It never fails. The plane touches down in LAX, I walk out of the airport into the blazing sun, and I realize, shit, I've done it again: I'm dressed in black head to toe.
In New York, black is my uniform, while only those in mourning wear head to toe black in L.A. I've also forgotten my sunglasses in my apartment back home because it's gray in New York and I haven't thought about sunglasses in over a month. In L.A. sunglasses are a permanent fixture, worn either over ones eyes, or perched atop the head like a tiara. Being caught without sunglasses is like being caught walking out of a public restroom with toilet paper stuck to the soles of your shoes. So I'm in black, no sunglasses, looking tired (most New Yorkers are perennially tired) and I've got black circles under my eyes the size of which most only see in the NFL.
From the airport I went directly to a luncheon with a large group of women I don't see very often, and to look around the room I wanted to cry; these women were utterly beautiful. In contrast to my black pantsuit, they were all in feminine little dresses that showed off their figures. They glowed. They were goddesses. Their skin shined, their eyes shined, their hair shined, they looked like they got plenty of sleep, their breasts were full, their knees were bony, their feet were tan, and their toes were perfectly pedicured.
I used to live in California, and when I was 18 years old I made my first trip to New York City. I knew I wanted to live here, but I had to see if could I really do it. I was on my first subway ride ever, and I sat across from a woman. She was well-dressed in a corporate suit, but she looked tired and haggard, completely worn-out, and I succinctly remember saying to myself in that moment, "I will live in this city, and I will be successful here, but I will never let myself look like her." Well, on this day in L.A., after 15 years of living in New York, I looked a lot like her. I felt like I had aged in dog years compared to these women.
There are surely as many busy, successful women in New York as in L.A. I was sitting around a table of them at that luncheon in fact. Do the women in L.A. actually do a better job of taking care of themselves, or are they just more skilled at looking like they do?
It's certainly easier to wear the four-inch Louboutin's when you drive your own car (with your own cup holder for your own soy latte) door-to-door instead of the usual daily combination of a New Yorker's commute which is usually a cross between walking, running, dodging slush puddles, hailing a taxi, or taking a subway... all while padded by four layers of clothing and juggling a cup of tepid watery coffee from a corner deli.
These two cities seem to operate on such totally different frequencies. In the fashion business we see big differences in the consumer coast to coast. Season after season, I have consistently seen marked differences in what is considered fashionable in L.A. vs. NY.
-Clothes generally tend to be more girly and feminine.
-Hemlines can be slightly shorter.
-Color is important, and can be vibrant.
-Tops and dresses should have either a defined waist and/or cleavage.
-Show some skin... and due to mild temperatures it's usually called for, which means it's easier to be sexy in a casual, unassuming way.
-Obviously the consistency of climate requires fewer layers and lighter fabrics. It's possible to wear cotton year-round.
-Sweaters are still a necessity, but are best when not too heavy.
-Black is usually a best-selling color of any item in New York City.
-For color, neutrals such as beige, brown, and ivory are the way to go.
-Clothes require slightly more structure and formality than in la la land.
-The concept of layering garments is more common, thanks to arctic temperatures and sharp, cutting wind tunnels.
-The play between masculine and feminine ie, A men's trouser with a chiffon blouse is chic and easier to pull off in this truly urban city.
-Sweater knits are critical to any wardrobe in a variety of weights and colors.
So, if you're like me and travel coast to coast on business or pleasure, these tips might help streamline your packing next time you pick up and go.
If you're NYC-bound, go slightly harder on your look. You can still look feminine with a slight edge.
If you're LAX-bound, by all means... leave the black suit at home. It will still be there when you return.
What do you think it takes to be a bicoastal dresser? We want to hear about it in the Comments below.
Come back every other Tuesday for more from Claudia Cividino.