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We met Nicole Pacheco training to stock the salad bar at Whole Foods. Her veggie-spattered apron and disposable gloves swore they were diligently doing their duty. But our Fashion Inspectors wondered: Was her entire uniform kosher? Was it putting in an honest day’s labor or was something fishy going on? They peeled back the layers to check.

The double-wrapped outfit is sanitarily sealed in a regulation apron, which, according to Diana de Marly’s book Working Dress, is likely the earliest article of occupational clothing. It’s been stowing seeds, gathering crops, and carting chicks, as well as shielding workers’ finer garments (the word is snipped from “naperonne,” meaning “napkin”) since about 1300. This version, classically styled in butcher’s white, still fulfills its job description, deflecting organic broccoflower and mung bean bits from Pacheco’s after-hours outfit. Paired with plastic gloves, whose see-through construction promises greengrocer and customer mutual protection, the upper crust salutes food-handling hygiene.

Underneath, the work ethic crumbles. The resourceful apron covers for proletarian jeans and flannel shirt distended to haute apathetic proportions–rapper big, gangster wide, inmate long, and shiftless. Pockets spill past the knees and cuffs drip along the floor, hobbling the black sneakers in a thick coat of denim.

Pacheco’s bleached armor doesn’t seem to fear be-grunging her Nirvanawear with salad slime as much as sullying her slacker slovenliness with industriousness. The two-tiered look: task-oriented–and removable–on top, pristinely sluggish underneath, turns the work habit inside out, guarding cartoonish manual labor garb from work itself. Her nontoxic Fashion Statement? “Out to lunch.”

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Yael Routtenberg.