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Friday September 20, 2002, 05:23

Autumn has finally descended on this city, and I have finally had the opportunity to see what it is that this entails. More psychological than anything else, London is usually bathed in the light of a sunless day, the omnipresent clouds hovering overhead leaving the people in this city without shadows. The next time the sun is hidden from you, when the sky is pure white, look down and notice that you might as well not exist for all the proof that lands on the sidewalk beside you.

But what does it mean, exactly, this change of season? Here, in the absence of Labor Day, there are very few rules about wearing white trousers, but it seems that, overnight, the city has taken to wearing warmer coats. Up until a week ago, there was still the hope that summer would re-emerge for one triumphant hurrah before heading away for the duration of the winter months. This dream proved to be well within the realm of fantasy and into storage went the linen pants and tank tops, replaced now with knee-length coats and light sweaters. The sweaters will give way to something my mother might describe as "practical" in a couple of months, but for now I am thankful for the re-emergence of style and the quelling of midriff baring anythings.

The problem with summer styles is that the vast majority of the people who employ them are under the impression that the fact that the sun could emerge at any moment, bathing the world in glorious, life-giving warmth, does not guarantee said emergence nor does it give the right to wear clothing that would otherwise be deemed too declasse for even the most seasoned street walker (with no offense meant, of course, to those who make their livings walking on streets). The moment the calendar deems that we are living in what should be called "summer," despite contradictions from the sky up above, the navel comes out in full-force. I know that I am harping on a seemingly innocuous body-part, one that is, in certain circumstances, welcomed with glee, but walking down the street and seeing a stomach flaunted so proudly as to proclaim "I can hold seven pints and a cone of crisps" is far too much for my delicate fashion sensibilities to bear. But who am I to say what is attractive and what is not. We are constantly reminded that over time, the differing human forms go through periods of acceptance and that, at any given moment, what is in fashion now could be cast aside for something decided to be far more appealing. But I can not accept that a torso shaped like an inner-tube should be shown to the world. The "if you've got it, flaunt it" attitude may be fine for some, but I certainly do not want to see it while enjoying a meal or a cup of coffee.

Which is why I welcome, with open arms, the arrival of the cooler months. While the physical temperature in this city has changed little, the attitude has been sufficiently dampened that more is now less and a black fitted coat and long-sleeved shirt, or even a floor-length sweater/jacket, is the accepted mode of public dress. I could say something about men's styles but choose to ignore the fashion anomalies in an otherwise conforming segment of the population. There is only so much that one can do with a pair of pants and a t-shirt (or possibly a smart button-up) while remaining relatively masculine, while the broader range of options available to women, in both casual and formal settings, means that there is plenty of more room for gross error.

The truth of the matter is that I am probably just bitter than I can not walk down the street, baring my stomach and having people stare at my plunging neckline (neither of which is a desired course of action for anyone who encounters me in the street, thank you very much) and would prefer everyone be covered up to the same extent. Be that as it may, I do welcome the autumn, in all of its earthy colors, and can only hope for more brisk, dark days1.



1. This bit is actually more fiction than fact. The truth is that the calm that comes over a place in the absence of light is at the same time comforting and chilling. After days and days of the same grey, one begins to actually believe that the sun has left forever and that if the cloud-cover was ever to depart, the sky would be simply a void. Not blue with a glowing ball of flaming gas, but simply empty, with the emptiness continuing on forever and thus the greyness is desired over the unseen alternative. What this ends up doing is putting everyone in a funk where they must drink their fear of a skyless sky away, hence leading to the unfortunate choices that are made when the sun finally does make an appearance the following summer.

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