I’m pretty fascinated by Los Angeles. I’ve only been there once (on a rainy New Year’s road trip with my friend Tash) and with the ridiculously bad weather, I don’t think I saw it in its best light. However, that hasn’t put me off. I love the idea of the great weather (most of the time), the orange trees, the ocean, the hills, the outdoor lifestyle…it just all sounds fab (although the traffic, not so much). Although, really, I’m basing this all on the TV programmes and films I’ve seen, so in reality, it could all be a load of old baloney. One thing, I do know for certain is that The City of Angels isn’t traditionally thought of as a Fashion Hotspot. It’s meant to be more of a shorts and t-shirt place than a high-fashion mecca, but is that true? Moreover, if we’re dealing with fact v. fiction, is LA the hotbed of plastic surgery that we are led to believe? Are women really as obsessed with health and fitness as rumour has it? So many questions. And, thankfully we have some answers, from our latest Style Around the World correspondent – awesome job alert – Polly Morgan, a British cinematographer (pictured below) who for the last 6 1/2 years has made Los Angeles her home. LA style – here’s the lowdown…
To go to film school (AFI – American Film Institute) to do a Masters in Cinematography
Where do you live?
In Silverlake. It’s East of Hollywood and the arty part of town. There’s lots of hipsters and yoga places and cool restaurants and bars.
How would you describe LA style?
It’s a wide mix as in any city, but as the weather is always good, it has a more relaxed style. The beach towns are very laid-back with the surfer culture, Beverly Hills is more designer and polished, and then as you head to the hip areas of east LA, we have the hipster culture of hats and big moustaches! Accessories play a big part as everyone is always wearing sunglasses and often hats! (People are very conscious of sun damage).
So, not everyone dresses like Kim Kardashian then?
Kim Kardashian isn’t a good representation at all. LA girls are much more chilled out than that. If you look at all the pap photos of other celebrities going to farmers markets or walking down street, they are dressed in a far more relaxed way. Dresses, jeans, shorts etc and very rarely in heels. As it’s so sunny, make up is fresh and light. It’s all about being relaxed and comfortable.
What differences have you noticed between the ways Los Angelinos dress and the way British women dress?
When I come to London, I always love seeing the fashion on the streets. I think British women really love to express themselves through their fashion. Obviously there are different trends but I feel there are more risk takers and that it’s a very individual thing. Although, I also feel this about NY.
LA is a little less fashion conscious. I don’t feel LA girls have that unique expression. A trend comes in and people adopt it. I think there is more of a feeling of conformity and people like to feel they are being ‘stylish’ but are less into just expressing who they are by what they wear. Obviously this is a broad statement and in the more artistic communities you can really find a unique style, but on the most part it is less exciting and less fashion-aware that other big cities.
Again, I feel the weather has a lot to do with it and also that so many people are hiking or doing yoga or some other kind of healthy exercise that you see that reflected in the fashion.
Does style change from neighbourhood to neighbourhood as it does in London?
Yes. See above. LA is really made up of lots of towns. Beach towns are surfer culture. Lots of shorts and flip flops. No heels!! Beverley Hills is smarter and a more polished style. Designer etc. Hollywood is a mixed zone as it’s not that nice of an area. The Valley is very suburban and really not good style at all. Very dull. The east arty areas of Silverlake and Echo Park are young and hip. There’s lots of different socio economic areas too. African American and Hispanic neighbourhoods tend to be poorer so dress is more practical.
Do you think that (in general) LA women are led by trends or do they tend to have a distinct LA look?
It’s a mix of both. There are trends, but they might be more confined to the local area. For instance, New York autumn/winter fashion is going to be different from LA as we have no need for long coats and high boots. For the most part, LA women dress for the warm weather and laid-back lifestyle. Los Angeles culture is made of hiking, yoga and farmers markets. Going out involves brunch and juice bars, so there really is no need to get really dressed up. Evenings can be different if you’re going to a club or a premiere, but if you’re going out to dinner, then you really don’t tend to see people who’ve gone all out.
How has your style changed since living in LA?
As I came to study (and it’s very expensive to study in the US) I had very little money to spend on clothes, so my style became very practical – shorts, t-shirts, sun dresses (I lived by the beach for 3 years!)…Now for work, I’m on my feet all day on a film set, so what I wear has to be practical. Trainers, jeans and a shirt or t shirt is what I wear most. While my fashion sense has matured, it’s still very basic. Key items of black trousers, good jeans, pricey t shirts, one or two nice dresses etc. I tend to buy less but spend more on what I buy as I’m also into good fabrics. Silk or cashmere but nothing too loud. And I generally wear flip flops or sandals. If I put on a pair of heels I feel really overdressed.
I find that in London, shopping is a past time that you do with friends but in LA that’s not the case. I also find the shopping experience here less enjoyable as the shops are mainly within malls, which I find a bit soulless. I therefore tend to shop online and see trends that way – although generally, I ignore trends and just go with what I feel reflects me as an individual.
Are there any big ‘no-no’s’ when it comes to style in LA?
I don’t think so. There are so many cultures that there is lots of different types of style around.
What do you think is lacking when it comes to style/fashion in LA?
I think that London and New York are much more stylish than LA, where it is more personal and contemporary. LA is maybe a little behind on the latest trends and even when they do arrive they are adapted to the environment. There’s just something more relaxed about life in LA. It’s not as fast-paced and nor does it want to be.
Is there more or less pressure to look good in LA as there is in London?
I think it depends on where you live. When I lived by the beach, I had never felt so self-conscious and aware of my looks in my life. You wear less because it’s beach culture and it’s a very healthy lifestyle where people are doing lots of yoga, doing juice cleanses and eating a raw diet etc. In general, people are in very good shape as being health conscious is part of the lifestyle. This varies as you move inland but of course it’s part of what makes LA LA!
People take very good care of their skin in LA as they’re so aware of the sun and ageing. They also spend more money on teeth (like most of the USA) and most people have lovely straight white teeth and laugh at the Brits, who have notoriously bad teeth! Girls are also always having Mani Pedis and wax everything possible!
Health and exercise are big here, so you see very few overweight people. I see many more overweight people in London and cities like New York. When I come to London, I notice that people drink much more and eat a much unhealthier diet. It’s just much easier to exercise when it’s always sunny and warm.
When going out for dinner/drinks do women get more or less dressed up than they do in London?
Less. It’s more about being casual than getting dressed up. Lots of girls stick to flat shoes and sandals and go out looking pretty casual. Floaty dress or jeans etc
What would you wear on a relaxed Saturday?
A pair of shorts and a T shirt or a sun dress. If it’s winter jeans and a t shirt. I wear flip flops all the time unless I’m walking my dog and then I’ll wear a pair of converse.
Have you discovered any amazing American brands since living there?
I think most stuff is now over here too. J crew for staples. Madewell is a good high street shop. Anthropologie. Paige is a good label and Barney’s is a great shop for designer wear.
Where do LA women go for basics?
J Crew, Banana Republic, Zara.
Where’s your favourite shopping area in LA and why?
Probably 3rd street in Santa Monica because it’s a walk only street and feels less like a mall. Century City Mall is where lots of celebrities go as it’s very relaxed and well designed outdoor mall with loads of great shops. Glendale is also pretty good, but quite hectic. Walking down Melrose is fun although I don’t rate too many of the shops.
Health & Beauty
Do LA women place more or less emphasis on beauty than British women?
This depends on cultures and individuals, although I think LA women take care of themselves much more than British women. They have regular mani pedis, wax their faces, eyebrows, bikini lines etc, invest in massages. LA girls spend a lot of time and money investing in their bodies. I think it’s half to do with appearance but the other half to simply take care of themselves and make themselves feel good.
As a rule do LA women wear more or less make-up than British women?
Much less. It’s so sunny and people are generally quite active, so a bit of tinted moisturiser, mascara and lip gloss is as far as many girls will go. (I barely wear make up anymore). At night time they might go a bit heavier but I notice much more make up when in London.
What is the LA attitude to the body?
Most people are less concerned with being skinny and more concerned with being healthy. Eating well and exercising are part of life in LA. Farmers markets happen almost every day and there are loads of yoga and pilates studios. Girls spend weekends meeting each other for a hike and then a raw juice or light brunch so socialising is very healthy too. People are aware that exercise keeps you healthy and young and so they invest a lot of time in it. Of course, there are lots of actresses in LA whose job it is to take care of their bodies and they spend most of their time with personal trainers and personal chefs. I’m sure this affects some of the population and there is pressure for young girls to be slim.
LA has a reputation for plastic surgery. Is it very common for women to have things done or no less so than in the UK?
I’m not too aware of plastic surgery in the UK, although I know girlfriends here who have had botox or boob jobs. I lived in Toronto for a few years and I saw that there too. In LA, you hear about it more. There are ads on the radio, in magazines etc. it’s big business over there. I don’t know any friends who have personally admitted to having anything done but older ladies, actresses etc yes. And it’s not only ladies that do it. I’ve met plenty of older men who’ve had botox or chemical peels as well as face lifts.
What’s the latest trend for beauty/surgery in LA?
I don’t really know. I think non invasive procedure are big. Chemical peels etc. botox I think is pretty common.
What is the LA attitude to eating? Is it stricter or more relaxed than British women’s?
Just way way way more healthy. Because, it’s sunny and warm, the diet reflects that. People eat lots of salads and grilled fish and veggies. There’s also lots of raw diets, juices, superfoods, alkaline foods etc. It’s a huge business but people are very aware of simple carbs and sugar and how bad they are. People also drink way less alcohol although they do smoke more pot (as it’s pretty much legal). There are juice bars everywhere.
I’m always shocked about how unhealthy the general British diet is when I come back to London but that’s only because LA is so aware of diet and healthy lifestyles.
As a cinematographer you obviously work with actresses, is there a huge amount of pressure on them to look good?
To be honest, I feel lots of pressure is given through magazines etc. Lots of the actresses I have worked with are down to earth and have normal bodies and are pretty but not models. If the role you are going for is a hot young female then yes, you will need to work to fit that character but actresses are cast for their talent as actors and have a whole team of people from wardrobe to make up to my department which is camera and lighting. It’s true, sadly the camera does add pounds and if you’re in front of it, you’re going to take care about what you eat and how much exercise you do. But, just like models in magazines, a lot of work goes into making actresses appear beautiful when in everyday life they are like you and me.
How is ageing dealt with in LA? Do you fight it with everything you’ve got or do women tend to accept it?
I think a bit of both. It’s hard for actresses to age and be replaced by younger women especially as there are few juicy roles for females in general, let alone older ones. I do think LA women are more self conscious and so lots of time and money goes into ageing gracefully.
It’s a society where you are very aware of health and appearance and I think that people in LA generally look much younger than British counterparts as they take time and effort to take care of themselves and keep young!!