How to Look Sharp in the Land of the Casual

We’ve been dismissed as a jeans-and-flip-flops town. Today we’re influencing fashion around the globe—precisely because we won’t conform. This is what L.A. style looks like now…

How To Dress in L.A. – Day
Go from work appropriate to dinner ready in seconds, know what to look for in a suit, and discover alternatives to sweats and a tee

arrow-red-left MEDIA MAVEN

A patterned frock like this one, from Alice + Olivia, transitions easily from daytime photo shoots to after-work drinks with clients. If you add a coat, it should be shorter than the dress. A clutch from Diane Von Furstenberg never goes out of style.


Alice + Olivia dress, $398. Diane Von Furstenberg envelope clutch, stylist’s own. BaubleBar pearl ear cuffs, $28. Jacquie Aiche ring, $2,365. Coordinates gold-plated bracelet, $295, and rose gold-plated bracelet, $224. Crap Eyewear sunglasses, $56. Charlotte Olympia shoes, $1,195.


MODERN MOGUL arrow-red-right

If you own only one suit in Southern California, make it gray and lightweight wool, with a slim cut and skinny lapels. Take it up a notch for an important meeting with a Paul Smith pocket square, or play it down for dinner with Ted Baker oxfords. Most important: Have it tailored.

How to Dress in L.A.

How to Dress in L.A. - Mongul

Ted Baker suit jacket, $675, suit pant, $248, shirt, $175, and shoes, $220. Ernest Alexander tie, $85, and briefcase, $1,095. Paul Smith pocket square, $95. Omega “Seamaster” watch, $6,200 at Omega Boutique, Beverly Center, Beverly Grove, 310-854-0003. 

How to Dress in L.A.

arrow-red-top SELF-STARTER

There’s no excuse for heading to the café in your pj’s. Opt for jeans that don’t sag, a button-down shirt, and desert boots—you never know whom you might see. A cross-bodied Ernest Alexander canvas messenger bag can hold laptops (and scripts).

Original Penguin shirt, $89, and shoes, $140. PRPS jeans, $245. Ernest Alexander messenger bag, $345. 

How to Dress in L.A.

arrow-red-top TECH EXEC

Kickstarter may have funded your company, but don’t let it show. When in Silicon Beach, a flowy dress and beaded sandals befit the boardroom when worn with an Ulla Johnson blazer. One statement ring will do; a portfolio telegraphs “serious” to would-be investors.

Ulla Johnson dress, $445, and blazer, $250. Minnetonka sandals, $53. Iwona Ludyga bracelet, $214. Westward Leaning sunglasses, $195. Ernest Alexander portfolio, $325. Phillips House ring, $2,200.


L.A.’s warm climate and casual vibe mean we can get away with otherwise off-limits fashion moves. But you have to know how to do them just right.


 Going sockless
→ When choosing footwear, think thin. Loafers, slim-soled derbies, and driving shoes make that flash of bare calf look fashion-forward, not “Where’s the flood?” Pant hems should hit the ankle. Any higher and you might be mistaken for a castaway.
How to Dress in L.A.Wearing a sweatshirt
→ Yo, Flashdance, drop the scissors. The fresh way to elevate an ultracasual piece is by upgrading everything else, like pairing it with a pencil skirt and heels. Roll up the sleeves to mid-forearm, add a long necklace, and you’ve gone from sorority sister to understated sexy.
Sporting a tank top
→ The straps are spaghetti, so why is the bra underneath fettuccine? Invest in a strapless style that won’t show through the fabric. Save the black lace under white cotton for your Rihanna impersonation on “Karaoke Night.”
How to Dress in L.A.Working in dungarees
→ Bad jeans are like sad stuffed animals. If they’re missing a button or too distressed, give them a shoe box burial and replace them with jeans in a dark indigo or black rinse. Go easy with the washing machine, and steer clear of the dryer (instead of dry cleaning, some premium denim brands recommend putting them in the freezer!). A leather belt adds polish.



Let these workhorses do the heavy lifting for you

A. You’ve jilted your car for a bike, but Jansport isn’t going to cut it when you walk into the office. Choose a backpack—Raines (for him), Rag & Bone (for her)—to keep your mobile desk in order.
→ Rag & Bone backpack, $795 at Rag & Bone, West Hollywood, 424-245-4816.

B. The plastic bag ban has been great for the environment and the grocery aisle. For dudes, a suede-and-leather tote by Clare Vivier is masculine and A-OK for schlepping paperwork, too.
→ Clare Vivier tote, $455.

C. Hanging from your shoulder (on the job) or resting in the crook of your arm (on a night out), a satchel like Louis Vuitton’s “SC,” designed by Sofia Coppola, is utilitarian (the strap is detachable) and au courant.
→ Louis Vuitton “SC” satchel, $3,950 (for the “BB”).

D. Leave the briefcases to mad men. A leather portfolio by Cole Haan, Kenneth Cole, or Longchamp is more relaxed yet still means business, even if your business is based in your garage.
→ Longchamp portfolio, $745, at Longchamp, South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa, 714-436-1963.


How To Dress in L.A. – Day
Disguise your workout clothes, cotton to the idea of a casual blazer, and embrace the ’70s (yet again)

How to Dress in L.A. - Yoga

arrow-red-left YOGA MORNING

Trade in the tattered shorts for “manpris”—capri-length pants like these from Nike that are tight around the calf but baggy through the hips. A muscle tee won’t slip when you’re in dolphin pose, and a Vagabond Goods yoga mat will keep you grounded in style.

How to Dress in L.A.

→ Electric and Rose tank, $65 at Equinox, West Hollywood, 310-289-1900. ASOS hoodie, $41. Nike capris, $55 at Equinox, West L.A., 310-473-1447. Tretorn sneakers, $150. Goorin Bros. beanie, $30. Vagabond Goods yoga mat, $79. Crown Sporting Goods yoga socks, $8. 


WEEKEND HIKE arrow-red-right

Reese Witherspoon wore these Danner boots in Wild, and you can be just as award-worthy on our hills. Leggings shouldn’t be neon bright—tie-dye chicory is hot (in a good way). Now that athletic wear companies like Splits 59 are making ponchos, the hoodie can stay in the trunk.

How to Dress in L.A.

How to Dress in L.A. - Mongul

→ Splits59 poncho, $130. Electric and Rose leggings, $84 at Equinox, West Hollywood, 310-289-1900. Danner boots, $310. Herschel Supply Co. backpack, $149. 


How to Dress in L.A. - Yoga

arrow-red-left DAYTIME DRINKS

Stop thinking of blazers as fancy; think of them as another layer. A cotton Penguin jacket works well with dark denim from Joe’s Jeans. Chelsea boots are more chic than kicks, and a fedora (tipped back, please) is cute without being cloying.

→ Original Penguin shirt, $79, and blazer, $225. Joe’s jeans, $169. Stetson fedora, $129. Westward Leaning sunglasses, $180. Florsheim boots, $132. 


MUSEUM SUNDAY arrow-red-left

The fringe benefits of the ’70s keep on giving: gauzy dresses with crochet accents are particularly comfy, and Minnetonka wedge shoes are flirtier than flats and don’t sink into the grass. Straw hats stave off the burn; a roomy handbag stashes the wrap.

How to Dress in L.A.

How to Dress in L.A. - Yoga

→ Splits59 poncho, $130. Electric and Rose leggings, $84 at Equinox, West Hollywood, 310-289-1900. Danner boots, $310. Herschel Supply Co. backpack, $149. 




How to Dress in L.A.Add a layer
→ The goal isn’t to be runway perfect, merely Sunday presentable. Athletic wear companies make knit wraps and roomy cardigans to drape over sports bras and spandex. Men can’t go wrong with a denim jacket. Athleta wrap, $128.
How to Dress in L.A.Lose the sneakers
→ Yoga pants are really just fancy leggings, so swap out the trainers with a pair of ankle-length booties in brown or black. Gianvito Rossi booties, $1,140. 
How to Dress in L.A.Ditch the gym bag
→ Leave the bulky, stinky duffle in your car, and tuck a few essentials in a small, fringed purse. A few dots of lip gloss, and everyone will think you woke up that way. Ecote Betttina bag, $109. 



To get ahead in style, you’ve got to start at the top

How to Dresss in L.A.

A. With streetwear trending, snapbacks, aka baseball caps, are worn almost anywhere. Save the ratty Peterbilt for the Dodger game and pick up a leather or cashmere number from Gents.
Gents hat, $74.

B. Trust us: Brad Pitt isn’t buying his beanies at CVS. DSquared2’s slouchy knit lids make you look effortlessly cool—unless you wear one in 90-degree heat, which screams, “I’m trying too hard.”
DSquared2 beanie, $295 at DSquared2, Beverly Hills, 310-888-0117.

C. Pair a floppy hat from Helen Kaminksi with a jumpsuit and platforms and you’ve got instant glamour (no matter how bad your hair looks). Plus your dermatologist will thank you. Helen Kaminski hat, $295.

D. Tired of seeing the unofficial chapeau of L.A. on the beach, at the supermarket, and by the pool? Stand out from the hatted hordes with an updated fedora from Gladys Tamez Millinery.
Gladys Tamez hat, $395.



How To Dress in L.A. – Day

Get comfortable with ankle exposure, rock a bow tie two ways, and shine on with glitter

How to Dress in L.A. - Yoga

arrow-red-left THE BIG SHOW

Be it a swanky benefit or an A-list awards ceremony, you want a hem that brushes the red carpet. Monique Lhuillier is as well known for gala gowns as she is for wedding dresses. One piece of knockout jewelry—oversize drop earrings or a diamond bracelet—will suffice; a wrap is key.

→ Monique Lhuillier dress, $6,995. Goodall Drop earrings, $32. Jill Haber “Ethan Silver Sky” clutch, $450. Jennifer Behr haircomb, $565. 


L.A. BLACK TIE arrow-red-right

Gentlemen need to don a sleek tux, even in this town; a Ferragamo jacket is foolproof. For women, a cocktail dress is acceptable attire for formal events (the more sparkle, the better—down to the heels). An updo will never let you down, nor will a graceful mi­naudière to keep small necessities close.

How to Dress in L.A.

How to Dress in L.A. - Mongul

Salvatore Ferragamo black velvet tuxedo, $3,880, bow tie, $110, and shoes, $640, at Salvatore Ferragamo, Beverly Hills, 310-273-9990. Brunello Cucinelli shirt, $875 at Brunello Cucinelli, Beverly Hills, 310-724-8118. Alice + Olivia cocktail dress, $798. Ted Baker shoes, $210 at Ted Baker, West Hollywood, 310-550-7855. Phillips House ring, $3,000. Pearl Collective cuff, $550. Judith Leiber minaudière, $2,195.


How to Dress in L.A. - Yoga

arrow-red-left COCKTAIL COOL

Theater here doesn’t need to be a suit-and-tie affair. Skip the socks and bare your ankles the next time it’s opening night at the Music Center. Try a Michael Kors denim-cotton blazer with matching trousers and a crisp shirt—and be sure your belt matches your wingtips.

Michael Kors blazer, $595, trousers, $245, shirt, $145, and belt, $148. Salvatore Ferragamo shoes, $995.


How to Dress in L.A. - Yoga

arrow-red-left CLUB DWELLING

Military green is the color du jour, and in keeping with the theme, bomber jackets have come in for a landing. Add a newsboy cap (Stetson’s are sturdy) and you’ll look sharp from the El Rey to the Echo. A linen bow tie helps you stand out on the dance floor—just wear it with confidence.

Original Penguin shirt, $89, and bow tie, $55. Lucio Castro jacket, $985 at Bloomingdale’s, Beverly Center, Beverly Grove, 310-360-2700. Stetson newsboy cap, $104. 




How do Dress in LA
All white
→ Labor Day, Schmaber Day—wearing white year-round is no longer considered gauche. But to keep from looking like a yeti, break up the monochrome with interesting jewelry and an eye-catching bag.
How do Dress in LA
Red lipstick
→ Use the technique we learned in kindergarten: Stay within the lines. Define the perimeter of your lips with crimson pencil, then fill in with a similar shade. Matte textures last longer.
How do Dress in LA
Body glitter
→ Unless your stage name is Crystal, select products with smaller flecks of sparkle, applying them to cheekbones, shoulders, and legs. Don’t dust the ta-tas unless you’re working for tips.



Sole mates that will keep you in step

How to Dresss in L.A.

A. Made famous by the Beatles, Chelsea boots skew urban with skinny jeans and a leather jacket or urbane with a slim suit. Aldo’s are easy on the wallet; Saint Laurent’s are edgy.
Aldo Chelsea boots, $165.

B. With a bespoke suit or jeans and a blazer, monk strap brogues are the MVP of men’s footwear, whether it’s DSquared2’s shoe-of-the-moment or a heritage brand like Church’s.
DSquared2 “Missionary” loafers, $895.

C. No longer a coy accompaniment to sundresses, the gladiator sandal—high heeled (Fendi), knee high (Stuart Weitzman), or metallic (Sophia Webster)—demands a cocktail dress.
Fendi gladiator sandal, $2,195 at Fendi, Beverly Hills, 310-276-8888.

D. Can’t decide between a pump and a strappy sandal? The D’orsay pump covers toes and heels but leaves arches exposed for a sensuous look. Kurt Geiger’s comes in a range of materials.
Kurt Geiger London D’Orsay pump, $550.

Models photographed by Patrick Hoelck