I Moved to LA and Forgot How to Dress Myself

Text by Catherine Pears
Illustration by Holly Kirkman

I know what you're thinking, "Katie, you're telling me that you've spent your semester nakedly sitting in traffic, hiding your texting hand beside your bare right thigh?" No, I have not. I still put clothing on my body, but it no longer feels like my clothing. I know what you're thinking now too, "Katie, did you steal?" No, I did not steal my clothing. It belongs to me, but it doesn't feel like it belongs to me.

Today at my internship, I wore a pair of ballet flats that are somehow simultaneously both grey and pink, blue mid-rise jeans, and a black leather sleeveless top. Now there's nothing wrong with these items; I've owned them for a couple years and love them each individually. The pants are definitely over 50% spandex because they are quite comfortable even though they are also quite tight. They are my first designer jeans and I bought them in Paris so there's sentiment attached and all that. The leather top is that type of smooth, supple leather that reminds me of cream being stirred into coffee and fits perfectly. But it's just the way in which I'm wearing them. And at times, depending on what I'm wearing, the sight of myself in the bathroom mirror will result in some dramatic internal questioning like- Who even are you, Katie? What happened to you? Who have you become

How is it that I'm wearing the same clothes just in a different way? Somehow the clothing that I have had in my closet and worn before and once felt myself in, now feels foreign.

And here is where I blame LA. Ah, yes, dear Los Angeles. I blame you for your traffic and your annoyingly consistent weather; In fact, I haven't opened my weather app in months, I'll do that now... See? 72 degrees and sunny! Shocker! Really didn't see that one coming LA! Threw me for a loop there!

But it doesn't feel right to blame the weather for my recent alienation from, what I thought was, a somewhat finite, stable idea of how I like to dress myself. If anything, my former homeland of Boston should have been more of a hindrance when it came to getting dressed in the winter months. Covering up an entire outfit with a giant black, floor length puffer jacket kind of defeats the purpose of wearing anything under it at all. Somehow I've set myself up, for the second time within this essay, to be assumed a nudist. But I promise you I'm not.

When it comes to the difficulty of seasonal dressing, it seems, yet again in my life, I have been proven wrong. Is the only thing more inspiring than sunshine and sunsets the opposite of that? Could it be that it's the burrowing indoors with forced hot air that inspired me to dress the way I once did? Was it chipped mugs filled with hot coffee? Sweaters and cashmere socks? I'd venture to say no. But I'm still not sure why my clothing feels like someone else's since I've left.

In LA it seems everyone is trying to figure out who they are, except themselves. It's like LA is telling you, "You are someone. You just aren't you and you'll never be me."  Everyone is trying to play the role they were given or the role they picked when they weren't quite sure of it and now they think it's too late to change their mind. The problem with simply being aware though, especially self-aware, is it doesn't really change anything. You can be aware of a problem, with yourself or with others, shrug your shoulders and sigh "That's just the way it is."

Or you can question it and try to understand what, if anything, is actually going on. The idea that I'm starting to grapple with now is more about the change that relocation can provoke within oneself. Often times it seems that these changes begin unnoticed but can manifest in more obvious ways, like a haircut, or a peaked interest in a genre of music previously ignored, or, perhaps-I'll stretch it here-to a forgetfulness of how to dress oneself. And then, hopefully, a reinvention of how to do that in a way that feels, well, right.