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007: Airport Style
One thing I most look forward to when traveling, other than the thrill of experiencing a new place or returning to one that mimics the warmth of home, is airport style: the style, the attitude, the flair one brings to ports of entry and arrival, the thing that makes harrowing security checks and having to sit in a stiff upright position for eight hours more bearable. Airport style to me – and this is my opinion of all styles – is a reflection of being excited for LIFE, no matter how many times one has lived before. Airport style is what keeps alive the wonderment of air travel, a privilege often taken for granted, something so awesome that I will never be able to fully fathom in its entirety, existing in a liminal space between fantasy and reality.
Airport style is in my DNA, which is a pompous statement to make but it's true! My aunt has a small collection of photographs of my grandparents from the late 50s and 60s, soon after they'd been married and migrated to London from the small district they'd been born and raised in in Bangladesh. In one black and white photo, they've just received my grandmother's youngest brother from the airport, right off of a flight from Dhaka. In it, he is dressed in a suit so sharp and tie so slim, the sweep of a pompadour that would make Hedi Slimane buckle. A decade later, when my grandparents would return to Bangladesh with their young family, my mother's baby brother was dressed in a miniature suit so smart, the flight attendants invited him and my grandparents to meet with the pilot, or so the legend goes. This is what I mean by "airport style is in my DNA": it's been cultivated in my family for three generations, though I suspect that when my great grandfather arrived in England by ship with absolutely nothing but the hope of survival, he too was wearing a freshly cut suit.
A story about airport style gone wrong: a few years ago, my grandfather fell extremely ill, and within a few short months he passed away in the fall. A day after he'd been put on life support, I made the decision to go see him in Dhaka and booked a flight for the next day. I was a complete wreck, swollen and exhausted from crying and having to reckon with the fact that soon I would be losing this beautiful light who deserved everything and more, from whom I'd inherited the gene of dreaming. I arrived at JFK unable to think straight and I'd packed only one pair of shoes that were highly impractical for the occasion – black silk Oscar de la Renta slippers decorated with intricate white embroidery, shoes I haven't been able to wear since. I wore the only jeans I had, a soft and worn light-wash pair, with a heather gray sweatshirt and a white t-shirt under. I landed in Dhaka at dawn and my mother had come to receive me, and even through her grief, the look that woman gave me upon scanning and assessing my outfit turned my blood ice cold! Ice cold in the humid heat of September! Last year, when my husband and I left for our honeymoon, my parents insisted they drop us off at the airport. I wore a baby-blue top with a slight puff at the sleeves, black trousers, and bubble-gum pink thrifted Chanel ballet flats with black cap toes. It irritated my mother that I'd neglected accessories, but on the whole she approved. My blood did not run cold.
Airport style does not scream but instead confidently announces, "I've arrived." Some time ago I traveled to Formentera, a beautiful and tiny Balearic island in the Mediterranean sea, making hectic connections in Madrid and Ibiza. Flow had come to town, but when it comes to style, compromises cannot be made. I had just thrifted a pair of delectable burgundy 'ugly' ballet pumps adorned with great big gold charms from Céline, and they had to be worn. How else would I subtly suggest to strangers I was from New York? I wore cream wide-legged trousers, neutral layers on top and toted a Granny Smith-green Ferragamo top-handle bag I'd scored at a consignment store. I looked mad, but delightfully so. By the time we reached Ibiza, I was ripe from the September heat (September is evidently a time to travel; my husband and I also left for our honeymoon in September) and the duration of travel. I'd packed a spare outfit in my bag as one must always accommodate for the climate at their destination, a gauzy pink linen dress by Eka and gold-trimmed PVC sandals by Maryam Nassir Zadeh, and switched into it in a bathroom stall. What other reason could airport bathrooms possibly exist for?
When dressing for the airport and the journey, part of my ensemble reflects where I have been while the other signals where I am going to. At the end of June this year (not September) I was returning to New York from Milan. I wore a pair of white cropped trousers – and I know this may seem impractical but I am seasoned in the art of impracticality – I'd bought from a store in Sicily in the midst of a heatwave and which was printed with all kinds of silliness: green alligator-esque monsters, palm trees, hands with faces on them, a true child's delight. The trousers were paired with soft golden furlane slippers I'd bought in Milan, tipped off by my ever chic friend Diana. Up top I wore a solid black t-shirt and flung and re-flung and flung once more a cream cardigan over my shoulders, and carried a too-ladylike black handbag. While the elements below announced that I had strolled the streets of Milan and snacked on cassatas the size of my palm in the bright sunshine, above she was someone who could soon rightfully call herself a New Yorker. And the essence of it all, of my airport style, is, "I'm a lady and I'm also completely nuts."