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Culture and Couture
By Trish Smith
12 October 2010

I am sitting at the feet of the statue of the playwright Henrik Ibsen in front of the Nationaltheater (National Theatre) in Oslo.  I had to write an essay on the work of Ibsen for an assignment in English in my last year of college.  I got a D.  So I am sitting here at the Nationaltheater trying to soak up some culture and atone for that terrible grade which, incidentally, was thoroughly deserved.

The residents of Oslo are going to work.  I could sit here all morning watching this magnificent fashion parade go by. 

Do Norwegians know how beautiful they are?  They are all so elegant, whether they are dressed casually or for the office.  Where do they all learn to dress like that?  Is it genetic?  I have to be careful not to stare.  And nobody looks aged; it must be the lack of sun, and maybe all the Omega 3s in the salmon.  It’s also the clothes – I just saw a woman in her 60s pass by wearing a beautifully tailored trench coat, long slim black pants, and a pair of knee-high black boots that would look just as fantastic on a woman half her age.  Not a pair of tracky-daks in sight.  I had heard that people in Europe dress beautifully and now I have seen it for myself.  And the thing that just about all the fabulously stylish people have in common is something that the stylishly-challenged can easily acquire: a scarf.

Oslo is all about the scarf.  Everyone is wearing a scarf, it doesn’t have to be any particular colour or textile or shape, but you need to have one if you want to blend in. 

So find a scarf and wrap it casually around your shoulders or just loop it a few times around your neck.  The bigger and chunkier, the better.

I’m not sure I’m getting any more cultured sitting here at Ibsen’s feet, but I am learning some really useful lessons in dressing well: tailored coats in neutral colours, slim pants or skirts with high boots, and a really great scarf.  Now if I could only make myself a little taller and skinnier and blonder...

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