretel.
Dark wash Capezio denim shorts from Village Discount.
White Asics tennis shoes (not pictured).
Silver waterfall earrings from Thrilling Vintage.
The Mozart Orchestra Concert! I had to dress to the nines. I had been waiting a while for an occasion to wear the corset (*cough* Berlin would’ve been perfect), but here was my second chance. Determined to make it work, I tried the top over a variety of shirts, dresses, and skirts until I finally decided to ditch the straps of my black dress and tuck them under the edge of the corset. Aside from some awkward adjusting, I like how it came together.
Embroidered Charolette Russe corset from Buffalo Exchange.
Black XOXO cocktail dress also from Buffalo.
White Doc Martin boots.
I followed my (crazy) night out at the orchestra with another simple denim ensemble. Not to be too boring, I added a pop of color with my pink bra under the lace top. A livening detail, yet the conservative Austrians likely thought me careless. Good, for what’s life without a bit of shock?
Black Zara lace tank from Hansel and Gretel.
Light wash Levi 550s from Village Discount.
Visage earrings from H&M (purchased in the old times of 2014).
White Asics tennis shoes.
Vroom vroom bitch we got a car shirt. This green baby tee is a bit of a comfort item for me. Packing for Europe meant saying goodbye, or at least see you later, to more than 80% of my wardrobe. A grand sacrifice, if you will, for my European freedom. I purged through my collection of car shirts and debated many of them out of my final draft. As sole agent of it’s population, this shirt represents them all and serves as a sentimental connection to my family. A gift from my mom to my sister and me, with an image of my dad’s favorite obsession. Cheesy, I know, but I promise I’m tough- just look at my car shirt.
Green baby tee from Target.
Light wash shorts by DENIM from Village Discount.
Yellow Doc Martin sandals.
Santorini canvas bag.
For the finale, I kept things Molly Ringwald with the appearance of my half-DIY pants. While in Munich, I stumbled upon these pants at a thrift store and cursed the Gods of long legs when they fell a few inches above my ankle in the dressing room. But they fit perfectly everywhere else, so I forked over the €5 and took home a project. I sewed on a bit of fabric I brought just in case, and I am glad I did. Pairing them with my favorite denim, this fit felt like a bubblegum pop.
Pink Zara tank top from Crossroads.
Denim MNGjeans vest from Willa (you killed it <3).
Pink Kapalua Jeans Pants from Second Round, another Munich thrift shop.