How to find hip creative stylish types in small conservative town
August 15, 2011 3:10 PM   Subscribe

Need to be around hip, creative, stylish people as SAHM in small conservative town

I am a 52 year old SAHM living in a small conservative town (35,000 people). I have been fortunate to be able to stay home and raise my 22 year old (who now lives away from home) my 19 year old (away at college) and my 15 year old who is still at home. I have enjoyed being the home manager for the last 22 years. In fact I am a homebody and love keeping my home nice. I love having fresh flowers in my home and really like keeping my 1920s home organized and neat. ( I am telling you that fact because I don't know if a career outside the home is the answer but I am open to it)

Here is my question. When I happen to see people who dress stylishly it REALLY stimulates my creativity. And the problem is that in this small town, those type of people are few and far between. I know that you might say that is totally shallow and that I should not be looking for people who "look" a certain way but I am just saying I get BIG TIME creative juice when I see these hip-type, stylish/"with-it people.

How can I be around this type person more often in my daily life or at least see more hip fashionable people?

Wow as I write out this question it really is hard to describe well enough for you to understand but for example I was in a resort town for vacation and saw cool dressers and got so many ideas to incorporate in my daily life/fashion.

I know I can read blogs on fashion online but somehow it is just not the same as seeing cool people in real life.

Maybe I am just a big city girl living in a small town and for now that won't change because my husbands job is here.

Any help or suggestions?
posted by seekingsimplicity to Grab Bag (28 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If well-dressed people are not accessible where you live, you have no alternative but to go to them. I guess you could check out towns within commuting distance and see what activities or jobs are available that might be right for you.
posted by tel3path at 3:13 PM on August 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

SAHM = Stay-at-home-Mom for anyone like me who was wondering
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:16 PM on August 15, 2011

Response by poster: thanks dr jimmy!
posted by seekingsimplicity at 3:17 PM on August 15, 2011

Do you live in an area that attracts tourists, or are you near a major interstate? If so, go on and offer up your couch to traveling students and backpackers from other countries, you'll see a lot of amazing style for sure (as well as a lot of students wearing the clothes they've been camping in all week, too.)
posted by Ashley801 at 3:24 PM on August 15, 2011

Is there a school in your town? Any kind of youth scene at all? How close is the nearest city?

I think it might be a great idea to have a "day out"–like, you go to Big City once a week or a couple times a month to hang out, recharge, and get inspired, if that's what inspires you. Maybe you find a volunteer opportunity that doesn't require a huge time commitment if you feel like you need a reason.
posted by peachfuzz at 3:25 PM on August 15, 2011

Response by poster: A city of about 200,000 is 2 hours away and a resort town is 1.5 hours away. I like the idea of a day out to those neighboring places for some people watching and stimuli.
posted by seekingsimplicity at 3:27 PM on August 15, 2011

Does your small town have any vintage clothing stores, or thrift shops, or funky shops where stylish people will go to find stylish things for their stylish lives? Is there a university? Any design businesses? Any restaurants "foodies" would frequent that you might find mentioned in reviews on forums like Chowhound, where passers-through might make note and visit? I would treat those places like a hunter treats a salt lick. I love a challenge - if you me mail me three towns, (not telling me which is yours to protect your privacy), I will do my best research to figure out where the fashionistas would get their fixes.
posted by peagood at 3:28 PM on August 15, 2011

Response by poster: there is a community college in our small town.
posted by seekingsimplicity at 3:28 PM on August 15, 2011

Response by poster: oooh peagood you are so helpful!
posted by seekingsimplicity at 3:29 PM on August 15, 2011

I'm in your demographic, age-wise, and I wonder if you're just craving youth more than hip, etc. ( Living in LA and working in media, I don't care if I see hip and stylish ever again, but YMMV.) Rather than just gawk at people or window shop, maybe you should volunteer or get a part-time job or take a class with those people who fit the criteria you seek. It's really hard to feel tied into popular, present day culture if you're not interacting with it. (And I don't mean you need to study up on the Kardashians.)
posted by Ideefixe at 3:39 PM on August 15, 2011

How about

1. Organize a fashion show. If that doesn't sound like it would fly, then try "re-branding it" as a "demo" or something.

2. Make or find a social event that has a dress code. Perhaps even an implied dress expectation, such as city hall or a church.
posted by markhu at 3:40 PM on August 15, 2011

Thirty five THOUSAND people? Honey, I don't whether to laugh or cry.*


1. Go to the big town pretty regular. For me, that is day trips to the Big City every few months. For you, it might be hitting the resort town once a month.

2. Find the places where your hip people hang out. I guarantee you, any town of (I'M NOT LAUGHING AT YOU, I'M LAUGHING WITH YOU) 35,000 has at least 27 or 28 hip people and they have to hang out somewhere. Because of your demographic, you have probably been hanging out at your kid's basketball games and church for like ten years. THAT IS A COMPLETELY VALID WAY TO LIVE (and THANK YOU for doing the work of raising up a new generation of excellent children), but it does tend to give one mom hair. Your town has at least one art gallery and at least one hipster coffee shop. Those are your new hangouts. Take a book. Look at the hipsters. Ask them where they shop and where else they like to hang out. Go to those other places.

3. Make your own place for hip people to hang out. I am not at this point in my life, but it sounds like you are about to enter a period in your life that practically screams, "Time to found a boutique jewelry store/school, gourmet cupcake cafe, or artist studio space/avant-garde indie movie theater." If you build it, they will come. I expect to see you in the NYT Style section NO LATER THAN April 2012.

3a. BE your own fabulousness. Do not be afraid to rock an asymmetrical hair cut (are they still doing that in big towns? WHO CARES, everyone in my town still has that Victoria Beckham bob from four years ago, so you will be rocking the new hotness) and skinny jeans (see previous parenthetical) and whatever other hip thing inspires you on others. It will attract other hip-looking people to you like little mis-matched converse one-star wearing moths, and then you all can inspire each other's creativity in a nice sexy feedback loop.

Resort town is 1.5 hours away? There's a decent-sized city a two-hour drive in the car from you? Baby. Honey-bun. My delicious sweetness. I routinely drive that far just to go ROLLER-SKATING. Stretch your wings, my little hipster mama! You can do it! You can do it!

*Snarl lives in a town a tenth of that size, AND I ROCK IT, Y'ALL.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 3:41 PM on August 15, 2011 [48 favorites]

As a 10 year old girl growing up in a town of 3,200 people *mumble*mumble* years ago, I got my fashion fix watching the runway shows from Madrid on PBS. Also, I had a 'fashion designer' kid my aunt got me for Christmas one year. It was basically a stencil with models in different poses and a couple of rub-on texture pattern things. Get yourself a sketchbook and sit at the park or the square and watch people. In a town that size there is bound to be at least one block downtown with a few law offices and government buildings or a theater. If you're looking for more 'artsy' go to a bar and see a band. (And, yes, after 22 years of being a SAHM you probably just need any kind of stimulation. I know my Mom has found herself in the same boat now that my little sister is out of the house. ) Another idea might be to go on home tours. I know that in our area the people buying and fixing up historic houses or loft apartments are the trendy young people.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 3:57 PM on August 15, 2011

Yelp gets occasional flak on Metafilter for the somewhat unreliable nature of its reviews, but it does tend to attract more hip reviewers than, say, Citysearch or Yahoo. Try going to Yelp; enter your town in the "Near" field, and leave the "Search for" field blank. That'll bring up anything in your town with a lot of reviews ... it might clue you into the more interesting coffee shops, stores, or other locales. Good luck!
posted by lisa g at 4:09 PM on August 15, 2011

Had lulz at BostonTerrier's first and last sentences, but, the stuff about community theatre is spot on. If your community's community theatre is like my community's community theatre they will be pleased to have you even if you arrive utterly talentless; you will be taken under a wing and something you can do usefully, if not actually well, will be found for you. And there will be plenty of interesting people, of all ages, from all over the place, and there will be trips to the pub after rehearsal, and a big party at the end of it, and so on.

I am in a village of 2k and 45min (in good traffic) from a city of about a million, and regular trips to the city are a must. Soon I am packing me and my kid up to go stay in a friend's guest room for a week to go and be tourists in the city I grew up in and lived in up until four years ago -- seems very odd -- but it's important, for me, to maintain that connection to the larger world. You might consider cheapie 'vacations' where you book just two nights in a well-located hotel in a biggish city that is still within driving distance...

...blitz all the stores, and then swear off Chicos or Talbots or wherever it is your clothes come from now -- important to get rid of stodgy habits when one is feeling stodgy; if catalogues from Orvis arrive in your mailbox, you must ask Orvis to cut it out, or else you will page through and think "But that's a very pretty floral," and end up with something like you always wear.

Read the arts section of your destination city's paper, and go when something that interests you is on...

My little town is stuffed to the gills with full or part-time artists and artisans and many of them love to show you what they do; you can go on regularly scheduled studio tours, you can make an appointment to visit the local glassblower and watch him work, you can take all sorts of little classes. Some of this will be people painting flowers on flowerpots and they will have bought their wardrobes from Orvis; this is fine, but, keep hunting, as you will find the big-city ex-pats doing their creative whatnot.
posted by kmennie at 4:15 PM on August 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Going to third the part about community theater. On weekends I'm in a rural county of about 35,000. I'm no fashionista but the far-right tilt of the county had me hating life for 12 years. Earlier this year I got involved in community theater and for me it was, where have you [creative, musical, artistic, liberal] people been all my life?! Note: some are into fashion, some not.
posted by apartment dweller at 4:57 PM on August 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Fourth-ing community theater. The most interesting people in my life have been either going into theater, working actively in theater, or veterans of theater. There's something about it that brings together slightly-kooky, amazingly talented people.

Also probably wouldn't hurt to see what's going on in the art department in your local community college -- even if the students aren't particularly amazing, the faculty probably knows/works with/is one-and-the-same as the local art community. I imagine it works the same way for english/creative writing, but I don't have as direct experience there.
posted by Alterscape at 5:27 PM on August 15, 2011

Go to Etsy and browse via their "shop local" filter. You may find people making cool stuff at home. Buy from them, befriend them, collaborate, etc.!
posted by xo at 5:51 PM on August 15, 2011

Find a Panera Bread. Go there. It's where the hipsters and upwardly mobile stylish people in my small city hang out.
posted by katyggls at 5:52 PM on August 15, 2011

Have you considered moving? Not necessarily to an urban centre but to another small place that fits your needs better. In Canada there are a number of examples of small artistic communities which are full of "hipsters" and are smaller than 30 000 people. Nelson BC is a great example of how a town of 10 000 people can provide more than enough style and conscience for anyone.

In the US Louisville CO seems to be the small town Mecca for hipsters at the moment. As a SAHM, with older kids, who is looking for inspiration, perhaps finding another small town that has the flavour you desire is worth it.
posted by YukonQuirm at 6:21 PM on August 15, 2011

You sound a bit like my mom. She also was finding herself inspired by seeing random things here and there. She started taking beginners watercolor classes a decade ago (in her early 50s or so) and it turns out she is extremely talented, has found a new creative outlet, and has met a group of creative people around her age in her small town. Consider looking into art classes.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 6:29 PM on August 15, 2011

Find the craft shops. They get all kinds--grandmas, people who like to cross-stitch teddy bears, and Etsy types. Also, this doesn't exactly answer your question, but even the unhip can be inspiring if you talk to them--just listening to any creative person talk about their art can be really fascinating and unlock ideas.

This is nutty, but reality TV shows that show people doing what they do well or how to do what they do well--i.e., So You Think You Can Dance, Project Runway, What Not To Wear--can give you some sparks. I am a writer and have gotten great inspiration for my craft by watching Actor's Studio--it's a different medium, but listening to the shop talk about creating character and story really helps me with my own work.

Also, fashion magazines! The good ones: Lucky, Nylon, Marie Claire, Vogue, Vanity Fair.

Also, if fashion intrigues you, take a sewing class. Even if it is taught by Great Aunt Myrtle. You'll learn how to make things for yourself and your house. And there are probably some good sewing magazines out there too that you'll be introduced to.

Of course, none of this will replace fashion in the wild. Maybe look around at the vintage stores, for sure, but also the bike shops, the coffee shops, the art supply stores. And definitely take day trips to your nearby big city, and take a camera.
posted by thinkingwoman at 7:11 PM on August 15, 2011

This may go without saying, but youtube is an insane resource for visual stimulation. You could look for runway shows or just individual people showing off their outfits.

If you make an account there, it's very easy to save videos to a playlist, so you could kep track of things that particularly inspire you.
posted by jessicapierce at 8:47 PM on August 15, 2011

There's a community college, there's a decent chance there are art openings. The art scene is a good chance for people getting fancy, though perhaps more along boho lines than sophisticated chic, but it all depends on the scene. Soliciting donations can get fancy, so volunteering might lead you to dressier scenes for fundraising events.
posted by nanojath at 9:24 PM on August 15, 2011

Oh, and become a member of one of the hepper museums in the big city and get invited to openings and so forth.
posted by nanojath at 9:29 PM on August 15, 2011

I have been thinking more about this question, and I like it. I admire you for thinking about this crossroads in your life- you sense that your well-spent time as a full-time mama is coming to a close, you've identified things that you enjoy (keeping house, style) and things that you want more of (fashion, creativity). You want a plan for how to bring more of these things into your life, more interests to explore. I want to give you a little bit of a different answer, now that I have given you my off-the-cuff funny girl answer.

I think you should start a blog.

Mmmm-hmmm. You should start a blog.

I think you should blog about home decor, your 1920s home that you have restored and taken beautiful care of, your garden if you have one, how to choose fresh flowers that complement your paint colors- plus the outfit you're wearing today, the awesome bracelet your hair dresser wears, the fancy dinner you threw for your husband and youngest son who still lives at home where you tried three new recipes and you all dressed up to look like extras in Mad Men. Read the local paper's community calendar and go to any event that looks even remotely interesting, to any tour of anything you could be interested in for even fifteen minutes, stop at every attraction your city's Chamber of Commerce promotes. Blog about all of it.

Buy a nice camera, and take pictures of everything. Take pictures, take pictures, take pictures. Use your real name, and call your blog something like "Living Well in LITTLE TOWN" so it shows up on google for people who search "hip LITTLE TOWN" and "dining room furniture in LITTLE TOWN" and "fun stuff to do in LITTLE TOWN."

Get some business cards made, the most beautiful, lovely, stylish ones you can find, with your blog's URL on it. Hand it out everywhere.

Have a regular street fashion feature. Ask well-dressed strangers if you can feature them in your blog. Give them your card.

Here's a stylish, small-town blog I love: I think your blog could be like that, but even more local and wonderful.

I think, underneath your question, you are looking for something to ground this next phase of your life, something that honors the life that you've lived for the past 22 years while still giving you room to grow. So I think you should use your voice to make the community you want to find. I think you should blog.

I can't wait to read it.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 9:57 PM on August 15, 2011 [4 favorites]

I don't know if this is right for your town, but I got involved with organising a street festival in my part of the city. It had its first run last November and it was pretty good for a first go. I'm like you - proud of my home, like organising things, funky-fying spaces, have a flexible home/work life, like my community, gravitate towards arty people and making my own stuff. In the course of organising the street festival, I met so many hip people with amazing skills. eg We had a bunch of women knitting for months to create permanent street art; amateur photographers with killer skills plastering entire back alley walls with their art; street interactive art installations, local politicians and interest groups etc. I am now much more in touch with what's going on, and even though where I live is renowned for being Dullsville, I've discovered people like me who want to contribute to a vibrant, extensive artistic life in our city. And I am now invited to more events, or invited to participate in community things.

Maybe you could do what I did a few years ago: you could offer to do shop window styling/installations for local businesses. Choose a smaller, independent places and do it for free. You can research great ideas online, start sketching up some ideas, and start executing them. If you take pride in the presentation of your home, I bet you have all kinds of 'props' you can use for styling. And styling takes you to so many interesting parts of your town. I am good friends with salvage yards, thrift shops, kerbside trash, garage sales as I hunt for styling effects.
posted by honey-barbara at 10:56 PM on August 15, 2011

Like others have said, cultivate a collection of artistic wearables as a "signature". Maybe it's brooches or scarves or shoes or socks. Maybe it's a theme, like a color or a subject. Wear unusual pieces that will spark conversation. If you want to attract creativity, you have to express it yourself.

You might also try picking up Bust magazine.
posted by griselda at 10:11 AM on August 16, 2011

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