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KIDS are back in school, the last of the rosés have left the table, and Starbucks is offering lattes spiced with pumpkin flavoring, but for much of the Northeast, it just doesn’t feel like fall.
“I’m totally sick of it,” said Gillian Miniter, a New York philanthropist who is representative of a class of fashion followers who have become trained to execute their fall shopping plans during the warmest months of the year, in July and August, when the best selection of designer merchandise first arrives at retail.
“I’ve heard this is the hottest September since they’ve been keeping track, and I have an entire closet of sweaters and wool ready to go,” said Mrs. Miniter, who is suffering from a reverse form of seasonal affective disorder.
A long spell of painfully humid days after Labor Day caused even fashion’s most dedicated followers, the editors, retailers and socialites who attended Fashion Week early this month, to forgo the unveiling of their new fall wardrobes. Mrs. Miniter and other shoppers are cursing the continuing sunny weather simply because they are bored with the same clothes they have been wearing all summer.
“I bought some beautiful gold pieces embroidered with stones from Carolina Herrera and a brown Oscar de la Renta sweater with tiger’s eye,” Mrs. Miniter said. “I’d feel silly wearing them right now.”
For many New Yorkers, whose coats, scarves and sweaters remain firmly encased in mothballs, the annual ritual of turning over their closets is a pleasure or chore that seems to come later and later each year. As of Tuesday, September’s average temperature in Central Park was 74.5 degrees, which is 6.4 degrees above the norm, according to the National Weather Service. If that average holds through tomorrow, it will best the current record average of 73.5 set in the park in 1961.
And when the heat finally broke, as it did Tuesday, there was no easy way to be seasonally appropriate, because cool mornings gave way to afternoons that felt like July.
“I feel stupid now,” said Marisa Medina, 21, who arrived for her job at an accounting firm in Manhattan Tuesday wearing a short black skirt, a cardigan sweater and knee high boots, a decision she quickly regretted. “It was chilly this morning but now I’m too hot,” she said.
Rebecca Gurian, 26, from Brooklyn, who works as a digital technician in the photo district, wore a lightweight autumnal orange sweater over a long jersey skirt with matching sandals and earrings, a more appropriate outfit that looked as if she had been waiting for months to wear it.
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“Actually, I bought almost everything I’m wearing yesterday at Loehmann’s,” she said.
For many, the autumnal equinox last Thursday did not mark the end of summer, as seersucker, pastel polo shirts, exposed midriffs and flip flops continue to clog the downtown shopping districts, which were dotted by the occasional shrug or jacket this week. There was also a black silk and cashmere shawl from Herms, worn by the evening wear designer Pamela Dennis, who was shopping on West 14th Street on Tuesday afternoon. But that was for more practical reasons than keeping warm.
“I’m wearing low rise jeans and when I sit down, I don’t want anyone seeing my tush hanging out,” she said.
While there is some concern among retailers that a prolonged Indian summer will threaten the sales of basics like coats and sweaters during September, whether it will have a noticeable impact on national sales will not be clear until stores report their monthly sales beginning next week.
Anecdotally, there does not appear to be as much concern about the weather as there is about the psychological consequences on shoppers of two devastating hurricanes in the month.
“Our customers for the most part buy fashion when it gets on the floor,” said Dawn Brown, a spokeswoman for Barneys New York, who cited a long, skinny Balenciaga coat trimmed with fur and metal buckles as among the most hotly pursued.
For national department store chains, however, unseasonable weather is commonly cited as a factor when sales do not meet projections, which is what happened in September 1997 after weather disruptions from El Nio led to a warmer fall for much of the West. This year August sales were below expectations for mainstream retailers nationally, a trend that was largely attributed to the heat, although luxury stores like Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom all continued to post gains of 5 percent to 8 percent for the month.
“We’ve all changed the way we shop,” said Sylwia Rakowska, a 31 year old makeup artist, who was wearing a short sleeve lace blouse and shorts on Tuesday. “I’ve already bought a lot of turtleneck sweaters at Intermix, because if you wait much longer, it will be too late. All the sizes will be gone.”
Renata Roberts, from Melbourne, Australia, was similarly attired in black walking shorts and a black blazer, with a $2 strand of pearls, as she walked through the meatpacking district on a series of job interviews. The rest of her outfit was pieced together from inexpensive thrift store finds, with one exception: a new pair of Sergio Rossi heels she bought in Milan.
“It’s important to do a lot of layering at this time of year,” she said. “But the secret to staying comfortable is very expensive, well balanced shoes.”