The invitation reads Durango formal. But what does that mean in the Least Fashion Conscious Town in America, as Durango was once dubbed by a national publication?
Is it a clean pair of jeans or a tuxedo? A tie bolo or silk or T-shirt? Clean athletic shoes or high heels?
Everyone interprets it differently, and locals have agreed to live and let live.
Im in a sports coat and tie, and Jims in a shirt and blue jeans, Bill Carver said recently at the Durango Discovery Museums March Exhibit Benefit, which was billed as Durango formal. And hes my brother.
That fluid dress code was evidentthroughout, although the women tended to be more fashionably dressed than the men.
I kind of forgot how to tie a tie, local real estate agent Todd Sieger said, wearing the only suit he owns, which he bought to dine at the captains table on a cruise with his wifes family.
He only breaks it out for the Coldwell Banker Christmas party, said his wife, Kati, who was dressed in heels and a cocktail dress. There was so much dust on his tie he had to wash it before he could put it on.
Attire at the event varied from tuxedos to jeans, with men wearing jackets or vests. Women generally sported some bling, cocktail wear and heels.
To tie or not to tie
Attorney Bobbie Duthie said his work wardrobe has varied in his 30 years of practicing law.
Now I only wear a suit when Im in district or federal court, he said. Ties and shirts are more than just what the public expects, they show my respect and love for the court system. Judges do the same thing, and its nice.
But Duthie is more likely to wear a sports jacket and possibly a bolo tie rather than a necktie in county or municipal court.
I went through a period when I wore Hawaiian shirts and jeans when I wasnt seeing clients or in court, he said. Now I wear a nice shirt and nice jeans or slacks, and 90 percent of the time, I wear ties or bolos.
Another profession that generally calls for a suit out in the broader world is banking.
First National Bank of Durango Chairman of the Board Steve Short said bankers dress code has become more casual in his almost three decades in the business here. First, it was always a suit, but bankers could take off their jackets to work at their desks. Then it was OK to go out to grab lunch without the jacket, and finally things relaxed to the point that sports jackets were all right. Now Short usually wears a tie and sports jacket at public functions and a suit at formal meetings.
The female fashion scene
Susan Ayres Davies has had a front-row seat at Durangos evolving fashion scene because her family sold many of those clothes at its Graden Mercantile. She has trunks of clothes in her family home dating back to the founding of Durango, when women here wore what women in Europe and across America were wearing long dresses and skirts, lacy shawls, gloves and hats.
Looking back, she tried to figure out when Durango went more casual than the world around it.
Maybe during the war (World War II), she said. Things got a lot more casual. I grew up in sweater sets and skirts but without gloves and hats.
But it was in the 1960s when there was a distinct dividing line, Davies said.
There were those who wore what they felt like, and those who worked in fashion or followed fashion, dressed in fashion, she said. Durango just kind of folded in on itself and said what the heck?
Durangos outdoor lifestyle and role as a tourist destination probably has a lot to do with it.
Durango dresses like tourists, Davies said. I dont think (my husband) Leonards mom ever wore a pair of pants. Now, theyre kind of like a uniform. I dont want to wear a dress without hose, and I dont want to wear hose.
When in Rome
Being too dressed up makes people notice.
Most of the people who have moved here have gotten rid of their suits because they dont need them in the local business environment, Duthie said. You stand out in a different way if youre overdressed.
But trying too hard to dress like a Durango native can go wrong, too, Davies said.
Youre from New York and dont know what youre doing wearing the drugstore cowboy look, she said. Thankfully, thats almost gone.
Duthie, Davies and other Durango residents did agree that locals seem to be dressing up more recently.
Its fashion, not as fashion magazines do it, but as Durango does it, Davies said. I saw a young woman in high heels and a tight dress walking down Main the other day. She looked so good, I had to stop and tell her.
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