"Hey, buddy, where'd you get that tie? You're a fashion victim," shouted the man in the guerrilla garb, flipping a toy pistol out of his shirt. "Bang. Bang," he giggled.
"Hey lady, you look like you're for sale."
"Can't you turn down that polo shirt collar or is it sewn to your neck? Bang. Bang."
Three self-proclaimed "fashion terrorists" took over Pershing Park at lunchtime yesterday. Dressed in camouflage chic, they startled the business and tourist crowd with brazen and occasionally funny barbs about the plethora of polyester pants, mousey-blue and mousey-gray or mousey-brown shirts and pants, white belts, status logos and other atrocities.
"Washington is one of the more poorly dressed cities I've been in," said Comrade Sine Qua Non, Chief, Sartorial Committee, North Vietnam, organizer of the Sartorial Liberation Army (SLA) as he called it. In his civilian life he is Tony Safford, a film exhibit specialist with the American Film Institute who got the idea for the event while crossing the city in a taxi. Toronto gets Safford's nod as the most fashionably dressed city, followed by New York.
"Washington should know better. It is a major cosmopolitan center and should be more attuned to fashion than it is," said Safford, suggesting that the problem starts with its fate as a government city. "It's bureaucratic, and bureaucrats are dull dressers." And it is a city that attracts tourists, "who are the worst dressers in the world."
Yesterday's display was a substitute for the usual Pershing Park Tuesday lunchtime fare of jugglers and magicians, according to Emily Kane, special events coordinator of the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corp., which organizes the park's schedule. In honor of yesterday's program, she had punked the front of her hair. "It's my anti-executive look," she laughed.
Neither tourists nor bureaucrats appeared terrorized by the trio; rather, they seemed to be bemused. Joining Safford were Washington Times film critic Scott Sublett and playwright Bill Triplett. The fourth "terrorist," Ida Eustace, an actress, either got tied up in traffic or forgot to show, according to Triplett.
"Are you from California or do you just dress that way?" one of the "terrorists" chided two neatly dressed tourists from Florida.
Then they turned their attention to Marcia Zalbowitz, an audio-visual specialist at the Martin Luther King Library.
"Wearing your mother's glasses?" asked a "terrorist." "Where'd you get that belt?" queried another. "A hand-me-down?"
But in this instance the "victim" took the microphone to talk back. Zalbowitz, who was fittingly attired in a red T-shirt, pleated white skirt and red flats, took their barbs good-naturedly and finally countered, "Aren't those mousey-brown socks you're wearing?" They were.