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Slick rain gear for L.A. weather

In Los Angeles, a rainy day can hatch a serious fashion conundrum. On average, it rains only 15 inches a year here -- compared with 47 inches in New York -- which helps explain why so many Angelenos are stumped when it comes to dressing stylishly for soggy conditions, like those of the last couple of weeks.

The fact that we drive everywhere -- only confronting the rain in parking lots and on brief sidewalk sojourns -- confuses matters. Even in the middle of a deluge, dressing like the Gorton’s Fisherman feels wholly inappropriate.

“We are pretty much covered 90% of the day, in and out of our cars and offices,” noted Julie Weiss, an L.A.-based stylist and judge on MTV’s styling competition, “Styl’D.” “We don’t [need] to wear yellow raincoats and matching yellow hats or plastic ponchos and hard-core ski gloves.”

So what’s the secret to staying dry without sacrificing style? “Putting things together the same way you do for a normal day,” then mixing in a few classic rainy day staples, Weiss said.

“I think in L.A., people are so afraid of the rain,” local editorial stylist Monica Schweiger said. “Personally, I look at it as a chance to have a little more fun with my wardrobe.”

Weiss and Schweiger consider raincoats and classic slickers to be overkill in this parched corner of the world. Instead, Weiss suggests “a great peacoat” for guys and gals, while Schweiger is a fan of the iconic Burberry trench coat. “It’s chic and timeless,” she said. “Think Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard in ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ -- drenched but oh so elegant in classic tan trench coats. Belted for the lady, and double breasted with an upturned collar for the gents.”

When it comes to footwear, Schweiger and Weiss are fans of Wellington boots -- also known as “Wellies” -- for women. Named after the royal who popularized them, the 1st Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wellesley, the rubber knee-length boot is a gardening and work-wear staple that also boasts fashion cachet.

“There are so many to choose from, though you may have to shop online as the variety here is slim to none,” noted Schweiger, who personally wears Hunter-brand Wellingtons. Men, meanwhile, “should bring out your beat-up leather biker or military-style boots, and the rain will make them even more distressed.”

The stylists differ on the umbrella issue. Weiss calls umbrellas “a functional necessity,” and says it’s up to the wearer whether to go big and formal, with an extended tip (in which case, it might be worth investing in a designer umbrella from the likes of Fendi or Gucci), or pragmatic and Lilliputian, to stow easily in your handbag.

Schweiger contends that it’s fine to go without one in L.A., and doesn’t believe in spending too much on something that “could get left behind or squashed in a trunk,” adding, “I’m a fan of the cheap black ones I used to get from street vendors in New York.”

“I never carry an umbrella,” said Lizzy Epstein, a local writer and New York transplant, who was pulling off a decidedly chic rainy day outfit at LA Mill coffee shop in Silver Lake on a recent rainy day. “I think they’re too cumbersome and not really necessary in L.A.”

Instead, the 34-year-old Echo Park resident relied on preppy rubber L.L. Bean “duck” boots (which are rubbery on the foot, but lead into a leather, lace-up ankle), a Loro Piana cashmere earflap hat and a vintage Army jacket -- worn over wide-leg sailor trousers and an A.P.C. button-front blouse -- to keep her dry and cozy. “I know everyone loves Wellies since Kate Moss wore them at the Glastonbury music festival a few years back,” she said. “But for me, nothing will ever stand up to the ‘duck’ boot.”

Schweiger said the important thing to remember when dressing for the rain is “to not worry about the rain” -- a foreign concept to many L.A. residents. She added, “It’s not so chic to shriek and squeal as a few raindrops hit you.”

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