New Orleans is 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.