Mitali Gupta

An Ode to California

Mitali Gupta
An Ode to California
DSC_0268-2.jpg

Driving slowly through a freeway sprawled with restless cars, I was distracted from the banality of my daily commute by the dull orange sunset coloring the clouds and distant hills. The quintessential California freeway sign flashed past me, and the soothing voice of a KQED host referencing the strong bond of the California community pushed me into a trance about the state’s beauty. 

 Credits: McGheiver

Credits: McGheiver

//I saw surreal sand dunes right by the water, with orange poppies blooming on the white sand, blowing in the cool wind. The dunes seemed to have the smoothest, light colored sand which made me want to slide in it and to break its untouched sanctity. I wanted dig my feet deep into it to feel the fine, cool sand slip between my toes. It made me feel the freedom and dreaminess of a child - I wanted to run wild and sleep out in the open. The air smelled how it does when the first drops of a rain hit the sand, but also very fresh and green. There was something so breathtaking and overwhelming about the way the nude shades of the desert and of dry shrubs reflected in the rusty sun: it had a meditative and contemplative effect while making me realize my finitude. The sunset and the openness and the big dry hills ground me every time - it’s something larger that forces me to get out of my head.//

Back in the car, stuck in a lane that was edging through at a turtle’s pace, I thought about recreating the very scene that inspired me. Here, I’m standing in for the brown hills and shrubs in a mystic California sunset. The earthy palette of my clothes comes from the base color of all the dry vegetation and sand that lies before the sun. The grittier wool of my jacket imitates the feel of harsher desert sand and the thorny, uninviting plants. My smooth cotton pants reflect how beach sand looks and feels from a distance. Something about the vastness and power of this beauty I see makes me feel small and young: I want to run in the wild, let my hair loose and be care-free. My unkempt, curly hair adds that restless energy to the photos, while the strands of brown peeking through the black break up the uniformity and add a certain wildness.

DSC_0246-2.jpg

//But was it just this meditative nature that made me fall in love was California? Perhaps it was the state’s, and particularly LA’s, commitment to art and aesthetic through a cultural lens, and its desire to mix things that didn’t traditionally blend. There are bars that rooms with different themes on every floor, ranging from a tiki bar room to a 20’s jazz room because there are people diverse and curious enough to care for the smallest things in LA. There’s Koreatown, little Tokyo, little India, a persian belt - you name it, it has it. More importantly than the places are the people in them: I’m so constantly inspired by people and their expression of color, culture and ideas through fashion. For instance, there’s a vibrant Latino community paying homage to its heritage through clothing (check out Vogue’s coverage on the designer Brenda Equihua, who makes coats out of San Marcos blankets). The dressing (or lack of it) is mostly so over the top that it’s meant to make a statement about one’s persona, and being in this environment made me feel constantly inspired and stimulated.//

My outfit, which features mismatched silhouettes and styles is an ode to this cultural melting pot that has shaped my aesthetic. The coat, lined with faux fur, reminds me of both the ‘20’s and the hedonism of Hollywood - the piece feels statement enough to make me feel as if I’m adopting a different persona. The satin sheen and fall of my top and the fur of my jacket are a tribute to the loud and bougie LA nights that I can’t seem to get off my mind.  My pants - cuffed and straight - are casual but elegant at the same time, showing how silhouettes other than body-con can add dimension to a body, especially in this empowered state. The tassel earrings are wilder and more gypsy, contradicting the elaborate garments, but also ethnic in the golden beaded work, referencing other subcultures in the city. My ring, a crystal, embedded in an over the top golden frame, channels the modern bohemian that the less gentrified portions of LA boast of.

DSC_0259-2.jpg
DSC_0263-2.jpg

The reference to multiple subcultures and styles in one outfit, which is also largely inspired by natural aesthetic, is meant to show you the overflowing inspiration California makes me feel. I like that influences from all over can come together in a visually appealing way. And while I can’t directly narrate all the history, culture and nature that inspired me for this, hopefully the pictures make you feel an inkling of the awe I feel when I think of this amazing place that’s become my home.

DSC_0251-2.jpg
DSC_0214-2.jpg
DSC_0238-3.jpg