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Many years ago when I moved to Stanford University to marry my husband, a philosophy professor already entrenched on campus for twenty-eight years, I was stunned by the absence of two things: a near total lack of sartorial elegance and the collapse of social politesse. It appeared to me that these academics actually thought they were above these mundane things. I had been living in New York and soaking up the culture of style and fashion. Coming to Stanford was such a shock that sometimes I did not utter a word at parties and dinners. What passed for many a woman’s dinner ensemble might have been a Mu Mu type gown, paired with pumps and formal jewelry. In case you don’t know what a Mu Mu is, allow me to give you a description I retrieved over the Internet: Mu Mus are great for wearing around the house while cooking, cleaning, or just lying around. Also, great covers for swimsuits. Made from 50/50 poly-cotton print. Three necklines are available: round, square and v-neck. Short sleeve only. Made in USA! Sizes 2XL and 3XL. Now if these academic wives had been sweethearts to me, I wouldn’t be writing this. But these Mu Mu ladies were bitches, reveling in their lack of style by taunting me publicly and gossiping privately. How dare I enter their little world with my clothes and my youth (I was 25) my attitudes (“all about fashion”) and my reasonable social skills? I was only out of their focus the year “Virginia” (not her real name) came to visit Stanford with her psychologist “fiancé” and proceeded to break up three marriages! Even though “Virginia” was clearly after my husband as well, I had to like her, because she asked my advice on where to find a wedding gown in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Too bad she had those problems---we might otherwise have become great friends.

One by one, these sad ladies --ridden with anger and loathing that they had given their lives to their husband’s career while they got fat under their Mu Mus-- retired to rest homes or died. Two of them who were about ten years older than me, and in some ways the meanest of the lot, have since apologized for their behavior, which made me realize I had not been dreaming this up in some paranoid delusion all these years.

And what about the men? “The professors” were the men in my early days on campus. “I’m afraid the Sixties hit some of these guys pretty hard,” my husband explained. Rarely did I see a tie on most of these fellows. Almost never did I see a sport coat. These professors never had to embrace “casual Friday” because every day was casual for them. Groovy guys during the Swinging Sixites, they were now sagging ex-hippies as we entered the Ego Eighties. In all fairness to both the campus men and women, they didn’t go for the banal “Dress for Success” look that their students had begun to affect. Why should they? It would have been a drain on their precious energy.

But what did some of this precious energy produce? The PC and the Internet, for starters. Perhaps with a little LSD and a lot of pot mixed in, the High Tech revolution began right at Stanford University. So maybe clothes were low on their list of priorities. Some of this changed when the money started rolling in and all the now nouveau riche from around the world, who had come to cash in and cash out, started spending on clothes like crazy.

It’s quieter now on campus. The really old faculty members and wives I first encountered are largely gone, the old hippies who made money haven’t changed they way they dress, and the young faculty members look surprisingly stylish. About a year ago, my husband (who has his suits tailored on Savile Row, his shoes and shirts privately made and his ties, by Hermes, in neat rolls in a dozen drawers) said the loveliest thing to me: “When I brought you here, I realize now I was bringing you to Mars.”

Yes, it has been life on Mars, but on Mars I learned that fashion and the Internet are compatible. And I learned to be tough and not compromise the things I love in order to live among the Martians. In fact it is probably life on Mars that encouraged me to dedicate myself to fashion and start an Internet fashion magazine. So really, life on Mars has not been half bad.

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