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By Sasha Fastovskiy
Right about this time last year, I was packing my bags for a three-month school-work-play excursion to the sunnier, happier coast. This wasn’t simply a vacation I was embarking on, this was a journey during which I might have become one with the Bleached and Bodacious People from the flat, celeb-laden land. But even before I Miley-ed it up and hopped off the plane at LAX with a dream and a cardigan, I had to stop and assess what the phrase “California style” really means. I, for one, loudly proclaim my love for our coast’s tailoring, constantly evolving fads, and seasonal clothing shake-ups, so forgoing all that for a Los Angeles Covergirl look was a difficult mindset to get into, to say the least. Therefore, I packed every fiber of clothing that I could rationalize as bicoastal and multipurpose and hoped that my well-trained fashion eye could observe and absorb the styles of the elusive bohemian natives into some kind of East-meets-West hybrid super-blend that I could call my own.
Almost a year later and a really bad hair dye job behind me, I believe I can say that I successfully navigated the Pacific modes while incorporating most of my own shmatas. For those who also aim to be fashion bi-coastals, here is a concise list of differences to keep in mind when heading to that other side of the country or when attempting to bringing a little Cali-couture to your own closet.
East: In a place like New York, different areas define style and the rest of the world comes to associate a particular look with a particular place. Hamptons White Party, Park Avenue Princess, and ghetto-inspired Bronx wear are all neighborhood-specific.
West: The phrase “California girl” alone conjures up images of long blonde hair, cut off shorts, tanned skin, and an overflowing bikini top. Brands like Abercrombie, Bongo, and Billabong capitalized on selling that image, as did Katy Perry (kudos for staying true to your brunette roots, though, Katy!) and, years ago, Ms. Christie Brinkley.
Weathering the Elements
East: We have four seasons, two of which we can count on to be quite brutal. However, changing of seasons calls for changing of clothes and ushering in new trends and the ever-so-East Coast tradition of layering. Women wear dresses in the summer, pair them with cardigans for fall, then with tights, boots, and various coats (because those of us in the East know when to wear our parkas versus our pea coats) in winter.
West: Eternal sunshine of the spotless tans. The temps usually hover in the 70s, so clothes are designed to be light, soft, and breathable. The tanned and toned show off all their whatevers, and so the whole CA-style is born from the beachwear-to-outwear phenomenon (whereas East Coast style’s philosophy is usually workwear to playwear). This doesn’t mean the Golden Coast doesn’t at least try other seasons: LA folk still try cop the winter-wonderland trend around Christmas-time, when store windows hawk heavy knits and winter
gear for no reason at all.
East: Both coasts peddle attitude in their clothes. Some hot-to-trot production titles to keep you inspired: Gossip Girl, Devil Wears Prada, that Sarah Jessica Parker series…
West: 90210, Clueless, Pretty Woman, and of course, Legally Blonde.
East: To sum up: bitchy-chic, stuffy, preppy. More in-depth; structured, directional, haute couture. It’s the home of New York Fashion Week and New York itself spawns some of the world’s best designers, trend spotters, and DIY mania. And BLACK. Lots and lots of black.
West: Beachy-chic, laid back, breezy, boho, cool and colorful. It may be the home of Rodeo Drive, but the majority of CA-ians stick to couture that’s more flirty than it is bank-busting. They’re also much, much happier there, so less black.
East: If we’re talking about real high end style, then the real thinspirations are models and magazines. For the rest of us, however, the East Coast’s fish bowl effect and constant presence of people on the sidewalks, trains, and long lines at Dunkin’s (They don’t have those in L.A, F.Y.I) provide plenty of ideas for copy-cat couture.
West: Celebrities are the biggest marketing and publicity machine on that side of the country. When Nicole Richie wears feathers in her hair, you want to start, too. And with any luck, you’re female.
It’s All in the Details
East: We like bling and statement pieces: chains, pins, doorknocker earrings, eclecticism.
West: They like conversation pieces, hippie influences, and glitter.
When mastering the art of double-coasting clothes, the best bet might really be to stick to what you know, and then add some flair inspired by your surroundings. In a world where New Yorkers will fight/die/starve for fashion and Los Angelenos will tan/whiten/enhance for fashion, finding a good balance, dressing for your own body, and maybe cracking open an US Weekly or Vogue (depending on your coast) are just the ticket. When it comes to overpacking, though, you’re on your own.