How to Dress Like a New Yorker and Not Like a Tourist, According to a Local Fashion Writer
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Forget "Sex and the City."
As a fashion editor who’s lived in New York City for 18 years (originally I'm a proud Jersey girl), I know this city’s style in and out. I’ve pulled looks for glossy magazines, styled models and celebrities, and written all about the latest trends. And just in case you couldn’t tell from my quick stride and fast-paced lifestyle, my black attire is a dead giveaway that I’m a New Yorker through and through — yes, it’s true that we wear lots of black. What can I say, it’s the secret to effortless looks that can take us from the office to drinks or errands to brunch.
Since I’m always on the pulse of what’s happening in the New York fashion scene, I get asked a lot: What do New Yorkers actually wear these days? If you want to learn how to blend in with the locals and not stick out like a tourist, you’re in the right place, because I know as much about the latest bag shape (the ultra-mini) as much as I do about the latest must-see Broadway show (Shucked).
If you’re planning a trip to New York or just want to emulate city style on your next vacation (or at home), here are 15 New York styles I always wear from just $13. Whether you’re headed to dinner, the theater, walking around a museum, or just grabbing a cocktail, closet staples like the perfect leather jacket and my go-to ultimate sundress will have you fitting right in.
Reebok Lifestyle Classic Leather Sneakers
New Yorkers love to walk. We choose it over mass transit to get to work, meet up with friends, or head over a bridge to another borough; walking is our main form of cardio. And despite what you may have seen on TV (I’m looking at you, Sex and the City) New Yorkers aren’t walking around in stilettos. This makes comfortable yet stylish sneakers a must-own. The good news is there is always some form of sneaker trending to make it easy.
All white with a retro look, this Reebok sneaker fits right in with the dad sneaker style that’s “in” at the moment. They're also super versatile. I've worn them with dresses, crop flare jeans, and leggings to head to Solidcore Pilates. One of the best parts about New York style is that you can keep things casual, as long as the look isn’t sloppy, so you can take these from walking all day straight to an early evening glass of wine at a wine bar.
To buy: zappos.com, $76
Fahsyee Women's Leather Jacket
To get the effortless New York cool girl vibe, you must own a leather (or faux-leather) jacket — a piece that can read edgy rocker or sophisticated hipster. From a concert in Brooklyn to an Upper East Side bistro, it will take you anywhere and keep you warm on chilly nights. While mine has been in my wardrobe for years and has proven to be a worthy investment, you don’t need to spend big bucks. This number one best-selling faux-leather jacket from Amazon is beloved because of its quality. One positive review says it’s, “so soft and subtle and feels like real leather.” With a black tank, black jeans, and black or white shoes; anyone can blend in as a New Yorker.
To buy: amazon.com, $48
Splendid Gwendolyn Tiered Maxi Dress
Come spring and summer, New Yorkers get outside for picnics, brunching outdoors, or their morning commutes. So I always add a breathable, flowy maxi dress to my outfit rotation to stay fashionable yet comfy in the city heat. This pretty white tiered style is my new addition. Yes, black dresses are a must (see below), but we New Yorkers like to play with shape and color and femininity with dresses.
The versatile Splendid maxi dress works for everything from bridal showers to the office to picnics in Central Park’s Sheep Meadow. On ultra-hot days, the billowing skirt will keep the air flow and on chilly nights, a denim or leather jacket will layer on beautifully to have dinner streetside. It also seamlessly pairs with white low-top sneakers, sandals, wedges, or heels. For a similar and less expensive option, this $45 eyelet white maxi dress at Amazon is equally pretty and ready for summer picnics.
To buy: nordstrom.com, $228
Lululemon Everywhere Belt Bag
Ever since the return of the belt bag a few years back, I have been wearing the athleisure staple across my body every day. Not only is it super convenient, but it also helps relieve back pain and allows for a more minimal, easy-to-carry purse. It also keeps my hands free if I need to schlep multiple bags home after a stop at Trader Joe's.
Lululemon’s Everywhere belt bag is beloved for its sleekness, water-repellent material, and interior and exterior pockets. It's such a popular and highly sought-after belt bag, the black version sells out often. (But luckily, it’s still in stock right now.) I love that the black bag always matches my look, taking me everywhere from Barry’s Bootcamp class in the morning to a concert over a bomber jacket at night. When warm weather hits, I sometimes switch to an ultra-colorful style, like this hip pack from the Cotopaxi x Hoka collaboration, to get a fresh, fun look.
To buy: lululemon.com, $38
Birdies The Kiwi Sandal
Here’s a style secret for you: New Yorkers love to keep a spare pair of sandals or flats in their bag to spruce up their outfits; they simply wear comfy sneakers to commute and then swap their shoes once at their destination. When the temperature heats up, I opt for a stylish flat sandal like Birdies’ new buckle-front Kiwi Sandals. Known for their comfy styles, this brand is even loved by celebrities (Meghan Markle has been spotted in the brand). But what I particularly love about these slides is how sleek and lightweight they are. They easily slip into my bag for the office to change into post commute or to have on hand if heels get too much. I also know they will be awesome to pack for vacation since they will take up little to no space in my luggage and work with dresses, shorts, and any beach look. (And note: If you prefer a closed-toe flat, Birdie's suede loafers are a comfy go-to option).
To buy: birdies.com, $130
Patagonia Fleetwith Romper
Jumpsuits and rompers are one-and-done pieces that keep your look streamlined and minimal and make getting dressed a dream. While it might seem odd, I often turn to outdoor brands like Patagonia for my city uniform. Why? Clothes made for hiking and adventure tend to be super functional, comfy, and filled with technical elements. A piece crafted in a moisture-wicking fabric can be as convenient for humid city days as it is for a long hike.
In this Patagonia jumpsuit, I know I will arrive in Queens for a Greek dinner with my sister and friends looking polished and refined, even though I just walked 15 blocks and was squashed in a hot and crowded subway. This style, with a skin-revealing criss-cross back, goes from daytime barbecue on a friend's roof in Brooklyn, paired with my favorite Superga platforms, to dinner for a friend's birthday on the Upper East Side, with the addition of a gold belt, and a swap for bright sandals. For a similar option that is a bit more fashion-forward, I recommend this black jumpsuit from Amazon.
To buy: rei.com, $129
Mejuri Tube Medium Hoops
We New Yorkers lead busy lives. I mean, why live in the city if you aren't going to take advantage of the restaurants, bars, walks, shows, etc? I am always thinking of ways to simplify routines and my look so I can transition from plan to plan with ease. After getting two more piercings on my ear a few years ago, I enacted the golden rule of New York: Keep. It. Simple. and decided to wear only gold huggie earrings. Not only are they simple yet stylish, but they are also more comfortable to work out in and sleep on than post-studs. And seriously, less is more here.
I always turn to Mejuri for jewelry options that are approachable in price and style. Their simple small hoops are always exactly what I am looking for, as are their twisted rings and personal necklaces. Since I have five piercings on my left ear, I also supplement with more affordable earring options from Amazon, like these yellow-plated huggies. For special occasions, or when I feel like making a statement earring, I swap out the pair for these Alexis Bittar crystal twisted hoops. I find this New York-based designer to make the best modern pieces to mix in with your more personal ones.
To buy: mejuri.com, $58
Everlane Organic Cotton Box-Cut Tee
We all know the beauty of a well-made tee. It's a closet staple that works with a suit for an interview or denim shorts and sandals for an outdoor barbecue. But not all t-shirts are created equal, and I have struggled to find options that complement my body and are not too tight. My favorite tee is the Sno Cone from AYR, a New York-based label. Their tees are my go-to because they hang flatteringly on my body and are made from the softest cotton (Oprah is a fan too). They're a splurge, so I usually wait to buy a new one before a big trip, so I have a fresh tee in all my pictures.
But equally loved by New Yorkers are Everlane’s excellent, more wallet-friendly T-shirts (this Organic Cotton Box-Cut Tee is highly rated) as well as classics from Madewell. I also love Aday’s silky tees because their wrinkle-free fabric is great for running around the city and perfect for travel.
To buy: everlane.com, $35
Madewell Linen Blend Oversized Shirt
Timeless pieces with a twist are classic New York style, and an oversized button-down shirt is a prime example that embraces the menswear trend with a more relaxed feel. I own and love this style from Levi’s and am eager to try this button-down shirt from Amazon with a similar vibe. I am also drawn to this style from Madewell since it has a very summery feel. Crafted with an eco-friendly linen blend, I know this will look crisp and feel good when the summer humidity starts. You can pair this with any bottom; wide-leg jeans, loose shorts, mini skirt, or even wear it as a beach cover-up on vacation.
To buy: madewell.com, $88
Open Edit Oversize Linen Blend Blazer
Another menswear piece that is a year-round staple is the oversized blazer. New Yorkers’ blazers get a lot of use since they’re equally office appropriate and ready for a night out, depending on what you wear underneath. I am eyeing this oversized linen navy blazer from Nordstrom to add to my spring-summer rotation. Its lightweight linen blend won't cause me to overheat on my commute but will save me from getting chilly while sitting in an air-conditioned office, restaurant, or subway train. The long length offers more coverage, a must for sitting on subway seats with shorter skirts or shorts, and it creates a flattering line. To change your look, try wearing it “editor style” by draping it over your shoulders without putting your arms through the holes.
To take the look one step further, you can even add a matching short. (I’m not sure if I am a two-piece suit person, but matching sets are heavily trending in the city.) Or for another variation, try a playful color like pink — yes, New Yorkers are swapping neutrals for pink blazers like this Abercrombie linen style thanks to the Barbiecore trend sweeping the city in anticipation of the Barbie movie coming out this summer.
To buy: nordstrom.com, $79
Béis Sport Duffle
Living in the city, I’m always on the go. Between fitness classes, freelance jobs, and after-work plans, I rarely carry just a single bag for all my things, and when I do, I constantly feel like I forgot something. While I have a collection of bags and totes to support my lifestyle, there's currently one bag I have been embracing more than others, the Béis sport duffle. The bag has a spacious interior with zipper pockets that help me keep organized. It can fit my laptop, sweaty activewear, water bottle, Nike cycling shoes, and more. The sports duffel is currently my travel bag of choice as well. A slip pocket in the back unzips to be a trolley sleeve that sits comfortably on top of my roller carry-on luggage. It’s also the perfect size to fit under the airplane seat and hold all my flight essentials like books, water bottles, and electronics. For anyone visiting New York City, this will be a handy bag to carry any souvenirs while shopping.
To buy: beistravel.com, $88
Vuori Performance Jogger
Elevated casual is one way I would describe my everyday style, and even the most stylish New Yorkers embrace athleisure, too. A top piece that is always in the mix is refined sweatpants, and the pair I most frequently pull from the drawer is Vuori's Performance Jogger. Not only are they the softest pants I own, but they are also comfortable yet put-together. They can take me from a Solidcore Pilates class to the post office; plus, the joggers look equally cute with my running sneakers as they do with my favorite Birkenstocks. They are also fabulous to sleep in and are always my go-to pair to pack for vacation pajamas since they are also cute and cozy with coverage if you are traveling with friends or family — and bonus: they fold up very thin in your suitcase.
To buy: vuoriclothing.com, $94
Spanx Flare Jeans
While I, and other New Yorkers, embraced skinny jeans for years, they’re long gone from the city’s streets. These days, you see wider leg shapes reminiscent of the ’90s or further back. Flare jeans, for example, are heavily embraced. Recently, while walking down Park Avenue en route to an office where I am freelancing, a man passed me and yelled, “What is this, 1969? Are you heading to Woodstock?” That’s a very New York moment — strangers love to share what they think — but the wide-leg jean look I was rocking is everywhere. Spanx has an excellent dark wash flare jean option with hidden shaping technology; I love that this look is super flattering. It is also a zipper-fly style with stretch, so I can comfortably wear it to walk to work, sit all day, and head to happy hour.
To buy: spanx.com, $148
Zenni Cat-Eye Sunglasses
After my wallet, phone, and keys, sunglasses are the fourth essential in my bag when I leave the house. Sunglasses are needed year around in the city to keep the sun's glare out of your eyes. Skyscrapers might shade some rays, but they can also reflect them. Shades are also useful for staying incognito from an old coworker or a horrible first date that you would rather avoid. Because although this city is super populated, it becomes small quickly. While I tend to gravitate toward timeless styles like classic aviators or giant oversized shades, I am trying to embrace trendier styles this season. I gravitated towards this cat-eyed style since they felt super summer, with the transparent frames and pink and blue lenses. I also love that the affordable price point allows me to do something out of my comfort zone.
To buy: zennioptical.com, $13
Weaczzy Easy Summer Short Sleeve Casual Dresses V-Neck Dress
Little black dresses are far from a secret, but they really do become heavy hitters in the spring and summer in New York. Not only do they help us stick to our all-black aesthetic, but their versatility is vast. You can easily dress up a black dress with heels and a leather jacket or down with sneakers and a jean jacket for Saturday brunch with friends. Any black dress with a streamlined silhouette will have you fitting right in, whether in the Williamsbourgh or the West Village. For an affordable, easy-to-wear option, check out this black dress from Amazon. One five-star review stated, "This dress is very flattering on my body. It hugs my bust, which I love but gently flares out... I feel very feminine and comfortable in this dress."
To buy: amazon.com, $31
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