Hot and Sticky, New Yorkers Shun Heavy Clothing!

Editors love weather stories — easy to do, and always a trusty fallback when news is slow. But they’re difficult to write well, and more often than not do little more than fill space.

The New York Times’ Thursday Styles section proved that point today with a piece giving disgruntled voice to those deprived New Yorkers who, God forbid, have been prevented by unusually hot September temperatures from showing off their fall fashion purchases. One such fed-up fashionista is philanthropist Gillian Miniter, described as “suffering from a reverse form of seasonal affective disorder,” who can’t wait to throw on “‘an entire closet of sweaters and wool.’” As the Times elaborates:

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.

Ah, the horror, the horror of a life where even though “the last of the rosÚs have left the table, and Starbucks is offering lattes spiced with pumpkin flavoring … it just doesn’t feel like fall”! How to cope? Over the course of 900 words and two-thirds of a broadsheet page, the Times attempts to sketch out an answer.

Marisa Medina, 21, the only other interviewee who really fits the Times’ thesis, confesses stupidity for wearing a cardigan and knee-high boots Tuesday, foiled by the afternoon heat. But much of the rest of the piece is generalization and conjecture. “[T]here is some concern among retailers that a prolonged Indian summer will threaten the sales of basics like coats and sweaters during September,” the Times reports, before inexplicably rejecting its own premise: “Anecdotally, there does not appear to be as much concern [among retailers] about the weather as there is about the psychological consequences on shoppers of two devastating hurricanes in the month.”

There you have it: the true victims of Katrina and Rita.

Us, the weather news that we’re more interested in is a story on the front page of the Times reporting that the Arctic Ocean ice cap shrank this summer to its smallest size in at least a century of record-keeping. About 500,000 square miles of ice disappeared — an area twice the size of Texas. That’s going to lead to increases in ambient air temperatures and a rise in sea levels. Now there’s a trend that could change styles forever.

Edward Colby

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Edward B. Colby was a writer at CJR Daily.