Tuesday, 29 January 2013


There is a reason it's been so long since my last post, and it's not that i've been "too busy" (i haven't) or up to more interesting things (also not the case) - the truth is, it's kind of difficult to make a blog post without photos. Let me clarify: it's difficult to make a post that people will read without photos. We are the TL;DR Generation - we want our information dispersed in @singlesentences, 2"x2" photos and 6 second gifs. 

WELL, I am a writer, and while i know plenty of photographers, i don't have one at my disposal to take daily outfit pics. So from here on out, there may be *gasp* MORE WORDS on this blog. and maybe not always accompanied by photos. Although I will do my best to include photos when there are photos to be had, because trust me, I am a victim of the same tendencies to stray without visual stimulation. But my challenge to you, lovely readers, is to be just that - readers - and bear with me when i may have more to say than to show. 

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The psychology and sociology behind clothing choices has always really interested me. Why we wear the clothes we wear - why we wear clothes at all. It's something i think about and talk about at length. It is the reason clothing is more to me than just fashion, but rather a socio-economic-political-and-psychological indicator about the wearer. 

which brings me to the topic of the day: CLOTHING AS ARMOR

I was talking with some friends recently about how different it is to curate a wardrobe depending on my location. I grew up in Orange County and now live in San Francisco - in the 6 years i have lived here I have noticed a pretty drastic difference in the outfits I put together in this city versus the one where I grew up. My personal style hasn't changed, but the way I get dressed certainly has. And when I go back to OC to visit, I have to put myself in a Southern California mindset when packing my suitcase. 

There are certain things one can wear in LA without a second thought - cropped tops, short shorts, bare arms or bare legs, certain bright colors and shades - that you absolutely could not get away with in San Francisco without continuous harassment and stares from strangers. To the same end, there are things I wear in SF but would look very out of place wearing in OC. For example - opaque tights with heels, a smart black dress and a full coat is a very common San Francisco look, but would probably earn me strange looks in the casual sunny suburbs of Orange County. In general the outfits I wear in SF would seem overly formal or overdressed in the average LA setting. 

The biggest difference, to me, between the fashion in these two cities is the wardrobe motivators: in LA, people wear clothes out of two primary desires: comfort and style. But in San Franciso, people choose their outfits like armor - based on protection and endurance. Style still enters in, sure - but practicality weighs in heaviest. In SF getting dressed requires a protective layering of sweaters and coats to stay warm during the varying temperatures of the day, tights to cover up bare legs so bums and drunks don't holler and harass on the street, practical shoes in order to travel up and down steep heels or hop on and off public transportation with ease.

Even when I do put together a real peacock show-off of an outfit in SF, it is always covered up until I have arrived at my destination and can shed my protective layers. Sometimes I even go so far as to bring two pairs of shoes - walking shoes and party shoes. What I wear here in San Francisco is always a combination of what i want to wear, tempered with what i can actually safely and practically wear in public. It's still something I'm still getting used to considering when I go shopping for new clothes and find myself with an armload of items that are distinctly more LA than SF. This is a harsh city, where people need to be tough in order to survive - and the clothing choices of its citizens reflect that. 

San Francisco is known to be a pretty radical place, but when it comes to fashion, I feel it is really quite conservative. Especially compared to a place like LA - where style is not generally sacrificed for the sake of functionality or safety.

What do you think? Have you lived in either of these cities? Do you agree? Do you have any experiences on dressing differently in different locations?


  1. Totally agree! I would love to dress more sf but don't want to stick out. And along those lines, my peers play a part too. Can you see me in a glorious vintage dress and heels at the park for play dates? How awesome would that be? But I wear my jeans and toms like armour too.

  2. I also have lived in both places and I definitely noticed a difference in how people dress. I never thought of it as "armor", but I did notice that coats and jackets, even sweaters, are rarely worn in Southern California. I was actually fairly sad about that when I first moved to away from the Bay Area. Growing up I always loved my collection of coats which I felt expressed my moods. I loved being able to pile on more layers if I was cold... but being able to shed them down to a stylish outfit for a party.

    Growing up in the Bay Area we wore what we liked. We layered. We wore coats, jackets and sweaters. Yes, we looked at labels and we did wear designers, but we wore them a little more subtly. Yes, coats, jackets and sweaters were a must! You quickly learn you will freeze without a coat, because even on the most beautiful days it can go from sunny to crazy foggy in a matter of minutes! In So Cal the styles appear more "free", but I have always felt like they have more unspoken rules.

    In So Cal labels must be seen... designer names are plastered across people's butts or chests like a statement telling all the world which group I identify with. Even in the "laid back" O.C. we wear our clothes like armor... making sure that by wearing my flip-flops and my shorts and casual Tee's I am giving off the proper casual look.

    I have always had a tendency to be more driven by comfort than peer pressure, with what I wear (and in most other places of my life too). I would like to think that I raised my kids the same way. I was rather proud of the fact that my kids, although raised in the O.C. preferred not to have the designer labels plastered across their bodies, stating that they identified with one group over another. I liked that my kids dressed in everything from Target to Nordstrom, from Buffalo Exchange to J C Penney, from thrift to to Vintage.

    One last thought, I like that you touched on the idea of fashion sometimes needing to change or bend for practicality. I think you should address fashion in the workplace, when is it fashion and when is it just too much? Is it ever too much? Are certain things appropriate in the "corporate world" that just would never fly in the "real world"? And vice versa?

  3. Oh goodness, maybe I'm just a terrible example but my style hasn't really strayed from LA to SF, except in the last year of being only able to wear black at work. The color limitation definitely causes people to stare at me less like I'm dressed like slutty grandmas(which I usually am) or as I like to refer to my style as "like the Jetsons" (a little from the past, a little from the future.) However IRL we were just talking about how draining the city is, so no matter where I am, my mood really affects my outfit choice. Some days I will pretty much just wear what I wore the day before but with different shoes.

  4. I like your mentions! As a student of sociology, I'm really interested in clothes' choices too.

    The place where I live; Istanbul, is even though considered as very "modern" and "contemporary" compared to the other parts of Turkey, I think there are still some invisible restrictions people feel. First of all, I cannot see many people on the street who wear very radical or very colorful at all. People much more care about what the society, to be more specific, what people (friends,strangers etc.) think about them.