Tuesday, September 12, 2006

You're wearing that to dinner?

I had the great good fortune tonight to test drive a swanky, hip restaurant that's about to open. Unfortunately, I am verboten from writing about it before they have a chance to get into 4th gear. Plus my meal was gratis in exchange for feedback; my opinion might be as reliable as a Vice President who lets his former oil exec. buddies create energy policies for America... but I digress.
Instead, let's talk about what people wear to dinner in L.A. In the interest of full disclosure, I was raised a no white after Labor Day, no grey shoes in winter, never a skirt without a slip WASP. However, I also fled to California at 22 and haven't looked back. Where do I fall, then?
I confess, it pleases me to know the rules. I own the guidebook: want to know which spoon is for dessert? where your left hand should be while you eat? what to bring to a dinner party? The best part of this knowledge is the delight that comes from willfully ignoring it. I appreciate having a choice.
The dress code for dining (and living) in LA follows a basic principle I haven't seen in any other city: the more successful you are, the more you dress like a slob to prove that now you don't have anything to prove. This means there are people stepping into beautiful, expensive restaurants on grandma's birthday clad in jeans, t-shirts, backwards baseballs caps and flip-flops. Except the jeans with the pocket embroidery cost hundreds of dollars; so do the carefully ratty designer t-shirts and (for ladies) sequin-encrusted flip-flops.
The other option for ladies is to be as hooched out as humanly possible. A few months after I moved to L.A., I put on a long, flowy dress for dinner at a dimly lit, elegant French restaurant on Beverly. I ended up sitting by a woman in a glitter tubetop, achingly tight jeans and five-inch heels. She had sprayed out, bright blond hair with highlights that looked like she'd been attacked by a mob of furious kindergartners armed with magic markers. And I assure you, I was the only one with wide eyes and a jaw on the table. No one else even noticed. Later I heard her talking; she was totally smart. Ehh?
And I thought to myself, forget Kansas, Toto. This makes San Francisco seem fussy and uptight. Now when I go to dinner, you'll even find a little glitter on me. Well, but only on my eyelids.


Graham Campbell said...

K, the sequins on the flip flops are lame. And I think you should dress for comfort, but I blame the dot com boom for slobby millionaires.

Tory Davis said...

I wonder if that's it, if it's the silly dot.commers. I moved to LA in '01 so I don't know what it was like before, but I suspect the whole 'we're California casual' was en vogue way before websites. Though the dot.com culture certainly did make most American workplaces more casual.