This Boston girl got a hard lesson in Alaska fashion soon after stepping off the plane on a very cold, dark day in December 1999.
I looked on in amazement as I slipped on the ice in the Anchorage airport parking lot, became airborne and landed with a thud.
Lesson learned: This is Alaska. Don't wear dresses or skirts. High-heeled pumps are dangerous.
Today, this 55-year-old woman who once used laser-like vision to scan the discounted clothes at Nordstrom's Rack and Filene's Basement for designer collection suits and silk shirts to match with blue jeans for her signature casual chic look is wearing the uniform of the professional Alaskan: black fleece jacket, T-shirt, mail order black knit pants and black leather clogs.
I am not alone. I passed a woman this morning in the hallway wearing a similar black fleece jacket. Yesterday, I laughed when I saw two women still wearing their black down jackets. It's nearly June.
Voters in an unscientific online poll for Travel and Leisure Magazine this week named Anchorage residents as the worst-dressed in the nation.
When I see Alaskans step out of their vehicles in January wearing flip-flops, shorts and T-shirts when it's below zero, I also have to smile.
I am not fooled by the guys and gals who show up at the convenience store in my rural community north of Anchorage wearing flannel pajama bottoms with bright, cheerful patterns. I know those are not "flannel pants" still being worn well after noontime on a weekend.
The rule here? Wear whatever you want in public, which usually is the thing you're already wearing.
When I was a big city girl, I was a very good discount clothes shopper. When I was at the top of my game hunting for bargains, my friends would marvel at how I could walk the department store aisles at a clip, suddenly skidding to a stop as something finely-made and marked down 70 percent or more caught my eye.
I still have the designer collection suits, the silk shirts, the tooled leather pumps, pushed into a dusty corner of my closet. I can't bear to give away my Liz Claibornes, my Jones Collection suits. Maybe, just maybe someday I will need them again.
For now, I am a frumpy Alaskan. That means I have gone "camo." For you city slickers, that is short for camouflage.
My hall closet is filled with camo. I've got camo jackets, a camo rain suit, camo hunting blinds, camo three-legged stools for sitting in the duck blind. I've got camo ball caps, fleece hats, dog kennel covers, knee-high rubber boots, shotgun cases and two plastic buckets for carrying hunting gear that have spinning tops to get off a quick shot.
I remember when I first arrived in Alaska seeing whole families dressed in camo and thinking, "Why would anyone in their right mind dress like that?"
Now, I understand. When I want to class up my look, I throw on a scarf.
By MARY PEMBERTON