Thursday, March 7, 2013

Spring Fever for the Rich: Gardening to Impress the Neighbors

This isn’t what I was going to write about today but I just could not resist.  An article by Anne Marie Chaker in today’s Wall Street Journal (+WSJ) called “On the Path of Garden-Chic Style” left me speechless.  According to this piece, weekend gardeners are adopting high-end, English-made, luxury brand-name outfits to pull out weeds and prune the shrubs.  High-end, of course, means high-priced and the prices are outrageous:
What’s the reason for this spring fashion fling?  Is it to impress the chipmunks or charm the slugs?  To make the plants grow faster or the flowers more beautiful?  No, it’s three reasons, really.

Duchess of Cambridge
Will & Catherine
One is Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, our latest fashion trend-setter, “who is often photographed wearing sporty vests and horsy boots.”  She's actually allergic to horses but was trying to learn to ride, pre-baby bump.  

Another is the Downton Abbey influence.  Danny Hulse, general manager of Dubarry's U.S. division, opines that, "Everybody's secret wish is to transport themselves to a more romantic era and have Mr. Darcy call them while they're picking the flowers." Well, gee whiz.  Like Mr. Darcy ever got those buckskin breeches dirty or lifted his hand to do anything more strenuous than sipping a glass of sherry.

Mr. Darcy, Pride and Prejudice
Mr. Darcy
Third, your neighbors can see you while you’re gardening.  What?  You have neighbors close enough to see you working outdoors?  If so, you need a bigger estate.  Get this: One woman, “. . . says she looks forward to Saturday mornings, when she often spends hours clipping boxwood hedges in the formal, three-tiered garden in front of her home. She wears a starched, white button-down shirt (untucked, collar popped) over slim Ralph Lauren khakis tucked into lace-up Wellingtons from Danish designer Ilse Jacobsen. She accessorizes with earrings, pearls and makeup. People can see you while you work in your garden, Ms. Mayton points out. ‘You don't want to be in your pajamas.’”

Back when I had an acre of land with multiple perennial borders, a woodland garden and the shore of a pond to maintain, it would not have occurred to me to garden in my pajamas—not sturdy enough—but but I didn’t wear pearls and makeup, either.  My neighbors drove by and walked over all the time and I never felt the need to impress them with my $1000+ gardening wardrobe. Nor did I imagine they would think less of me for it.  Wrong neighborhood, I guess

My secret wish?  That was to have a full-time gardener who would come tromping up and do the heavy, dirty work.  I can guarantee you that he would not have been wearing $500 wellies and riding breeches, even in my best dream.  Now that I have a downsized estate to take care of, I still plan to wear “ratty jeans,” with paint stains, and a trade-show tee shirt, the one that says, “Finding your faults, just like Mom.”

This article is yet another demonstration of how the 1% spends their money and it’s breathtaking in its arrogance.  As one of their fashion mavens says, “"Why can't it be fun? It's another excuse to fill my wardrobe."  Actually, it’s just another excuse to spend a quantity of money that would support some families for a month because you don’t have to ever think about making ends meet or worry about paying the mortgage or wonder if you’ll ever get another job. 

The Borg Collective
Borg Fashion
Am I jealous?  Who wouldn’t be?  Everyone wants to be so rich you never have to think about money.  Somehow, though, I think that even if I did have that much disposable income, I wouldn’t spend it to join the 1% Borg Collective and look like every other woman who ends up at the Post Office or having coffee in her designer gardening clothes.  With no dirt stains on the knees, of course. I’m just comfortable in jeans and a tee shirt.


  1. Hi Aline,

    Mostly I agree with you, however I wanted to comment on your depiction of the 1%.

    Yes they spend money and what they use for chump change could fund quite a few college scholarships, but there is also another face of the 1% that the media so conveniently forgets about - the ones on the left - yes, I am talking to you Al Gore (how much has he made on global warming?? and selling Current to Al Jezzera??) and John Kerry (worth 193 million in his disclosures for Sec. of State,) and others. Their motto, "make sure that you cut down your driving, keep your thermostats low, reduce your carbon footprint etc." That is good for you, but I'll build my multiple acre estate or fly in my private jet, or cruise in my yacht, etc -- all symbols of the 1% lifestyle. The hypocrisy is appalling.

    A good deal of the 1% you portray contribute vast sums to charity -- to yes, I know - help to decrease their taxes but to also improve the lot of fellow citizens. If they want to spend their money that way - so be it - at least they are not preaching to us all the time and doing just the opposite.

  2. John Kerry made his money the old fashioned way -- he married it.

  3. Ouch! My clothes are practical for the barn and yard work I do and, lucky enough to receive beautiful scarves as gifts (because I always wear scarves), I often wear them for the purpose of staying warm. It doesn't matter who makes them or from where they come, Hermes or Walmart. That I look nice at the same time is a pleasant dividend. My clothes get plenty dirty and the nice thing about my Dubarry boots is I've had them for six years, can spray them off with the hose in the wash stall, slap on some saddle soap after every use and they'll last at least another six years. It's so easy to criticize people for things you perceive to be true about them. Where I live, people were dressing like this long before the Duchess of Cambridge was born or Downton Abbey was aired. It's not about impressing, it's about utility. Don't begrudge how I spend my hard earned money and don't be so malicious in general. It doesn't become you.
    Sincerely yours from Unionville, PA