Guide to the Different Looks of L.A.

Photo courtesy of current events, Flickr

L.A.’s fashion reputation tends to precede it. So you’re probably wondering what to pack for your visit — or what to shop for once you arrive, right? The city’s look isn’t easily summarized into one neat little box (or suitcase, for that matter). In fact, several distinct styles are found in its variety of neighborhoods, drawing inspiration from their locales and overlapping throughout the city. Below is a rundown on what you need to know to fit in with just a few of L.A.’s diverse crowds.

Easy Breezy

In L.A.’s beachside communities, the warm sand, salt water-infused air and rolling waves inspire a kind of relaxation that’s dangerously hypnotic. So it’s no surprise that people who live here can barely be bothered to throw on a tank top, peasant skirt and sandals before heading out into their sun-soaked neighborhoods. Yet while L.A.’s coastal areas are known for beach-bumming influences (board shorts, flip flops and tousled hair) and a bohemian look that stems from the artists who have settled here (think empire-waist blouses, earthy jewelry and headbands), there’s also a subtle undercurrent of glitz — often in the form of $200 T-shirts, of-the-moment sunglasses, effortless-looking designer denim skirts and Uggs. But don’t worry. It’s easy to fit in here. In a nutshell, pretty much anything goes — as long as it’s comfortable and cute.

Must-have item: Perfectly broken-in Reef flip-flops (and recently pedicured toes, of course).

Couture Club

The fashion hub that is Rodeo Drive sets the pace for the tony neighborhood of Beverly Hills, and it spreads throughout L.A. to some of the more upscale portions of the city. The look is not a far cry from what you saw in Pretty Woman (minus the ’80s hair bent of course). Stores that end in “i” and “a” — Gucci, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana — are the standard on Rodeo Drive, a place where film executives, stars and their stylists spend obscene amounts of money on a daily basis. As impeccably manicured Beverly Hills darlings zip by in convertibles or click by in stilettos, you’ll see that a classic, highbrow elegance reigns, as illustrated by graceful sun hats, diamond-encrusted sunglasses, Chanel jackets, Cartier watches and the like.

Must-have item: The tallest, chic-est, most luxurious heels you can stand to wobble around in.

Fresh-Squeezed Fashion

The youthful, trend-conscious crowd in Hollywood likes to show off their tans year-round in strappy sundresses and tank tops. Pair them with giant designer handbags and the ultimate in name-brand jeans and you’ll get a feel for this what’s-hot-now culture. Men are in tune with the trends, too, often sporting the requisite couture jeans, fitted T-shirts and stylish sneakers or boots. The goal for L.A.’s trendiest is to avoid looking like you’re trying too hard. Slip on a floaty top, a miniskirt and some chunky platforms, sweep your hair into a rubber band and you’re good to go anywhere in Hollywood — the farmer’s market, coffee shop, your favorite boutique or a casting call.

Must-have item: Designer jeans that accentuate all the right curves.

Cooler Than Cool

In Downtown, Venice Beach, Hollywood, and Silver Lake, a slightly more urban, counterculture style is sprinkled in among L.A.’s more fad-happy fashionistas. Clad in vintage frocks, European eyeglasses and punk-influenced tees and jeans, this group is intent on trading in L.A.’s glittery bubble-gum style for something that makes more of a statement. You’ll spot the look at neighborhood record stores and art galleries as well as at some of the more down-to-earth bars around town.

Must-have items: Vintage Bakelite bangles and Costello-inspired glasses.