Perhaps you're from another city like Las Vegas, where there are certain guidelines for what one can and cannot wear to a bar or club. Sure there are general fashion guidelines that some might wish were better followed--no white linen after Labor Day; no mixing of stripes and plaids; no adult clothes with any Disney logos or characters on them; no Crocs, Uggs, Keds or other footwear from a different fashion era, no camouflage unless you're actually in the military or at a themed party--but in general, almost anything goes when dressing up to go out in West Hollywood or Silverlake.
There are definitely more appropriate outfits to wear to certain bars. If you're headed to The Eagle, Los Angeles' renowned leather bar, it's probably not the night to try out that new bedazzled Christian Audigier track suit, and a bit wiser to show up in something denim or leather. Conversely, while you could always wear your leather cap and harness to West Hollywood hangout Fiesta Cantina for the 2-for-1 happy hour, the Mexican-themed bar/restaurant tends to have more of a mainstream "vanilla" look ,where simple jeans and a t-shirt would suffice.
That being said, it's always best to check the club's website for photos or info, or see if it's possible to hunt down a flyer promoting the night. Not only is it polite to do your research, but it puts you at less risk of committing a fashion crime. The Abbey on a Saturday night may not be the place to debut those copper-sequined overall shorts you aren't so sure about, but a Silverlake party like A Club Called Rhonda at El Cid or Mustache Mondays at La Cita do encourage the more adventurously dressed. And showing some respect to the night and promoter is always a good idea. If the flyer encourages guests to "dress to impress" or embody "sophisticated glamour," showing up in an over-sized GAP t-shirt wouldn't be the best move (is that ever the "right move?) In Los Angeles' gay bars, costume-themed nights seem to rarely be enforced; you'll still be admitted to the underwear party if you aren't in your briefs and allowed to mingle with other guests if your outfit isn't paying homage to Rio on a Carnival-themed night, but you might not be eligible for reduced cover, drink specials and contests.
While it's hard to find a gay bar or club where there's a traditional dress "code," sometimes when gay nights are thrown at venues that traditionally host straight parties - like La Cita or Voyeur - there may be club guidelines such as those that prohibit guests from wearing flip flops inside - for legal or aesthetic reasons who can say - or barely-there tank tops. At the same time, dress codes that may usually be in place at these non-gay venues are considerably relaxed if not entirely lifted for gay parties.
So rest easy, that button down shirt and freshly polished dress shoes can stay at home, unless of course, that's your own personal look. Because one of the great things about going out in Los Angeles and bar-hopping through this city is navigating through a sea of dramatically different styles - from forty-somethings in their Abercrombie, tomboys, and twinks in their midriff-baring Forever 21 tops, to an assortment of colorful drag queens, prepsters, Lady Gaga-inspired fashionistas and everyone in between.
Additional Insider's Tips:
When it comes to taking your shirt off in the club, if you're new to the place, look around first. Some venues allow patrons to take their shirts off depending on the night. Just because the bartender might be in his underwear, doesn't mean they want you stripped down as well.
Who most often gets cover waived at the bar? Drag queens. And no, not a bootleg looking boy in a wig, but a girl who has really gone whole hog and beat her face like she means it. Put a little effort to it on a "girl's" night out and you might have found yourself a dress code that gets you in for free.