8 Ways to Dress For the West Coast


If you’re visiting the west coast or maybe recently transplanted from elsewhere, you’ll probably notice style here isn’t the same as anywhere else in the country. Don’t worry if you find yourself feeling like a proverbial fish out of water every time you walk out the door. Here are eight great tips to help you dress for the left coast that will have people thinking you’re a native in no time.

1. Be ready to brave the elements. The weather has everything to do with style here, and everyday fashion has evolved largely from surfer culture, with a little golf, sailing, tennis and horseback riding thrown in for good measure.

Get a great pair of shades, a good hat, and dress in layers. Temperatures change throughout the day more than you might expect, especially if you’re on the coast. Vests and fleeces are perfect for the mornings and evenings when you need a little extra coverage.

2. Ditch the hosiery. Unless you are working out, you should have no need for socks. And that goes for guys and gals alike. Men tend to wear slip-on shoes with jeans or khakis (easily rolled up for a spontaneous walk on the beach), and women are rocking fabulous platform wedges. Of course, flip-flops are perennially popular too. Don’t forget to book that pedi!

3. Get rid of your iron and say good-bye to your dry cleaner. Fabrics on the west coast are like the lifestyle: easy going. Relaxed cotton and linen are the rage here, so don’t worry if everything isn’t perfectly pressed. The folks over at Johnnie-O.com have this West Coast preppy style¬†down pat. Head over there to see how you can make this style yours.

4. Pay attention to subtle seasonal changes. There really are seasons here–they’re just a little harder to see sometimes (probably because it seems downright tropical compared to some parts of the country!). For the few months when it gets a little chilly, swap out your sandals for a nice leather boot, add a jacket and don’t forget to grab a knit cap–always in style in the west.

5. Accessories rule. Because basics are a little pared down on the west coast, accessories are the way to change up your look. Whether you want to go from day to night, from yoga to the store or from school to the beach, a few key pieces will help you make the transition. If you have a roomy bag, you can use it as a purse in town and a tote at the beach. Grab a colorful scarf to use as a wrap or a sarong, and don’t forget about a wrist full of bracelets.

6. Dress is more casual. You’ll never see jeans worn to as many functions as you do on the west coast. Every manner of denim gets a chance here, from dark rinse dress jeans to torn, faded clam diggers. Even in many nicer restaurants, jeans are perfectly acceptable with a glittery top or a sport coat. Give away those creased gray flannels–you’ll never wear them here.

7. Think about your mode of transportation. Depending on where you are, you’ll likely either spend a lot of time in your car (LA) or on foot (San Francisco). If you’re big into biking, San Diego is the place to be. If you’re going to sit in traffic on the PCH, wear something comfy, and if you’re going to be hoofing it, don’t leave home without a good pair of walking shoes. And as always, layers are your best friend.

8. You’re not going to a funeral. No one wears much black here, other than for evening wear. Save your dark clothing for your next jaunt to the Big Apple, and embrace lightness and color. A crisp white suit that you can dress up or down is a wardrobe mainstay, and polos in pink, lavender and turquoise (guys too!) will look great against your sun kissed skin.

The nice thing about west coast living is you don’t have to have two wardrobes–although you may want to, there’s so much fun stuff you don’t have to hide under a parka here. Make a few mental notes, have a little fun shopping and before you know it, you too will look like you’ve been playing in the sun and surf your whole life.