New Orleans was quaint, friendly, hot, and did I mention hot? (It was in the 90s every day.) Thankfully, we stayed in the French Quarter, which is pretty much the hip location to be, but we also spent time seeing the devastation from Katrina, the beautiful and scenic Oak Alley Plantation, an alligator-infested swamp tour (my husband's favorite), the City of the Dead (the cemeteries were quite regal), and plenty of museums (the Wax Museum, the Voodoo Museum, the World War II museum, the Arsenal). And, of course, we did plenty of hard-core eating (I think I gained five pounds that week alone!). Galatoire's, Brennan's, Cafe du Monde, Bourbon House, Johnny's Po-Boy's (the best deal in town!)...New Orleans know how to eat!!
Now for the really important item: the STYLE. I've narrowed it down to categories, based on my observations:
1. J. Crew Meets the Windsors: These are the upper-crust of New Orleans, who live mainly in the Garden District. Men wear suits, boys wear polos and khakis, and women and girls wear pretty sundresses.
2. Middle-Class Standard: Like many New Yorkers, New Orleans men and women who work in the Financial District or high-end hotels dress predictably: men in suits, women in a short-sleeved blouse and pencil skirt.
3. Tourists: Always in shorts, tee-shirts, and sandals. Camera and map in tow.
4. Grunge/alternative: Tattoos, dreadlocks, dirty bodies. Usually relaxing on the ground, and always white.
As The Unofficial Guide to New Orleans stated, "Self-respecting New Orleans dress, tourists don't."
Shopping in New Orleans was a bit of a challenge, and I think it reflected the dress here. Although I did not go to the Riverwalk Mall (where there is a Saks and your Banana Republic, Gap, etc.), I did not see a single high-end store; only one boutique in the French Quarter sold designer duds at a discounted price (Miu Miu's for $100!). Mostly the stores in the French Quarter varied from touristy junk (Mardi Gras beads, preserved alligator heads, masks, obnoxious tee shirts) to high-end antiques/art/jewelry on Royal Street. Small boutiques carried inexpensive but cute clothes, cheap plastic and rhinestone jewelry, and knock-off bags. Designer duds were not a priority in this town.
Obviously, living in New York has skewed my fashion perspective somewhat. Most people care about looking decent, not wearing designer clothing. The priority in New Orleans is living well, not dressing well by runway standards.