A Tale Of Two Cities

by / Mar 03, 2021

Elise Taylor is a Senior Writer for Vogue, covering interior design, travel, food, and society. After seven years in New York, she decided to do what, well, so many twenty-somethings had done before: try to live in Los Angeles.

I was born and raised in Connecticut, went to college in Massachusetts, and later moved to New York. This is just a long way of saying — I’m a lifelong East Coaster, and when comes to my fashion, it shows: I have a penchant for blazers (especially of the plaid and houndstooth variety), Peter Pan collars, Victorian lace, black knee high boots, ballet flats, and anything— anything— Ralph Lauren. When asked to describe my style, I usually respond with “romantic prep,” or, if that doesn’t register, “everything floofy, poofy, frilly, or preppy.” 

That’s not to say I haven’t been fascinated with how the other coast dresses. On the contrary, I spent my teen years soaking in Summer Roberts and Marissa Cooper’s beach girl, bohemian style on The O.C. (Marissa, in case you forgot, carried around her books in a Chanel tote). Even once the show ended, my moment with Southern California did not. Soon, I’d moved onto Lauren Conrad’s baby doll dresses from The Hills and Cher from Clueless’s endless, rotating closet.  (“Where's my white collarless shirt from Fred Segal. It's my most capable looking outfit!”)

And those were just the looks of the nineties and early aughts: in 2021, I’m regularly clicking on pictures of cool girls like Hailey Bieber and Kaia Gerber stepping out in fabulous ab-flashing Jacquemus bras and leather jackets.

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So this winter, when I decided to head out to Los Angeles, I knew my geographic location wasn’t the only thing about to change. After decades of idolizing Jackie, I was ready to switch allegiance to Marilyn.

Problem was, I didn’t know exactly what my California style was. Was I a secret athleisure aesthete who’d rock head-to-toe Alo Yoga? Or perhaps a Venice-esque ensemble with round sunglasses and ripped-jeans was more up my alley? Should I be searching eBay for a pair of Yeezys?

There was only one way to find out: shopping.

On my first SoCal Sunday, I perused the parking lot stalls at Melrose Trading Post, one of the city’s famous flea markets. Vintage band t-shirts were a dime-a-dozen, but another item entirely caught my eye: a 1980s houndstooth blazer with Versace-esque gold buttons and sky high shoulder pads. Within minutes, I’d haggled down the price and Venmo’ed the vendor. It wasn’t until I walked out that I realized that I had gone to a Los Angeles flea market, found, and then subsequently purchased the most New York item there. (It’s fine! I’ll wear it to an uptown brunch on Park Avenue someday!)

The next weekend, my friends and I drove from the Hollywood Hills to Abbot Kinney. We stopped in the shops that embodied Venice grunge (and in the process, accidentally stumbled into the background of a teen’s TikTok video). Their racks were filled with cropped knits, matching sweatsuits, and even a pair of leather hammer pants. Hesitantly, I grabbed a pair in my size.

“How do I look?” I ask my friend in the dressing room. “Like you belong in that TikTok video,” she answered back.

The pants were put back, and I left empty-handed. The Beach Boys echoed in my head…

Well, East Coast girls are hip.
I really dig those styles they wear...
I wish they all could be California girls.

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Later, I stumbled upon Brentwood Market by accident. (And by accident, I mean a mediocre date, but let’s not get into that, shall we?)  Through a window, I spied something I never thought I’d see in L.A.—a puff-sleeve Peter Pan blouse. It was like a bat signal to my sartorially-confused self. Immediately, I pushed open the door.

I’d inadvertently wandered into Doen. Founded in 2016, the Los Angeles-based label is known for its vintage silhouettes, dusty colors, and easy breezy fabrics. It’d be easy to describe them as boho, but that robs their designs of a sense of place. The label, founded by Margaret and Katherine Kleveland, distinctly evokes California, with its seventies, Lauren Canyon-esque silhouettes, warm sunset hues, and easy breezy fabrics.

I tried on a floral print frock. It was soft and skimmed my ankles, yet, thanks to its v-neck, managed to be a little sultry too. As I looked in the mirror, I no longer felt like I was trying to be a California girl. Instead, I just felt like one.

It’s funny what moving can teach you about your personal style. Mainly, what sticks with you and what doesn’t. I haven’t worn a silk blouse once since I’ve been in Los Angeles—they’re much more casual here, and when it’s 75 degrees and sunny every day, you want a more breathable piece. Same with my black suede Manolo Blahnik pumps. During a “New York January”, I’d wear them out every weekend. In a “Los Angeles January”, I tried to wear them out, but then I realized I couldn’t drive in a four-inch heel. So, I threw them in my backseat to put on later. But then, I inadvertently kept on my white slip-ons instead because again, this town is extremely casual. (Unless you’re going to the Soho House West Hollywood. Then, by all means, break out the sequins.)

Moving also makes you appreciate the items that translate anywhere you go. For me, that ended up being a navy blue Vince slip dress, Tom Ford Pussycat lipstick, and, yes, SENREVE’s Alunna Bag. The versatility, I think, stems from its construction — adjustable straps that will let you carry it as a crossbody or a backpack. Then, there’s the structure. A slouchy bag, sure, can be luxuriously low key, but it can also wrinkle and sag, making it, well, a little sloppy looking for dinner at that new Nolita hotspot. Meanwhile, a bag with a rock hard exterior doesn’t match the laid-back beach vibe of Santa Monica. For a globetrotting Goldilocks like me, it’s always just right.

I’m not sure what city I’ll end up in—when the travel restrictions lift, I’m thinking it’s time for jaunt to London. Who knows what my look there will be (I always did admire Twiggy…). But, this is for certain: wherever I go, the Alunna is coming with.

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