I’ve been living in LA for 5 months, and I’ve learned that outfits that don’t get second glances in NYC, in LA make people think you’re an insane. Why don’t people in LA get it—I’m dressing as a bimbo as a joke, duh! – By Karley Sciortino
Recently, I was at a party in the Hollywood Hills, in the extravagant home of a woman who had something or other to do the with Orange is the New Black, though no one could say what for sure—maybe she was a producer, or perhaps a writer, though she may have actually been the basis for a character, according to the guy serving the punch. “Well, which is it?” I asked my wingman Sam, a friend of the host, who had brought me to the party. “How should I know?” he said, rolling his eyes. “Ask your phone.”
All the girls at the party looked like they’d time traveled there from the 70s. A sea of floral dresses and earth tones. I’ve always felt that, with fashion, it’s OK to reference another decade, but to look like an extra in a period film is taking it a bit too far. People in LA think differently. Myself, being a new-ish transplant from New York, showed up wearing a leopard print mini skirt, fuchsia sweater, and a red, heart-shaped handbag. I was drawing some attention—mostly smiles, some with a bit of fear in them. I’m slowly learning that outfits that wouldn’t get a second glance in New York, in LA seem radical. The Russ Meyer pin-ups and kitsch California girls of yore have been replaced by granola chic. Now, if you channel Elle Woods, people instantly assume that you’re extremely interesting. Or insane. Or both.)
How I ended up here is: I’ve always been an escapist—both in my life and my aesthetic. Last fall, I moved to LA to escape New York after a breakup. I had been dating my now ex-girlfriend for three years and, both being freelancers who worked primarily from home, we spent pretty much 24 hours a day together, huddled in a tiny Manhattan apartment. I got so used to her constantly being around that, after the break-up, it wasn’t just that I missed her—suddenly, every minuscule action of my daily routine felt incomplete, and ultimately unbearable. And so, staying true to character, I impulsively sublet my NYC apartment and moved West, indefinitely, on a whim.
My vision of LA before moving here was one of trashy-profound glamour: Jayne Mansfield spilling out of a cocktail dress, Joan Didion reclining on a white Corvette Stingray, a naked Eve Babitz playing chess with Marcel Duchamp, etcetera. However, that LA is apparently long gone—now I’m the one living in the past? Los Angeles today, in my experience, is an urban wasteland of yogis snorting kale dust, Uber drivers on cleanses, and girls in hippie costumes blaming the alignment of the planets for why they were 20 minutes late to lunch. But the weather is great, and I have a yard or whatever. Still, being a true urban woman, I never go outside unless absolutely necessary—I have all my necessities delivered to my house through various apps: groceries, household supplies, sex, etc.—but the idea that I could go out and sunbathe on grass if I wanted to is comforting in the abstract.
When I left New York, I packed a suitcase of only my loudest, most upbeat clothing. I wanted to remedy the sadness of my breakup, and years of aesthetic experimentation have taught me that I just feel happier when I indulge my most pop, even kitsch impulses. It’s like Bill Cunningham said: “Fashion is the armor to survive the reality of everyday life.” Personally, I’ve always felt that clothes have the power to turn me into a superhero—clothes allow you to escape into fantasy, to assume foreign identities. It’s like how an actor puts on a costume to help get into character. We dress to reflect who we are, but we also put on clothes to become who we want to be. Personally, I flirt better in lace, I negotiate best in a power suit, and I’m the most fun when I dress Elle Woods after raiding Ciccolina’s closet.
The bottom line is, it’s virtually impossible to wallow in self pity while wearing leopard print and carrying a handbag that looks like a box of chocolates. And why would someone ever choose to look ordinary when you can look extraordinary?
Later in the night at the Hollywood party, I spotted one girl standing by the fireplace in a pink PVC coat and a bright red lip. We locked eyes—it was an unspoken connection. “She’s going to be my new LA best friend,” I said confidently. Sam rolled his eyes at me once more. “It’s OK to like the way someone dresses, but fashion feelings are not the same as real feelings,” he said. I’m not sure I agree. If our clothes are the purest, most visible manifestation of our identity, then assessing someone based on their clothes seems, if not wholly accurate, at least a good start… right?