I have never been much of a fashionista. My style — during those moments when I can claim to have any — is simultaneously classic and offbeat and sometimes the punk rock still peeks out a little bit.
Other than a stint in late middle school where I attempted to wear the right brands to fit in, clothing has never been a core value of mine. Because it wasn’t a core value, I haven’t ever really allocated a lot of money towards it. I was hitting the thrift shops when we all thought real estate only went up. I would patch my own jeans and upcycle the heck out of what I had.
I also went to a high school that was ridiculously moneyed. My parents made a lot of sacrifices so we could live in the right neighborhood to go to the right schools, and it served us well. Even during the hardest times in my life economically, I’ve been grateful that I grew up in the cultural norms of the upper middle class. If I was a fish, these norms were my water.
I didn’t always like them. And I in no way think they’re superior. But because I was acculturated to them, I’ve been able to use them in situations where I need to earn money, many of which are annoyingly still dominated by the cultural norms of the upper middle class.
That’s how I found myself at Saks Fifth Avenue.
When I was a junior in high school, one of my friends came home to visit from college. I was trying to remember if I skipped school to hang out with him the day this story happened, but I can’t remember. We’re going to go with, “It was a Saturday.”
We went to the mall and grabbed some eats from this amazing Japanese place we always frequented together. He had to run some errands afterwards, including picking something up at Saks Fifth Avenue.
I rolled my eyes, but said I’d come along. He picked up a shirt. He knew right where it was.
Even back then, I was anthropologically interested in everything. I had never seen an old storefront like this in real life. Downtown. Fancy. Built to not only sell ritzy clothes, but make you feel like you yourself were ritzy once you were inside. To make you feel special. Worthy.
I wasn’t falling for it, but I was amazed by it.
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Post is in the works, but the other night I had the chance to preview the progress behind @pittsburghmagazine ‘s #UltimateHouse2020 ! I liked what I saw. Stay tuned for a photo tour, to learn what stood here before it was an urban highrise, and for a discussion of Pittsburgh’s housing market in its downtown neighborhoods. . . You can see the #UltimateHouse yourself when it’s finished and open for tours Feb 21 thru March 1 of this year! Located in the Lumiere by @millcraft , all tour proceeds will benefit @childrenspgh Foundation, which provides free health care to families. ❤ . . #realestate #pittsburgh #pittsburghmagazine #urbanphotography #urbanliving #downtownpittsburgh #dahntahn #millcraft #childrenshospital #childrenshospitalofpittsburgh #healthcare #charity #architecture #lumiere #pgh #daburgh #412 #724 #homeownership #hometour #highrise #penthouse #hardhat #hardhatlife #yinz #yinzernation #pittsburghrealestate #dogparkontheroof
That Marc Jacobs sweater, tho.
At least, I wasn’t falling for it until my friend showed me the clearance rack.
Yeah, he knew me well.
He cheered me on as I found good deal after good deal. That’s something I’ve always been good at. I’ve never been particularly prone to peer pressure, but that day, with him oohing an ahhing over all the steals I was finding, I decided to bring home a trophy.
I brought home a Marc Jacobs sweater and a Juicy Couture miniskirt. There was a tank top to wear under the sweater in there, too, but I don’t remember the brand. It was all under $90.
For those brands, it really was a steal.
I still felt like an idiot when I got home. Mad at my friend for cheering me on. Frustrated with myself for caving to the magic of the store’s presentation and giving in to his encouragement.
Something funny happened when I wore that outfit to school. A ton of people gave me compliments. I remember thinking it was really, really weird that they could know the brand of my clothes when zero branding was showing.
I also remember thinking it was really, really weird but also completely predictable that the people coming up to me showering me with compliments were people I had come to know as jerks and bullies.
You could be in the right crew with that sweater, tho.
You’ll have that.
Grabbing drinks at Saks.
Recently, I found myself back in that same location. Saks Fifth Avenue is no longer downtown. There’s a Saks off Fifth up in the North Hills because after the housing bubble burst even the moneyed picked up the hobby of finding a good deal, but the location I was standing in was no longer an old-time-y department store. It was now a fancy Brazilian Steakhouse called Fogo de Chao. I was sitting at one of the most expansively stocked bars I had ever seen with hints of glimmering gold jumping out of the decor, catching my eye with every last turn of my head.
I was there for a happy hour. I had been invited to tour Pittsburgh Magazine’s Ultimate House. After a drink and some appetizers, we headed next door to the Lumiere.
The Ultimate House
For the past several years, Pittsburgh Magazine has been sponsoring the Ultimate House. They work together with local companies like PPG Paints to create a beautiful model home somewhere in the city. Then, they open the Ultimate House up for tours, with tour proceeds supporting a local cause.
This year, next door to Fogo de Chao, we headed up to the eighth floor of the Lumiere to tour this year’s house: A penthouse by Millcraft.
It’s still heavily under construction, but it’s already gorgeous. The open-concept living space between kitchen and living room is massive not only in its indoor capacities, but also in its flow into the outdoors, which includes two balconies running the length of the apartment on either side of the building. Head outdoors for fantastic views, or open the windows up to convert your apartment into an indoor/outdoor space.
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These (15) people are standing in…a closet! *screaming in a good way* • Want to see what’s inside our 5th annual #UltimateHouse – the $2.65 million @lumierecondos Downtown? We’re opening the doors starting Feb. 21, and 100% of all tour tickets go to the Free Care Fund at @childrenspgh. Get more info on our 5th annual Ultimate House @ the link in bio, plus check our stories for more behind the scenes pics from our first invite-only sneak preview tour. Thanks to everyone who was able to make it out tonight! #pmultimate #givetochildrens
There were more bathrooms than bedrooms, each thoughtfully and carefully decorated with beautiful tile and the best paint PPG can offer. The closests could legitimately be bedrooms in and of themselves.
Then you head up to the top floor where there’s a beautiful, open-air balcony, giving you views of the iconic skyline from within the skyline itself. It’s not something we get to see often in Pittsburgh as our downtown area is not packed thick with residences. Also on the roof is an open-air dog park so you don’t have to worry about navigating the city streets with Spot if you don’t want to.
The penthouse is perhaps unsurprisingly expensive. But if you’re moving to Pittsburgh and are looking for inner-city living, there are smaller units on higher floors which have comparatively affordable pricetags. These apartments are more expensive than what you can find in other city neighborhoods, but there are some advantages to living downtown.
This neighborhood is probably best for young professionals moving to Pittsburgh from another metro. You don’t have a car, and don’t want one. I mean, if you do, there’s residential parking available. But Pittsburgh’s public transport is nothing to write home about. Downtown is the neighborhood it serves best.
Downtown is also where a lot of white collar jobs are, so if you have the income to support the real estate purchase, you’ll likely have a short commute. The Lumiere is walking distance to the Cultural District, where — among other shows — Pittsburgh gets the most Broadway shows on Earth outside of NYC. It’s also walking distance to Point State Park and both of the inclines on Mt. Washington.
Take a tour. Help pay kids’ medical bills.
The folks at Millcraft have put a lot of thought into their project, including the 2020 Ultimate House. The finished product is going to be amazing, and it’s also going to be open to the public. Tours start on February 21 and run through March 1. Tickets are shockingly affordable, making this a great, under $30 date night or a fun event to participate in with your teens who may be interested in architecture, interior design, real estate or future employment with nonprofits.
Tickets are $20/each, unless you buy a bundle package which gives you admission for two people for a whopping total of $25. On Wednesday, February 26, there will be a Dine & Design event. Tickets to this event are $35/each, but you get more than just a tour:
Visit Pittsburgh Magazine’s Ultimate House on Wednesday, February 26 for an evening of Dine & Design. Enjoy a night out complete with complimentary cocktails, lite bites and access to the 5th Annual Ultimate House for just $35 (Ages 21+).
The proceeds from the event and the tours will benefit the Free Care Fund at UPMC Children’s Hospital. This fund is something all hospitals claiming to be nonprofits are legally required to provide under the ACA. The money goes towards forgiving or paying off the medical bills of families who prove they cannot afford care.
See more photos of the Ultimate House by following on Instagram.