I’m in the backyard of the Echo at a Nightmare and the Cat concert with my arms crossed in front of my body, alongside a new friend who knows the band. She’s introducing me to two other women she thinks I’ll get along with -- I recently moved to Los Angeles from New York City, and haven’t had the easiest time making friends -- and I’m nervously attempting to make conversation.
“So,” I start with the one with dyed black and purple hair who’s sitting down, dressed in a black mesh skirt over a tank top. “You’re in a band, too?”
She tells me about her synth industrial band that’s playing at some venue I’ll never remember. They’re also playing at a nearby coffee shop next week. “I’m a barista there, too.” (This, I’ll soon learn, is very L.A.)
I tell her yeah, that’s cool, I’ll have to check them out. “So,” I start again. “Do you know any good places to shop here?”
“Well, you’re a goth like me so...”
I tune her out. What in me says goth? I think, looking down. It’s not like I’m anti-goth -- they make great synth music -- but I’ve never really identified as one. I’m blonde. I use bronzer.
Then, I see it: My black skirt, black shirt, and motorcycle boots. It’s an ensemble I would’ve never thought twice about back in my gray, graffitied neighborhood in Brooklyn where I first got off the subway, looked around at all the black, leather and flannel and thought, “MY PEOPLE!”
Even though I knew my mostly black wardrobe might scream, “I just moved from NYC and I’m here to judge you!” in L.A., I never thought it’d say, “Why yes, I do have the whole Joy Division anthology!” (Well, I do. But you get the idea.)
“I need to learn how to wear color,” I tell my friend in New York on the phone the next day.
“Ew,” she says. I hear what sounds like a herd of ambulances wailing in the background. “Why?”
“I don’t know,” I trail off. “No one here wears all black. I don’t feel like I’m fitting in.”
I imagine her in black skinny jeans, sweater, and oversize sunglasses running through Union Square to the subway. “Ugh,” she groans. “Remind me never to live there.” (She has since become convinced she needs to move to San Francisco.)
Over a year since the Great Goth Incident of 2013 -- when I made the very conscious decision to buy clothes that, uh, have color -- my wardrobe has been transformed. And of course, so have I.
Following my heart and moving to L.A. was the best decision I ever made, and much of it has to do with the fact that I finally feel less stressed out, claustrophobic and cynical than I did when I lived on the East Coast.
I may still be more than a little neurotic. But I think living in Southern California (Hollywood, especially) has brought out a more relaxed, let-your-freak-flag-fly sense of self, and it’s reflected in my clothes.
Here are some items I’d probably still poo-poo, had it not been for my cross-country move:
Some people might think of NYC and picture a scene from “Sex & the City,” with women running around laughing, dressed in Carrie Bradshaw-esque garb and holding hands in sequin dresses. Alas, this was not my life. I went to concerts where the lead singer would say, “You’re welcome,” as he finished his set. My room didn’t have a closet.
And what a bore that was! Sure, they’re black, but I’m in love with these crazy, made-to-order sequin bellbottoms from Dame & Maiden ($110). I met the designer in Des Moines, Iowa (where I went to college) and was writing a story about how she had she had just relocated from Los Angeles to start her line. A lot of her pieces are reminiscent of Hollywood’s Sunset Strip scene with reconstructed rock ‘n’ roll T-shirts, mixed with a hint of California boho.
So much for my strict “no sweatpants” policy. (Which probably stemmed from going to college in Des Moines, where the uniform consisted of Uggs, a North Face, and logo-ed sweats.) Now, I live in these Joggers from Grayson (similar, $14).
I used to not even go to the corner store without putting on a pair of proper pants and bra. Now I run errands in sweats like a stylish Silver Lake mom!
OTHER “COMFORTABLE” CLOTHES
I believe I also used to have a motto: “If I’m comfortable, I’m not dressed.” But I also had a nervous break down at a nail salon in Korea Town and passed out twice in a week on the subway 'cause I got so overwhelmed and freaked out by NYC, so perhaps my head wasn’t quite right then.
I’m still for everything SHORT and TIGHT, but it’s nice to mix in some pieces that feel SO NICE and GOOD. The L.A.-based women's wear brand Chaser (that's also inspired by music) makes the most comfortable cotton-blend t-shirts and tank tops -– like, they feel like you’re wearing the finest, silkiest things, or nothing at all. (Wearing a Bowie tank from them, above.)
I realize sneakers are having a moment everywhere outside of Hollywood, too, but these silver robot shoes from Steve Madden ($99.95) remind me of shimmery Hollywood, where all actors and musicians go to get their dreams crushed.
Do you think the clothes make the person or the place makes the person? Have you ever changed your wardrobe -- consciously or not -- to fit in more in a new place? Don’t you love sweatpants?
Talk to me on Twitter: @caitlinthornton