Want West Coast Style? Here's How To Dress Up Relaxed Basics

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When it comes to California and the west coast in general words like relaxed, unstudied, and natural often come up in association. The warm weather combined with a slower pace of life and easy access to the beach doesn't only make it a geographical gold mine, but also dictates how its residents dress. As expected, west coast style is reflective of this easy-breezy aesthetic: Denim is always on trend, as are breezy cotton and linen separates, and of course sandals of all heels heights.

While this sort of pared-down uniform is plenty appealing, it's also important to know how to dress up the relaxed staples. Life in California isn't all about the beach, after all. "I think of denim as a neutral, which makes it the ultimate styling tool when it comes to toning down polished pieces," says Nicky Deam, an L.A.-based creative consultant and TZR's contributing style director. "It's more interesting and considered than a white or black basic, and the texture adds something extra. If I'm wearing a loose-fitting piece like a chambray shirt or a wide-leg jean, I always balance it with something more fitted, whether that means a nipped waist or tight knit." To finish off a California-cool outfit, Deam suggests "unexpected accessories, like a lucite bag or sculptural heels. They make any off-duty piece feel more individual and special." 

Ahead, see the west coast staples you need in your closet and easy ways to dress them up for whatever occasion you've got on the itinerary.

Romantic Top

Ruffled, smocked, and puff-sleeved tops are all in heavy rotation in L.A., perhaps thanks in part to the fact that it's the home town of romantic basics brand Reformation. The easiest way to dress up a pretty top is by swapping light jeans for black denim and slipping into a pair of strappy low-heel sandals.

White Button-Down Shirt

A breathable white shirt is hanging in every west coaster's closet as it's the type of style you can just as easily throw on over a swimsuit as with tailored pants. For fall, wear yours over a pair of leather trousers and accessorize with some cool heels and a croc-effect bag.

Floral Dress

You'd be hard pressed to not find someone in a floral dress in Los Angeles right now — remember, the city's blooms are also out all year long. However, if you need to translate this romantic staple to a slightly dressier context, layer on a cardigan and slip into some on-brand western boots — it's an unexpectedly quirky combo.

White Denim

California is the home base for many famous and emerging denim brands — from Levi's, to Boyish, to SLVRLAKE — and white denim is a polished alternative to classic blues. Wear yours with something slightly unexpected and dressed-up, like a one-shoulder top and ankle boots.

Tie-Dye

This psychedelic pattern has certainly had a moment this summer from coast to coast, but California is where it's most at home. Give this groovy pattern a touch of cool minimalism by wearing it with slacks and a pair of trendy metallic mules.

Sandals

Warm weather warrants a slew of sandals options, and while they pair well with a tank and cutoffs, next time around wear yours with a suit for an Olsen-inspired aesthetic.

Baseball Cap

Californians know that sun protection is key, which is why a hat is a wardrobe essential. To sport a baseball cap without looking too casual, style with a slightly oversized button down and khaki slacks.