Cloaked in tall Douglas firs and constant drizzle for most of the year, the Pacific Northwest really blooms in the long summer (usually from June into late September). Now is the best time to advantage of its bustling eco-minded cities like Portland and Seattle, not to mention the glorious hiking trails that criss-cross the region across the Cascade mountains the Olympic National Park, one of the few temperate rainforests in the US. In terms of style, think chic-meets-practical (and waterproof), and don't scoff at a few pieces of outdoor gear (fleece, Goretex, wind repellent). Instead, balance them out with a casual retro touch.
For the Ladies
Sure there's still a bit of the grunge scene to this pocket of the US, but local fashion has softened up some. Vintage pieces are popular but more of the quirky, feminine sort; imagine, if you will, that you are an extra on Portlandia or that you've taken some style tips from the current queen of quirk Zooey Deschanel.
Start with a sweet shirt-dress in a retro floral print ($52.99 at ModCloth.com). The '50s style is complemented by practical flatforms ($128)–all the easier for pedaling on your eco-conscious bike around town. For a fun take, choose a style with either texture or color. Raffia or jute details both add a nice summery touch. With the variable weather the region, bring along a layer or two, such as this vintage French military jacket ($59). The slim shape means you won't look too tomboy but it'll also toughen up some of the sweeter vintage printed frocks. To top it off, go for bolder accessories and look for slicker finishes like enamel or smooth cabochons, like the eye-catching turquoise ones set in this Ann Taylor statement necklace ($98).
Out of the city, hit the trails with a few key pieces. In activewear go for bright colors – think how nicely it'll contrast with all that green–such as this jazzy fuchsia North Face rain jacket ($99). No need to go overly sporty. Layer the jacket over an unexpected patterned top like this polka dot one by Lululemon ($42). Lastly, convertible trail pants, such as this olive Columbia pair with zip-off legs ($65) are wonderfully convenient for changes in altitude or temperature.
For the Gentlemen
Guys have it easy in the PNW, as the style is literally all about ease. Plaid is always in, rendered here in a green and beige button-down shirt by Steven Alan ($178). The slimmed-down style keeps the look from coming off sloppy. Utility being the name of the game, go for clean, dark denim on bottom or a trusty cargo short like this American Eagle design ($39.50). For a touch of color, bring along a cozy hoodie. Uniqlo makes the classic weekend piece ($29.90) in a range of colors like this true red.
For activities, like world-class mountain-biking, moisture-wicking materials are a smart move. You wouldn't know from the stylized looks of it, but this Icebreaker tee is made of lightweight merino wool and is both odor-resistant and moisture-wicking. If you're not quite a specialist yet and don't want to splurge on biking shoes or other niche gear, then wet-dry hiking shoes are a good buy. Merrell makes some of the best ones (this one in granite and vibrant orange goes for $100 a pair) with airy drainage (for crossing babbling brooks of course) but enough protection for your feet. And don't forget the details, like hardy outdoor socks ($16.90 by SmartWool) or a convenient hydration pack ($89 for this style by Camelbak). They'll make a big difference a few hours into the trail.
What to Do
Depending on where you focus your time–Portland or Seattle being the main centers—there's a variety of options. Portland is known for its myriad of inner-city bike trails that make touring the city better atop a saddle seat. The Portland city website has an impressively organized trail map with bike/walk itineraries like riding along the Springwater Corridor in the SouthEast part of the metropolis.
Seattle is hillier, but for a thrilling experience, try mountain biking at nearby Tiger Mountain. There are different levels including some steep down-hills so take care to find the trail that fits your experience. The Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance is a good first stop for info.
The hiking, meanwhile, is nothing short of breathtaking. For strange and wild terrain, check out the Olympic National Park. On the West side there are the hanging curtains of moss at the aptly named Hall of Moss in the Hoh Rain Forest section. In the North Cascades of Washington State, there is Heather Lake, a great day hike from the Seattle area with old growth forests, babbling brooks and blooming wildflowers. Further South in Oregon, head to the coast for some scenic views via trails like the easy, breezy Cape Lookout.
Indoors, both Portland and Seattle have vibrant food and drink scenes. Clyde Common on SW Stark Street is reliable for a bustling scene of hip thirty-somethings. Off-peak imbibers—there are some great cocktails including the hilariously titled Heavy Petting, containing Monopolowa vodka, grapefruit juice, quinine syrup and lemon peel– will also find a generous happy hour menu from 3-6 p.m. or 11 p.m. to close. Also be sure to check out the food carts scattered about town. Nong's Khao Man Gai is deservedly popular for its Southeast Asian fare, with three locations including the recently opened spot on SE Ankeny Street.
Ballard, a former blue-collar area of northern Seattle, is booming with hip places like The Walrus and the Carpenter, boasting a wonderful selection of raw oysters. For shopping, stroll down Ballard Avenue for vintage or vintage-looking duds at boutiques like Horseshoe. Or snag a pair of well-made sandals at Re-Soul, just right down the street.
Photo credits: Women: Top left, ModCloth.com; Bottom left, Anthropologie; Top center left, Ann Taylor; Top center right, Columbia Sportswear Company; Bottom center, lululemon athletic; Top right, UrbanOutfitters.com; Bottom right, The North Face; Men: Top left, Icebreaker; Bottom left, American Eagle Outfitters; Top center, SmartWool; Bottom center, Eastern Mountain Sports ; Top right, UNIQLO CO.; Middle right, Steven Alan Holdings, LLC.; Bottom right, Merrell