Ethnographic Research in Hoboken & Manhatten

When I was walking to work, I was completed stopped, dead in my tracks, when I saw some silver disco heels. It turns out, a customer going into Anthropologie, in Hoboken, was flattered by my obsession to the shoes and allowed me to ask her some questions. Maggie, a 21-year-old student from Stevens Institute of Technology and currently residing in Manhattan, has a mixture of both city attires. Here is how our conversation went about her style. This is her below (her face is hidden for privacy):

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I started with the shoes, of course. She explained that she always wears black, so she likes to add color/sparkle to her outfit with accessories. She bought the shoes on Washington Street in Hoboken during a clearance sale at a shoe store. She said it was the best price, and people usually stop her on the street to comment about it. She usually wears them to go out. When I asked about to describe her style in three words, she just laughed and gave me one word: simple. Maggie said she usually wears flats in the summer and black or brown boots in the winter. Occasionally, like the shoes she had on that night, she dresses up more when she is going out. It is usually a dress or skirt with tights that is her go-to outfit.

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I wanted to know about dress codes. She wanted to keep her job anonymous for privacy but says she works in retail. She said she is asked to dress business casual which means no blue jeans, but also not exactly a suit. She was so open and friendly, so I asked if living in Manhattan makes her feel any pressure to style or dress herself a certain way. She answered immediately: yes! She said that everyone dresses so fashionably. She even knows a girl at work who was featured in Cosmopolitan magazine for her work dress style. She stated that she wants to dress in the newest fashion, but comfort is also important since she must walk from city to city every day. What I found the most interesting is that she commented how her work clothes and her “going-out” clothes over-lap sometimes. She says some of her dresses, which are mostly black, can be used for both occasions which is nice for saving money. As a student, I could relate to her shopping needs in wanting to have a versatile wardrobe.

When it comes to shopping habits, in my next form of questions, I asked about colors she liked. Maggie likes darker colors because she can wear them together without thinking too much. She surprisingly owns mostly red clothes, so she says it must be her favorite color. When it comes to shopping, Manhattan has everything available for her to buy clothes at a reasonable cost. She likes Express and H&M. She has bought from places like Banana Republic and JCrew, but it can be expensive, she said. It’s hard to stand out, she explained, because Manhattan has so many people who can afford more than she can. Again, I understand the struggle to buy street-wear, but still have money for important things in life like rent, tuition, etc.

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Since I take so long to plan my outfits, I asked her if she does any planning or if she just throws an outfit together in no time at all. She said she plans outfits too by saying she tries different outfits before she leaves the house. She says a challenge in the city is staying warm and looking nice (when referring to the winter season). She dresses for her girlfriends because she wants them to think she looks nice. My favorite part of our conversation is when she said: “I think getting a compliment from a girlfriend that they like your outfit is better than a guy saying you look hot or something”. It made me laugh and feel like she was empowered in who she is. Also, she tends to shop alone or shop online a lot after a long day. People, and tourists, in stores can be too much sometimes. To end, I asked her again if she would add any words to my previous question about describing her style in three words. Looking at her glitter heals, she added “fun” and I couldn’t agree more.

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