Question: What’s the secret to not making an LA fashion faux pas?
Answer: Wear as little as possible so you never get it wrong.
Booze: There’s a vodka bottle called Skinny Cow in the freezer – taunting me.
Cigs: Someone got arrested for smoking 20,000 feet from Santa Monica.
Diet: Garlic fluff. Feeling anti-social.
Exercise: Getting my sleeping nine-year old out the back of the car and into bed.
Quote: ‘Girls do not dress for boys. They dress for themselves and of course each other. If girls dressed for boys, they’d just walk around naked at all times.’ Betsey Johnson.
My last three years in LA have been full of fashion faux pas and, like parking violations, you get metaphorically fined by the city.
Going out in red Moonboots in the rain or sea mist (usually matched with mini skirt) has caused much hilarity. My early propensity for short-shorts generated outrage on the school run, where I was told that I ran the risk of alienating the other mothers.
And then there are the pieces that apparently scream cool, which no one ever blinked over in Blighty. The Paul’s Boutique mod-coat that New Yorkers stop to talk about with Beastie Boy longing. My fluffy jackets are cause for comment, as is anything else I own that resembles a nylon gorilla suit. And people always want to discuss the Mou Antelopes. My interlocutors nod along with me as I explain that fur insulates in the winter, but leaves room to breathe in 80 degrees.
My biggest debacle was dressing up for the film premiere of Wolfman - my friend-date in his M&S sharp suit and me in a full-length satin sheath. On the red carpet we were horrified to find that everyone, bar the actual stars of the film, wore jeans. We looked like the great pretenders (Hugh Jackman said as much). It went some way to teaching me that in LA it’s all about dressing down.
Aside from the staggering art of the less is less (these are the Saturday night Sunset Strip girls in their heels and spandex ‘dresses’ that extend from melons to minge), women in LA seem to get their clothes out of the wash-basket and accessorize with a good bag and shoes.
The point being that ostentation is inherent, not obvious. If you are in the know you’ll see the status signifiers, though I’m usually oblivious to these semiotics – the Cathy Waterman necklace, the Thomas Wylde bag, the Brian Atwood flats. Bar these, however, the uniform is consistent – tops are floppy, jeans are skinny (because everybody is thin), hair is long and just-washed-wet and there’s little-to-no make up apart from a sheen of Crème de la Mer. Oh, and it’s identical pre-8am except everyone is in black yoga togs with a Naffachinos in one hand and a rolled up mat in the other.
Obviously there are women who break the mould and gals from Venice and Silverlake raise the bar with thrift shop finds. We meet in Wasteland, Hidden Treasures and Goodwill and nod acknowledgement, like a team going into an NA meeting. It is hard and far too noticeable if you want to be a creative dresser here.
Men have their own codes too. The most disturbing male trend is the weekend cyclist. These guys look like walking condoms in top-to-toe latex. Oh Jesus, and men in Ralphs, shopping in five-toe shoes. That’s wretched. Every homme aside from these two categories is working very hard not to make an effort.
Surfers, (which kinda goes without saying), wear nothing but olive oil. Directors are usually identifiable by baseball caps, a hoody (with their latest movie blazened on the back), white socks pulled up to mid-calf and bad trainers. The male off-duty summer look is baggy shorts, sandals and a T. And cool dudes (AKA actors, young directors) are white guys dressing like black guys, with jeans round their mid-thighs and multi-coloured basketball boots. You long for clones of Stacee Jaxx to saunter the sidewalk – just to break the homogeny.
Having ruminated somewhat, I think the answer to ‘what to wear’ is ‘not to care.’ I always loved that my friend Pip would come to dinner in London in 50s tulle skirts with 6-inch stilettos and red lips and that one Valentine’s Day my friend Janet and I were barefoot in ball gowns by the fire, eating lobster and chocolate and drinking champagne. I think I even went to Glyndebourne in a wedding dress. It all comes down to whether you use your clothes as a form of personal expression. If not, then I suggest the answer is to wear as little as possible at all times – so you never get it wrong.
Read Lorien’s previous posts here.