California Style Deconstructed - Add Some West Coast Vibes to Your Wardrobe
Besides my home, the Black Forrest, I have lived nowhere else longer than in Los Angeles. 12.5 years of my life I spent there, and like most people, I have a love-hate relationship with the city. I've never quite lived in a place that combines urbanness and beachvibe quite like LA, and I found that friction very inspirational and interesting.
While Los Angeles has become quite hip over the last few years, widening its scope of influence from movies and tv to art, fashion, lifestyle, and tech, for the longest time especially the Southern Cali style had a very bad reputation, being equated with slightly vulgar and sloppy. But that wasn't my experience. I met so many stylish women in the city, that dressed casual and relaxed, but definitely cool and put together. The word effortless is somewhat overused, but it fits here. In this post I'm sharing what for me are the most prevalent influences in the California style of dressing.
Obviously surfing is a huge part of LA's culture, and the surfer style is pretty much acceptable anywhere in the city. Main ingredients:
Cut-off jeans, sweatpants
Jewelry: friendship bracelets, leather bracelts, mixed with some gold or silver pieces.
Shoes: Converse, Vans, flip flops
I love Aviator Nation, they make great hoodies/sweatshirts and sweatpants. Founder Paige Mycoskie captures the vintage 70s vibe perfectly, the colors, the cuts. Paige started with handsowing her pieces and selling them at a local art fair, now she has six boutiques all over LA and has regular concerts in the backyard of her store on Abbot Kinney.
2. Evening casual
I remember a certain flowiness about LA evenings. Nothing too structured, something you can just throw on, add heels, and you're ready. I love the lose fitting styles because it allows you to be comfortable throughout the night and gives you freedom to move. Here's my list:
Tunic dresses in soft fabrics. Pick the length that works for you. Because it's a lose silhouette, it's good if the cut highlights one of the features you really like about yourself (short hemline - legs, sleeveless - arms, open back - back, wide neckline - shoulders, etc). I think solid colors make a big impact and keep it simple.
Minimal to no jewelry (or your daytime jewelry)
Shoes: sandals (heel or flat), either in black, white, or metallics
This dress is from Cerre, founded by Clayton and Flavie Webster, and the brand is currently on a break. Their collections were the epitome of easy sophistication and modern style. They were most known for their amazing leather jackets (I was able to get one on ebay after I found out that they have paused production). I received this dress from them as a good-bye gift when I moved to New York, which I was just blown away by. I've seen their brand develop from the start and it was incredible what they accomplished.
Comfort is what comes to mind first when you talk about SoCal style, and not necessarily in a good way (this has changed). But if you do it right, I think you can pull off sweatpants and still look good and put together! My list:
Sweatpants. Go for neutral colors with no print. Pick a thicker material and make sure the pants still holds its shape and has not faded. So many companies now have come out with sweatpants that are more refined and are meant to be worn outside the gym, so there are plenty of options.
Shirt: I think a shirt elevates the look more easily. A tee also works, but is more difficult to style in a way that does not scream "loungewear". If you wear a tee, maybe add a blazer to add some polish.
Shoes: flats. Heels, to me, can look a bit contrived. Depending on the occasion sandals, canvas sneakers, and even formal leather shoes can look great and add subtle sophistication.
Jewelry: Layered necklaces would be great here. I would go for more "formal" pieces (gold, silver) to counterbalance the sporty vibe.
I'm wearing here a Xirena shirt, which is one of my favorite brands. Their shirts are perfect to me, very casual, and come in a million different colors. The sweatpants were part of a collaboration between Current/Elliott and Charlotte Gainsbourg, one of my all time favorite style icons. And the sandals are from Sigerson Morrison.
I have some memories of tie-dying in elementary school, which was fun, but before I moved to LA I definitely did not associate this process with anything particularly stylish. However, in LA I found such beautiful iterations of the process, that I became a fan. Most of all Raquel Allegra is the best of them all. I love her brand. She was the first one to come out with the shredded t-shirt look, but her label has evolved so far beyond that. It's relaxed but with a sophisticated, progressive edge. Her use of color is beautiful!
To get tie-dye right I would start off with neutral colors at first, or pick a silk instead of a cotton to make sure it doesn't come off like a left-over from your elementary school experiments. If it's a t-shirt, pair it with a good pair of jeans or other more refined pants.
Another very common association when you think of California style (just add the VW Bus from the 70s and the picture is complete). This style is easier to execute in the summer. Main ingredients, even though I think everyone knows the basics about this one:
Maxi dresses with embroidery
Either wide leg denim or flared legs. Also high-waisted if that's flattering for your body type.
Cotton knit cardigans
Baja Jackets (those striped hoodies with a pouch)
This dress is from a French brand, Antik Batik. Founder Gabriella Cortese is a global nomad, learned embroidery from her Grandmother, and discovered the art of tie-dye in Bali. Her collections are always very bohemian, so it's a good resource for this look.
For the longest time I wasn't even aware that Goth has a strong foothold in Los Angeles. But once you know it, you see its influence a lot. There is a way to incorporate this style into your wardrobe even if the overall aesthetic is not your thing:
What you need is black - obviously. I think you can go either the formal way - with a great structured blazer, skinny jeans, boots, and a black blouse for example. Or retro - thinking more ruffles, airy blouses, ornamental clothes (referencing Interview with a Vampire), or casual - which is more what I did here. The slip dress has frayed edges, and the loose-cut velvet blazer and patent leather oxfords are a bit more formal but still keep it easy. The dress is from Raquel Allegra, the blazer from Xirena, and the shoes are Stefanel.
Last but not least there's vintage. I have found that there is better vintage shopping in LA than in New York. So many great pieces for better prices. Vintage shopping is of course a whole science in and of itself, so that might be a separate post someday. My favorite shop in LA (and this blazer is from there) is Scout. Owner Joey Grana has an impeccable eye. He is also co-founder of the Vintage show It's a Current Affair. It's an event where the best vintage stores from all over the country showcase their pieces, so it's definitely a great way to shop vintage. I still remember the first one, I covered it for the publication I worked back then. I knew Joey because I pulled a lot of pieces for my fashion shoots from his store, and so I was excited for him and so curious how it would turn out. Of course it became huge, now with shows in San Francisco and New York as well.
These are the designers that I talk about throughout the post:
1. Surf: Aviator Nation
2. Evening casual: Cerre
4. Tie-dye: Raquel Allegra
5. Boho: Antik Batik
Please add any designers you like in the comments, would love to check them out!