The Newbie's Guide to Dressing for Success in Hollywood
Five Money Saving Tips
One of the questions I am often asked by people trying to get into the entertainment business is: What do I wear? It is actually a pretty important question. Since Hollywood is the trendsetter for the world, it can be overwhelming to try to figure out what is in or out. Hoping to be of help I have come up with a few guidelines. But before you read please know that I am not a fashion authority. This isn’t about fashion at all. These are tips for people who want to be able to go to a meeting or screening and look like they belong there. Although I am sure everyone in Los Angeles would deny that there is a “dress code” out here – there is. We can spot someone from New York or Florida or Montana in a heartbeat. Mickey Mouse ears and Universal tour tee shirts let us know we are dealing with a tourist. Obviously if you are someone has unlimited amounts of money to spend on your wardrobe, then this article would not be for you. But given that the newbie to the LA scene is probably working hard just to pay rent and fill up their gas tank – spending money on clothes comes in third. So here is my best advice as someone who has been moving through the biz for more than 20 years. Although these tips are more aimed at women, men, I know have the same problem too. It’s just a bit more subtle. As long as you have a healthy supply of dockers and polo’s and a good leather bomber jacket you should do fine. Also one really expensive looking suit. Three-Day Suit Brokers can supply you with that. Wear Hawaiian shirts ONLY if you are going into comedy writing. So here goes:
1. Don’t compete – If you don’t have endless amounts of money you will NEVER be able to look as good as Paris or Natalie or Lindsey or whoever. These people have consultants that get paid lots of money to study and find the hottest, most perfect, off-the-runway fashions. Trends are constantly changing in this city and trying to keep up will just confuse you. Instead of looking fashion forward you could end up looking fashion silly. Pastels may be working in Florida but look weirdly washed out here. Serious East coast looks seem boring and drab in La La land. So until you have been in town for a while and really gotten a sense of things leave the trendsetting to others. Besides your fashion budget of $50 is not going to get you very far. Instead strive to blend in so that you won’t show up on People Magazine’s worst dressed list.
2. Wear Black – I know this may sound odd since L.A. seems to scream neon but if you are going somewhere that is even slightly sophisticated like a screening or a party, the LBD will never be wrong. You can add color with jewelry or incredibly cool shoes. But simple is better. And the more expensive or lavish the event – the simpler the outfit. I have black sequin tops, black chiffon pants, black velvet dresses, jackets, black silk shirts, and tanks. I have so much black I almost can’t find anything in my closet. When I was at the Golden Globes a few years ago – I wore black everything and had a marvelous time chatting up movie stars and high powered producers who were all much more worried about what everyone was thinking about THEM.
3. Buy or find the best but cheapest classic clothes you can. A good looking, well fitting pair of black pants or a crisp white shirt doesn’t have to cost a fortune and no one will know if you paid $20 or $2000 for it. This works for both men and women. Look at the latest fashion mags for the right cut, length etc. Then try to approximate that look. However, steer clear of styles that can become dated in a second like bell-bottoms that seems to go in and out of style every 3 years. Fabric is what matters the most. Think cotton, wool, linen or blends of those fabrics. Also remember that Southern Cal is warm most of the year so all your cold weather clothes pretty much need to be packed up and saved for your annual trip to Sundance.
4. Don’t turn your nose up at thrift stores and consignment shops. The Good Will’s and Salvation Army’s in L.A. have fabulous finds. (All those stars – gaining and losing weight – buy whole new wardrobes seasonally and give away their old clothes.) Men, this tip is for you too. Suits – really good one can be found at these places. So can super pricey shirts from Europe. I discovered this tip my third year in Los Angeles from a VERY well dressed producer friend of mine. She seemed to have an unending supply of the most wonderful clothes. When I asked her where she shopped she told me about a gigantic thrift store in the valley. I was there one day later and almost couldn’t move for all the other amazingly well dressed people who were grabbing stuff off the racks. At prices like three dollars for a pair of slacks you really can’t go wrong. And if you destroy them when you drop your In and Out burger on them you won’t be nearly as upset.
5. If you must spend your money – spend it on power accessories. Once you have assembled your simple, but attractive wardrobe in various shades of black, you will need the power watch, purse or shoes. If you are wearing a pair of $300 shoes with Target pants – everyone will assume your whole wardrobe is expensive. For men it seems technology is the thing. The diving watch (even if you can’t swim), the latest Ipad/phone/whatever will be noticed faster than your clothes. My signature thing used to be power purses. I would get my mother for birthdays and Christmas to take me purse shopping where I would get a bag that cost more than my entire wardrobe. Invariably, I ALWAYS got compliments on my purse and no one ever noticed my second hand sweater. Get your parents or friends to chip in on the uber accessory of your dreams for your next birthday. That way you will still have your own hard earned dollars left for a dash to Nordstrom’s Rack.
Hopefully these tips will help guide you to smarter shopping and greater confidence as you begin your journey in Hollywoodland.