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How to Dress for LA Seasons
You know how to handle Summer — here's your guide for the other six weeks of the year.
Los Angeles has the reputation for being warm and sunny, but when it isn’t summer it can be difficult to tell exactly what season it is.
Contrary to popular belief, Southern California does have them. Our seasons don’t slap us in the face and scream “I’m Fall, F-A-L-L, you can tell I’m Fall because of the brightly colored red orange and yellow leaves” like they do in some parts of the country.
Our seasons go about it much more subtly. “You know I don’t tell many people this, but my real name is Autumn.”
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Our seasons don’t adhere to the common liturgy of Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall, preferring instead to show up haphazardly and without warning. One day it’s summer, the next winter. Today’s forecast: twenty minutes of spring in the late afternoon, followed by 36 hours of scattered winter through the weekend.
Rather than actually checking the weather, this time of year most of us Angelenos prefer to open our doors, see what it feels like, and make our best guess.
It doesn’t always work out for us.
Whether you just moved to Los Angeles, are visiting from out of town, or have lived here for years and still haven’t quite gotten it down, here’s a quick reference sheet for deciding what to wear in those few weeks it isn’t summer.
Don’t reach for the flip flops just yet. Any temperature that starts with less than a 6 is still winter time in my book. If the forecast reads 59, you may feel springtime in your heart and soul but you will not be feeling it in your legs, ears, or toes without sweats, a beanie, and thick socks.
While you may think winter is over, be ye not deceived—it is not yet time for daily shorts and t-shirts. Your best bet is to stick to a base outfit of pants, shirt, and a comfortable outer layer you don’t mind taking on and off. From here, you can experiment. Perhaps the sun is shining just enough to slip on sandals for a couple hours in the afternoon. Maybe your jacket stays unzipped most of the day. There are plenty of ways to give off “it’s getting a little warmer but not too much warmer only a little bit warmer” vibes.
61° F - 64° F
The subtle changes between 60 degrees and 65 degrees call for subtle changes in wardrobe. This is the perfect range for thick long sleeve button ups that aren’t sure whether they’re a jacket or a shirt. A degree up or down can mean the difference between a sweatshirt that is zipped or unzipped. A crisp morning might call for wool socks that give way to thin socks in the sunny afternoon. Sweatpants are still very much encouraged for this range, and it is not uncommon to be standing in the grocery store checkout between someone in a t-shirt and someone in a puffy jacket.
This is the unequivocal “middle-temp”. The no-man’s land between cold and warm. The “is this even a temperature?” of all temperatures. 65 degrees is a tricky one because it is the only temperature where you ignore the number completely and look instead to the cloud cover and wind. Cloudy? You might as well stay inside because today is going to be freezing. Windy? Put those sandals away because your toes might catch frostbite with that chill. Sunny? You better second-guess that sweater my friend because when you step foot into that blazing California sunshine you’ll be putting the sweat in the sweater. (But also somehow your ears, fingers, and nose will be perpetually freezing because nothing makes sense and temperature is an illusion.)
66° F - 68° F
This is one of the trickiest ranges to deal with, as variables like cloud cover and wind change the “feels like” aspect of the weather dramatically. You may be able to commit to shorts on a particularly sunny day, but most of us will opt for long pants for the upper-mid 60s. Short sleeves with a jean jacket, light flannel, or zip-up hoodie should keep you comfortable, but be prepared to cancel all your plans if rain threatens, even though we all know it never actually rains.
There’s only one option for a 69 degree day: Long sleeve crew neck t-shirt, shorts, and high-top Converse. Don’t ask me why, that’s just the way it is.
Shorts definitely factor into the equation when it reaches 70 degrees (although, and I have no idea why this is, I’m much more likely to wear shorts on a 70 degree October day than a 70 degree February day) but they are by no means required. 70 degree days might mean you roll your pants up an extra time or two, revealing a little ankle. Perhaps you swap out the beanie for the cap, or the scarf for the shawl. Throw in a few pastel colors that are somehow just less warm feeling than their fully saturated counterparts. 70 degrees opens up a playground of possibilities and leaves the boots-jeans-jacket-scarf-sunglasses-beanie look firmly on the table.
Shorts and sandals are the call for 71 degree days—but watch out for those lows which can still sneak up on you. A windbreaker should be fine most evenings, but you may want to keep an extra sweatshirt, blanket, scarf, beanie, hand warmers, and puffy jacket in the car for good measure. And don’t forget your sunglasses. You always need sunglasses here. Even when it’s cloudy it’s still somehow blinding.
72° F +
Instincts usually kick in once the daily highs peek into the mid-70s. This is what 80% of our wardrobes are designed for in Southern California. You know what to do. This guide will always be here if the temperatures take another plunge and it turns out to be false-spring.