A Dressing Trick Southern Women All Use

New Orleans is a city that's every bit as vibrant, colorful, and loud as you'd imagine. That's what I learned when I finally made a pilgrimage to the Big Easy earlier this month. Houses were painted neon colors, jazz bands roamed the streets, and—no surprise—the fashion was exactly the right amount of over-the-top. Having spent most of my life in Oakland and Berkeley, I'm a bit of a granola-girl stereotype. Yes, I prefer Birkenstocks to heels; no, I don't own anything ruffled or ball gown–esque. But finally visiting the South has changed my perspective on polished dressing.

"When I moved to New Orleans, I was fascinated by the number of women who really stick to the idea of Southern polish," says Coeli Hilferty, co-owner of NOLA boutique Pilot and Powell. "There is an exuberance and excitement to dressing down here, whether it is costuming for a parade, head-to-toe dressing for lunches, or breaking out the best white-tie looks for Mardi Gras balls." Bright colors, classic silhouettes, and statement jewelry are all part of the Southern uniform, which means that shopping down South is a different experience than anywhere else. Kathryn Bullock, the second half of the Pilot and Powell duo, explains, "We are typically drawn to those striking pieces that some bigger-box retailers deem as too risky, but Coeli and I have found that women very much respond to our methodical yet emotional edit of a collection." Bullock and Hilferty count brands like Rosie Assoulin, Rosetta Getty, and Lizzie Fortunato as consistent favorites. 

But beyond brands, Southern women have a distinctly different way of dressing. Sure, they wear the same brands that I and other NYC women love, from Scandi favorite Ganni to New York's Rachel Comey, but their mixing and matching just isn't the same. So what's the secret to pulling off New Orleans style? Below is a breakdown, along with shopping picks from Pilot and Powell, to help you embrace NOLA style.