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Too Hot for Fur, Too Hip for Skirts

Forget trends elsewhere--change of season can't change the L.A. look

September 06, 2002|BOOTH MOORE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In L.A., where the mercury can top out over 80 degrees well into October, the sartorial signs of fall are so subtle that all but the most trained fashion eyes could easily miss them: a cashmere shell, instead of a camisole, worn over a pair of hip-slung Earl jeans for a breezy night on the roof of the downtown Standard; a pashmina thrown casually over a wisp of a dress for an evening premiere at Grauman's Chinese Theatre; boots slowly displacing Dr. Scholl's as the footwear of choice for daytime errands on Montana Avenue.

Magazines may inundate us with images of fuzzy fur bomber jackets and boucle pencil skirts, but some pieces would look as out of place here as a snowplow on the 405. Take the fur cape as long as a Lincoln shown at Fendi, Louis Vuitton's folkloric rabbit fur-trimmed miniskirt, or any fur coat, for that matter. "They would look ridiculous," says boutique owner Tracey Ross, who caters to young Hollywood.

And you're not likely to find a pencil-skirted lady lunching at Les Deux Cafes either. "Pencil skirts are New York career girl. We don't wear skirts here," adds Ross, who has snapped up jackets at Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche and chunky knit sweaters from L.A.-based designer Rick Owens for her own fall wardrobe.

Gaucho pants and knickers had their moment on the runways at Giorgio Armani, Max Mara and Burberry, but they won't be strolling down Rodeo Drive anytime soon. "Women here are used to wearing what's slimming. Wide-legged or short pants are not going to fly. Here, people would rather look like they are in great shape and they have a great body than look fashionable. In New York, they would rather have what's cool and hip at the moment than look like they work out," says Kelly Biren, West Coast editor of Allure magazine.

Here, fall dressing isn't as much about trends as it is about accent pieces. "Our seasons may not be as extreme as in New York or Europe ... but we're certainly not going to wear our flip-flops and sundresses into the winter," says actress China Chow, 28, whose most recent purchase was a Rick Owens leather jacket she plans to wear with "everything."

Even when the sun is still strong enough to make a steering wheel sizzling to the touch, fall fabrics are tolerable in small doses. On a recent afternoon at her Sunset Plaza store, Ross made a brown wool houndstooth miniskirt from Fake London work by teaming it with a beige tank top, bare legs and brown suede Pumas. L.A. fashion designer Jennifer Nicholson likes to balance her own pinwale corduroy tux pants with a lightweight blouse, adding flannel or tweed hats by Eugenia Kim for the perfect fall touch.

Scarves can work, too. Not wild and woolly mufflers, but thin scarves such as Marc Jacobs' silvery, sequined version. But forget stockings and tights. Boots are worn on bare legs, and the higher the heel the better--it's not like we have to worry about walking farther than the distance from the car valet to the front door.

L.A. women love coats, which are worn here for fashion rather than for function. Ross likes Chloe's lightweight wrap-style black satin trench and London designer Matthew Williamson's pink paisley velvet coat, both worn over jeans and a tank top.

"In L.A., coats are the ultimate accessories," says Jeannine Braden, owner of Santa Monica's Fred Segal Flair and a partner in the fashion Web site Purpleskirt.com. Braden has already sold out of two shipments of Marc Jacobs' $358 twill jackets with faux fur hoods.

"You can get away with wearing a sweater or a jacket if it's over something light," says Amanda Goldberg, 28. The associate producer of 2000's "Charlie's Angels" and the upcoming sequel has already nabbed a winter white cashmere coat and a black velvet tuxedo jacket from YSL for fall, as well as a couple of new eye shadows from Stila in plum tones. "Since our clothes don't change much, it's fun to change up your makeup or hair color," she says.

But in a town where the surf's up year-round, how does a girl know when to make the seasonal switch, on what precise day to retire the terry cloth Juicy Couture suit for the cashmere one, the flip-flops for the Pumas, the summer jeans for the fall ones?

Some women create their own change-of-season rituals. During mid-August, Nicholson (daughter of Jack) takes most of her lightweight summer clothes to Paper Bag Princess, a West Hollywood resale shop. "Unless it's really classic, like a piece by Chanel, I move on because there will always be better stuff next year," says Nicholson, 38, who owns Pearl, a boutique in Santa Monica. (The items she keeps are moved into a cedar-lined closet she had specially built in her garage.)

TV and film producer Keri Selig, 34, takes her cues from stores. Nothing puts her in the mood for fall like a trip to junior fashion emporium Forever 21, where she recently picked up a pair of $29 round-toed pumps that look like this season's Prada. "The great thing is that at this price they are disposable," she says.

But for all the fashion hubbub, there are those in L.A. for whom dressing is truly seasonless. "I have a 365-day, constant outfit," says Rebecca Bloom, 27, a jewelry designer and the author of "Girl Anatomy" (HarperCollins, 2002), a coming-of-age tale set in L.A. When she's at home writing, the outfit is Juicy sweats; when she goes out, it's jeans, a tank top and a light coat from Marni or Marc Jacobs.

East Coast transplant Tatiana von Furstenberg, 31, is in the same camp. For her, the best thing about living and dressing in L.A. is the absence of any kind of style schedule. "You can just wear something until you don't want to wear it anymore, then get something new. There's not that frenetic energy around fall shopping like there is in New York," says Furstenberg, who sold her Los Feliz boutique Steinberg & Sons in December and is now singing in the band Playdate.

"Fashion changes relatively little here," says Allure's Biren. "Overall, it's just girls with skinny bods and great jeans."

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