Privilege Blog

Key Pieces For Casual Style, But Comfortable

I have struggled, a tad, with how to look casually presentable. Wasn’t previously necessary, given I spent the majority of my time in corporate gear. Last year I asked Corporette how to do casual and remain networking-presentable, in case I was surprised at the supermarket by a venture capitalist. Squeezing avocados, let’s say. Corporette, those good souls, answered with remarkable restraint. No audible guffaws. A fitted jacket in a casual fabric, said they. But did I act immediately? Of course not.

I look back now and laugh. Like a horse let out to pasture after her life under saddle, “I don’t have to wear corporate executive gear? I will dress like a skateboarder! I will wear sneakers!” While I’m at it, “I will throw all good sense to the wind, all style out the window! In one fell swoop! Satorial hari kari!” Let us be clear. There is nothing immoral about the outfit below. But giving up the attempt to look presentable didn’t make me feel liberated and creative. More like a 50-year old woman wearing her son’s clothes. Goofy. Fun for a few days but not a good life strategy. Not for me.

Turns out I am not the only one struggling with casual. Albeit, perhaps, the only one over 50 who actually left the house wearing a Santa Barbara Surf Shop sweatshirt. Recently, a blog commenter in my age cohort asked this question,

…I wonder what you think is appropriate attire for casual wear for a woman of “our age”. Thank you so much! I would love to see you do a post on the “mature woman” and her casual wear. How to look great, without trying to look like our daughters!

Well, what does Imogen say? She writes the remarkably useful blog, Inside Out Style. Highly recommended. Good soul that she is, Imogen responded to a similar query on my part just the other week. With remarkably similar advice. “Get thee some decent outerwear!” Oh. OK. Softly structured jackets.

This time, I was ready. A Christmas credit at Saks Fifth Avenue? Commence gleeful hand-rubbing. First step? Internet window shopping. I poked, I clicked, I followed. And found myself looking at a James Perse fleece peacoat. Fleece + peacoat = soft + structure. I didn’t take calculus in business school for nothing. Saks carries James Perse. Game on.

Push open the heavy glass doors. Employees by the cosmetics counters greet you at the entrance. Without seeming to want to sell you anything. Just a sort of, “Oh, hello honored guest.” Nice touch. The smell of department store cosmetics counters in full bloom. The light that special gold fluorescent tint. Time to shop. With a credit, time to shop without fretting.

Up the escalators I went. Up. And up. Past all the Dolce and Gabbana, St. John’s, Prada. Today I’m doing casual. And they put casual all the way up in the attic. Heaven forbid you might want to look nice at the grocery store. We know you are all far more interested in what to wear when attending the Golden Globes or crashing a Presidential Dinner.

I wander around a little bit, wondering why the two sales guys laughing about their weekend don’t jump to attention, sensing my intent to buy. Who knows. A young woman asks if she can help. Why, yes, you can. She points me in the right direction.

Ha! Bingo! Score!

They don’t carry the peacoat I saw on the Internet, but they’ve got another one. And it’s made from SWEATSHIRT fabric! I cannot possibly communicate the enormity of that fact. I love sweatshirts. They are my fuffies. Were I ever to have sucked my thumb in my entire life, it would have been while holding a sweatshirt to my face. To say nothing of their extreme suitability for life lived in California. Which is to say, subject to weather that is sometimes cool, rarely cold. A lot of driving. You know how uncomfortable it is to drive wearing something bulky?

I was so happy I even bought something I didn’t need. Just because it was cute. Hip. And on sale for $93.oo. I’m not quite ready to give up on hip. I may be a Sturdy Gal in sweatie but when I want to go Artsy it’s urban rather than multi-colored. Largely because I’m simple-minded when it comes to hues. No judgment on pink. Or aubergine. Or Desert Sunset.
I bought this cropped military jacket. A trend that would in otherwise have passed me over like wind in the treetops. But this was made of, yes, SWEATSHIRT fabric. Hosanna in excelsis. To be worn with jeans, a long white t-shirt, and those ever-useful Manolo quilted ballet flats. Don’t forget the diamond studs.

Mission more than accomplished. I learned the ins and outs of corporate style a while back. These jackets, as unimportant as they are in the grand scheme of things, make me feel in the grocery store like I did at work. Intelligent, competent, individual. Not bad for two fancy little sweatshirts.

On to tea at Cafe de la Presse. With a friend. Which turned into wine and Salade Nicoise. Sensible cafe, to have a license to serve Sauvignon Blanc. Quite sensible.

By me, except the cropped Casual Couture by Green Envelope jacket, via StyleCaster. And Imogen’s Polyvore.

37 Responses

  1. What fabulous jackets! Dressing in a casual, comfortable but "done" look has always been my problem. I don't work outside the home and volunteer in places where I don't want to insult the clientele by wearing clothes that cost more than they make in a month. Plus, I have a normal body for a woman my age, which means I haven't been surgically "spruced up" lol. I did just buy a fleece jacket at JJill that I really like.
    Love the tip!

  2. Both of those jackets are fabulous! Finding something comfortable that still will help you look put-together isn't easy, but these pieces manage it quite well.

  3. I agree … throw a casual, light, jacket over almost anything and it makes a person look pulled together. Even jeans and a t-shirt … my uniform of choice in The OC.

  4. Isn't that a great shop! When you need work attire again, think you could wear the military jacket with a pencil skirt and shirt. I feel like a different person in a jacket.

  5. Ah cafe de la presse….hm….love it there! Did you buy a French magazine?
    The sweatshirt jackets are popping up here too, I glance at one without trying it on at my "go to boutique" Note to self, must get back…if it is a good choice or the HIGH WASP it might be good for the HOSTESS!
    I love shopping vicariously with you…

  6. I have the same exact Santa Barbara Surf Shop sweatshirt! HAHA. I do love James Perse. So comfortable while still chic. Fun post.

  7. Lisa, Thank you for the post. I hope that you will be able to score the peacoat. Even For us men we do sometimes have a difficult time of it, in the casual department. I do have to say that the advise by Imogen is spot on.

    Always Bumby

  8. I love both coats, excellent choice. My daughters (I was a child bride) are always telling me I need to dress my age. Evidently that means Lane Bryant only I can't quite fit into it???

  9. Well done!

    I may need to have a military jacket….and I would copy your outfit, replacing the Manolos with Torys.

    Long t-shirts. Where do you find nice t-shirts?

  10. Good post. I struggle with this too. Here on the chilly east coast, I even need a sweater or jacket on over whatever I'm wearing inside all winter. I tend to use hoodie sweatshirts from my kids' schools, and feel all schleppy. I need to get me a jacket like that!! (I believe I have that same handbag, but I dared to go red and am loving it)
    You give the best advice!

  11. Score! And great subtle advice about looking presentable at the grocery, even if you're not networking over avocados!

  12. I like t-shirts from Petit Bateau. However, Banana Republic is a good alternate, and are making long shirts now.

  13. Sorry for the second comment but I tried to retweet and tweettweet wouldn't do it, I RT the old fashioned way.

  14. Great jackets – you will find that you wear and wear them, dress them up and down, and feel comfortable and stylish!

    Thanks for the lovely links.

  15. I've always been a jacket person. I suspect your next challenge is a warm/hot weather version of these outfits.

  16. Loving my Revas. I'm sure you have other stuff that you would love to "donate". I will be your charity!!
    Nancy in NC

  17. Nancy, glad you like the Revas. They just Would Not stay on my feet:). Although Patsy, they'd be nice with the military jacket. Snappier than my look. TC, thanks for retweeting. Any old way at all…Lane Bryant serves a good purpose but if it doesn't fit, then, well, you know, acquiting and all that.

  18. Loved this post – as a former IBM Marketing Rep and Cosmetic Executive, I completely understand the dilemma! I'm now a mom, wife and volunteer, an occasional personal shopper and a new blogger…I'll be posting lots on fashion for our age group(I'm 48). We can absolutely still look hip and trendy and age appropriate. Calypso St. Barth has great t-shirts and casual sweaters that are great for our age..Anthropolgie and J. Crew too…I'm a jeans girl…and bring on the layers. love it

  19. OH – and don't forget about VINCE – awesome casual, comfy clothes from pants to sweaters to outerwear…one of my faves

  20. Those are great pieces. I know that stylish casual wear can be challenging sometimes…nice way of putting it together.

  21. Great pieces! And what a good day you had — I'm wishing I had more coffees/glasses-of- wine-with-girlfriends days . . .

  22. My near-70 friend has a sweatshirt fabric jacket that has some amazing detailing (ruching IIRC) around the collar area. Of course it cost as much as a well-made blazer but it looks amazing on her.

    Hope you enjoy yours as much as she has loved hers.

  23. Great choices. I always feel that a jacket makes a statement of being 'dressed' but still casual. I relate to this post.

  24. Great jackets….I am just in love with great jackets because I am always cold. A complete necessity.

  25. Love the jackets. Guess we sturdy girls of a certain age are all wrestling with the same thing-wanting to be hip, put together and not ridiculous. Thanks for the insightful post.

  26. Love your jackets – I expect you will feel and look the bees knees! And Imogen is the best! x

  27. Terrific finds! To my mind, a great jacket or coat are key to feeling pulled together. But I must say, that SB sweatshirt gives you a certain street cred. And I'm sure you wore it well.

  28. Love this post because a good casual look is hard to come by and "I will dress like a skateboarder" just might be my favorite quote of the week or decade, depending. I wish my mother, who wears St. John when she's feeling casual, would read this post…

  29. Street cred! Ha! My son did say once I am a cool mom. Perhaps the surf sweatshirt did it. I am so loving the military jacket so far I keep looking for excuses to wear it. Peacoat will get a test run today. Thank you all so much for shopping with me. Infinitely better than shopping alone – believe it or not I take you with me into Saks.

  30. Privilege,

    Go online to Macy's. They have a sale going on. Go to "Coats" and you will see a Guess Buffalo Plaid Belted Coat on sale.

    It reminded me of your post on wanting something with Buffalo Plaid.

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