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Dress codes defined

Dressing for L.A. night life is about getting in tune with the vibe, whether you're a cool kid, a hipster or channeling old Hollywood.

November 13, 2011|Jenn Harris
  • Carly Lynn, left, and Jenn Peterman go muted in shorts and a mini-dress at the Beverly nightclub in Los Angeles.
Carly Lynn, left, and Jenn Peterman go muted in shorts and a mini-dress at… (Kirk McKoy, Los Angeles…)

On a recent fall evening, three young women walk down Beverly Boulevard together toward Jerry's Deli. They're dressed in vertiginous high heels, cut-off frayed denim shorts, sheer peasant blouses and, for the tallest in the group, a floppy brown suede hat. Their outfits might lead an observer to conclude they are on their way to a Malibu beach party. But after they pass the deli's brightly lighted windows, they stop in front of the Beverly nightclub, and within seconds they bypass the crowd huddled around the doorman and claim their places inside.

Los Angeles is home to some of the most exclusive speak-easies and lounges in the world, and even Malibu Barbies have a place to call home. Each venue comes with its own personality and unwritten rules on dress. Style is measured in heel inches, attitude and accessories.

"I think you'll find a mixture of styles at every venue," says Ari Goldberg, chief executive of, a fashion and beauty website. "But "people end up role-playing. I think people do that naturally."

The tastemakers in the corner booths aren't always famous -- they are frequently people like stylist Donna Danon. The 24-year-old says she changes her look based on her mood, but she can play up a certain style based on the night's venue.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday, November 15, 2011 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 News Desk 1 inches; 29 words Type of Material: Correction
Nightclub dressing: In the Nov. 13 Image section, an article about what chic L.A. wears to nightclubs said the Beverly is in Los Angeles. It is in West Hollywood.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday, November 20, 2011 Home Edition Image Part P Page 2 Features Desk 1 inches; 25 words Type of Material: Correction
Nightclub dressing: ANov. 13 article about what chic L.A. wears to nightclubs said the Beverly club is in Los Angeles. It is in West Hollywood.

"If I go somewhere like Hemingway's, more of like a lounge-y place, I do more of a hipster look because that's the vibe that place gives off," Danon says. "I'll maybe do shorts, a blazer and a cute little hat. If I'm going somewhere like Eden, I'll do something a little sexier like an LBD," or little black dress.

Just in case the subtleties of the L.A. scene seem elusive, what follows is a style guide to some the city's most fashionable clubs and lounges.

The Cool Kids The Beverly

When you arrive at the Beverly, an exclusive club open only two nights a week, a tall man with finely trimmed facial hair wearing a suit and a newsboy cap stands guard at the door. Patrons call him L.T., and as head of security (and selection), he ensures that patrons embody a "cool kids" vibe.

There are no guidelines for dress at the Beverly. "It's more about personal style," L.T. says. "It's like a delicate formula we work with. One individual could pull off something that might not work for another."

That "delicate formula" involves a heavy dose of confidence oozing from the clientele, who often seem effortlessly attractive and trendy -- but casual -- in their dress.

The aforementioned Malibu Barbies blend in with the Beverly's varied clientele -- women in shorts and espadrilles, one-shoulder mini-dresses and sequined skirts and frocks.

The men seem to be going for a different look. On a recent evening, a young patron sitting in a private booth that costs hundreds of dollars to reserve for the night orders a bottle of Cristal Champagne -- with a price tag of several hundred dollars more. But he isn't dressed in a suit befitting a luxury buy. He wears a Ramones T-shirt, dirty Converse sneakers and a pair of Burberry boxers peaking out of his slightly saggy jeans.

"Individual and personal style with a particular flair will always stand out," L.T. says. But just because the Beverly doesn't have a dress code doesn't mean it's not selective.

"Anything sparkly, Ed Hardy or Affliction-style graphics, square-toe shoes and sunglasses are definite 'don'ts,'" says Darren Dzienciol, co-owner of the Beverly and Trousdale lounges. "If it's on the 'Jersey Shore' it's not coming through the door."

The Beverly, 8713 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles; 10 p.m.-2 a.m. Thursday and Saturday; (310) 855-0202.

Old Hollywood The Sayers Club

To enter the Sayers Club, patrons must walk through the Papaya King hot dog storefront on Wilcox Avenue in Hollywood. Inside, the space seems to exude old-time Hollywood glamour. Thick theater curtains line the bar, plush leather booths house hushed conversations, and mirrors along the walls offer partial glimpses of patrons.

Men in suits, vests and fedora hats chat at the brick bar with women in modern versions of flapper gowns with dropped waists and sparkling headpieces. Bartenders in suspenders pour stiff drinks while a live band entertains at the center of the lounge. Outside on the back patio, women smoke using cigarette holders.

On a recent Thursday night, a young woman stands and gulps a martini at the bar. She is dressed in a silk navy and white polka-dot jumpsuit, tightly cinched at the waist with a brown braided belt. Her hair is pulled back and her lips are bright red, bringing to mind a young Lucille Ball.

Farther down the bar, musician and comedian Elijah Rock sips his drink and takes in the crowd. Dressed in slacks, a button-down shirt, vest and fedora, he looks as though he could step onto the set of a 1920s-era film. "Bottega Louie, the Edison, the Sayers Club, all these great classic spots in L.A. remind me of a certain nostalgic character that I really admire," Rock says.

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