For my first Barn Raiser’s Ball here on the Vineyard, I took the “ball” to heart. I walked into the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Hall carrying my dessert contribution to the potluck wearing a red tutu-like skirt, a black lace long-sleeve top, a heavy silver belt and red cowboy boots. I was met with a sea of flannel, Muck boots, clogs, a range of denim and Carhartts. The tunes of Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish seemed to dim as heads turned and I thought — what have I gotten myself into now?
“I remember that outfit,” a friend of mine said to me recently. We had just begun getting to know each other. It was our first winter on the Island and a mutual friend had introduced us. “I thought, wow, that is my new friend,” she continued. “She sure is independent, but more power to her.”
I grew up in New York city and moving to the country was going to take some adjusting. A summer kid my entire life, I was used to dressing salty after a long day working on the farm or rolling off the beach. But now I was making a life for myself here and felt the need to fit in while maintaining my sense of self.
From the Barn Raiser’s Ball to grocery shopping at Cronig’s in the dead of winter, one thing quickly became clear, Vineyard style is all-encompassing. Three years in and I haven’t caved on buying a pair of Muck boots yet, though I do own a pair of John Deere winter boots. They’re purple and have a cowboy boot look about them.
Living on an Island means you have to be resourceful when it comes to fashion. For some that means a weekly trip to the Chicken Alley thrift store or Martha’s Closet, perhaps even a run to the Dumptique at the West Tisbury landfill. For others it means monitoring online sales. This summer I watched a coveted pair of red platform shoes drop in sales price online until I pounced on the lowest price. I needed them for my July 4 outfit (blue polka dot dress, red bandana). They were perfect. I’ve worn them twice, once on July 4 and once to an art gallery opening. I’m looking for my next excuse.
It’s difficult to find an outlet for playing dress up here. One year for my birthday I hosted a “fancy” dinner party. I dressed to the nines, some put on their dress boots, others showed up in oversized sweaters and Bogs. We were a collage of Vineyard looks.
If living on the Vineyard has taught me anything it’s that the Island allows you to be whoever you need to be. Whether that’s through writing, music, carpentry, teaching or fashion, the Island gives you room to explore your interests and be supported by a group of passionate people. It allows you to do you, red shoes and all.
As I shrugged off the funny looks that night at the Barn Raiser’s Ball, I stomped my cowboy boots with friends old and new. I twirled in my skirt and felt at home.