Style Hunt: The Utility Jacket

Susan B. wears a surplus green utility jacket and striped tee. More utility jackets at une femme d'un certain age.

A utility jacket is one of those styles I always thought I’d never wear, until I did. And it’s become one of the most often-worn pieces in my wardrobe. A couple of years ago I picked up this one when I needed something in a pinch. It’s turned out to be a three-season jacket here in Southern California, and it seems to work with just about any outfit, though I’ve never been in love with the color. It’s just a little too much on the drab side of olive drab.

Utility jackets seem to have become a modern wardrobe staple, so I’m on the lookout to replace mine with one I can feel enthusiastic about. More green than brown, not too bulky or distressed, and an indoor-outdoor weight and style.

The Candidates…

cotton utility jacket from Madewell. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

I was surprised when I saw this one in person after looking at it online. The color is actually deeper and greener than in the photo, and it’s not as distressed-looking. Reasonably priced too.

J.Crew Downtown jacket uncoated. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

I’ve always liked the spiffy design of the J.Crew Downtown jacket, but the color on the coated version they’ve offered for a few seasons didn’t appeal to me. This is new style has an uncoated cotton fabric, and appears to be a greener version of olive. I haven’t seen the color IRL yet, but will be checking it out. (It’s also offered in Petite and Tall sizes.)

Longline utility jacket from Three Dots. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

I like the length and sleeker look of this one but don’t think I want a hood.

Eileen Fisher utility jacket. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

This one is a fabulous color and the fabric is very nice. I just wish it were a little bit longer. (The drawstring along the bottom hem can also be let out so that it’s more a swing style than gathered.)

Water-resistant anorak from Everlane in surplus color. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

If you’re looking for something water-resistant, this anorak from Everlane is cute and budget-friendly.

A few more options…

Banana Republic | Caslon | Nic + Zoe | Levi’s | Frame | Sundry | Mango | LL Bean

Do you have a favorite utility jacket?

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  1. Teresa
    March 8, 2018 / 3:21 am

    After I saw your jacket in your original post I thought I’d try one. I have salt and pepper hair and didn’t like the olive drab color on me. I got it on sale at Nordstrom and loved the style so I thought I’d try a little experiment and bought a dark grey Rit dye. It’s now a lovely dark gray with a hint of green and I love it!

    • March 8, 2018 / 3:59 am

      That is such a smart solution! I’ve recently discovered the wonders of dye for reviving tired black clothes.
      I like utility jackets, like jean jackets, for a layer when a blazer would look too stuffy or formal. If you’re wearing jeans, a utility jacket prevents denim overload.

    • Laura
      March 8, 2018 / 6:47 am

      I dyed a khaki beige jacket grey for the same reason. These styles should come in a grey version.

      • March 8, 2018 / 9:00 am

        I have one in grey from Nordstrom’s, don’t recall the brand and am away from home. I love it. The khaki would make me look sick.

  2. Nancy
    March 8, 2018 / 3:37 am

    I love olive green utility jackets…finding the “right one” is often similar to the right LBD…a hunt but worth it when you find the perfect one. I agree that I like the JCrew uncoated one with no hood …. would wear as a jacket to that office as well as outerwear on a early spring or late fall day.

  3. Dominique Moir
    March 8, 2018 / 4:00 am

    I, too, think the olive utility jacket is a wardrobe staple. I’ve collected 3 in different weights over the years (J Crew and Sanctuary) and wear all the time.
    I’m a newcomer to your blog and love it and your style!
    Have already ordered three items you featured (J Crew pink sweater blazer, EF pants, L’amour Des Pieds sandals). Now I just need spring to get here!

  4. sharon
    March 8, 2018 / 4:15 am

    lands has a really nice one that I got last season

    • Sandy Andry
      March 8, 2018 / 1:10 pm

      I second the Lands End choice. I have one and love it.

  5. Sophia
    March 8, 2018 / 4:19 am

    My Banana Republic utility is more of a brighter olive with no hood and has a wrap belt. No lapels or collar lessens the bulk. More versatile than I imitially thought. Looks great even with my skirts in navy and plum.

  6. March 8, 2018 / 4:45 am

    Last spring I ordered an Everlane City Anorak (not cropped). It was perfect for our trip to Paris in late March/early April.
    It’s a regular staple of my wardrobe. The hood comes in handy. If I’m out walking, and it starts raining, I have protection. The fabric is light weight, so the hood isn’t heavy.

    • Margot
      March 8, 2018 / 5:06 am

      Just checked this out – it looks fabulous. I liked the looks of 5he cropped anorak but like something longer to cover my behind when sitting on city busses and trains.

  7. Elizabeth M
    March 8, 2018 / 4:48 am

    I just bought the L.L. Bean Freeport Field jacket in almond and am very pleased with it. I think I will be using this in Paris in August. There is an olive version you might want to check out.

  8. Deborah Milne
    March 8, 2018 / 5:10 am

    What would we do without the ideal utility jacket?! I spotted one from Mango’s new Spring line that I’ve fallen for. I’m thinking it offers great versatility & I love the pockets & brass buttons. Thanks for introducing so many great choices!

  9. Caroline
    March 8, 2018 / 5:28 am

    I’ve had the Luna jacket in Kelp Green from LL Bean for several years now and have been very happy with it. It’s very lightweight, functional and because it has stretch, is very comfortable to wear. The hood is removable. It provides coverage in the back and because the waist can be cinched as much or little as desired, it can be adjusted to achieve the silhouette you want, or to accommodate what you’re wearing underneath.

  10. March 8, 2018 / 5:50 am

    That Eileen Fisher jacket in “nori” is coming up next week in a post on The Vivienne Files – I was smitten with the color…

    I’m not sure that I’ll ever own a green jacket, though. If I found the right green, it might be smashing with my brown/green/purple eyes…


    • March 8, 2018 / 10:13 am

      Janice, just want to tell you I adore your blog. I’ve followed you for years, but seldom post there. You’re a styling genius. 🙂

  11. Laurel
    March 8, 2018 / 6:04 am

    I bought the J Crew utility jacket in bright blue last year and I love it. That color is much better on me than the green options.

  12. amidprivilege
    March 8, 2018 / 6:48 am

    I own that Madewell jacket, but in black, as I can’t wear those yellow-toned greens to save my life. It’s a great jacket – I might wish it too were a little longer, but that’s just because I’m long in the torso. For everyone else, if you need a light black topper without the formality of a blazer, it’s a good one.

    • March 8, 2018 / 7:18 am

      You can wear army green. I know, because when deciding to let my silver grow out, I tested colors on you, because of our similar coloring. It’s one of my favorite colors and was worried I couldn’t wear it (since you said you couldn’t) so I put some on a photo of you! If it’s a deep army green, I love it on you. And now, on me.

  13. Lisa B
    March 8, 2018 / 7:01 am

    I have the J Crew jacket but in a maroon color. That olive green is a difficult color for me to wear. Maybe if I wore a complimentary color scarf next to my face. Some of the “olive” colored jackets J Crew offers veer towards an evergreen color, deeper toned then those yellow-olives. Those I can wear. The J Crew Field coat looks great but sold out in petites. I like the longer length.

  14. Kim
    March 8, 2018 / 7:07 am

    What a timely post, as usual! I’ve been on the hunt, as well, for a utility jacket. This weekend I found a Michael Kors jacket at TJ Maxx, of all places (killing time before catching a flight back home), in a wonderful rich olive green shade. It is shorter with a gathered waist (similar to one above) and a hood. I adore the olive color, but find these can veer too far over to gray for my liking. I will still look for the longer version, but for now I’m pretty happy with my $50 find.

  15. March 8, 2018 / 7:20 am

    I have about 10 of them collected over probably a 30 year period – all in olive/army green. I love them and now am tempted by the Madewell jacket. I even love the olive drab on you Sue.

  16. Debra
    March 8, 2018 / 7:30 am

    Recently was lusting after the utility jacket I saw in a new Longchamps ad – sadly it is sold out (and quite pricey even if available).

    I do have a few – the downtown field jacket from J. Crew (I think I saw it on your blog?), and anorak version from Uniqlo (a lifesaver during a three-week long and very rainy visit to France) and a sleeveless version (more of a utility vest) that I bought at Old Navy. I had a great utility jacket from Eddie Bauer, too, that I lost (left in a hotel room, maybe?).

    I think these are wardrobe staples and am always on the lookout for a new one. I’ll check out the designs you posted here – thank you.

    • Connie Miller
      March 8, 2018 / 8:54 am

      Susan, the one with the hood you didn’t want is the one I believe you featured on your blog last year (from Nordstrom’s?). I ordered it when I saw it. I wasn’t sure but needed something like that and the price was good. I absolutely love this coat! The fabric is very soft and drapes well. It feels more polished than I think it looks in the photo above. Living in the northeast, I like having the hood because we get a lot of wind. I would highly recommend this jacket!

  17. Lyn
    March 8, 2018 / 9:03 am

    This brings up the “hood” issue. My raincoat does double duty as my utility jacket for light-packing purposes, but the hood looks like the mark of a tourist to me. Do Europeans wear hooded jackets?

    By the way, Susan, I think your jacket is the perfect color!

    • March 11, 2018 / 1:21 am

      Yes we do! Well at least in the UK and Northern Europe because of our weather. It isn’t hoods that mark out visitors from North America as tourists it’s ususally the patterned trousers and trainers combination and lots of bright clashing pastels.
      Not likely to be an issue for any followers of this blog!

  18. Valerie Hurst
    March 8, 2018 / 10:09 am

    I am so glad you posted this topic today. I’ve been having the same dilemma. I bought my jacket at Banana Republic 2 years ago, and it’s just a bit too “military” for me. I’m really liking the J.Crew jacket, a bit more tailored, and to my liking. Thanks again, I love your blog.

  19. Lucy
    March 8, 2018 / 10:40 am

    What happened to your Sandro utility jacket? Loved the darker green shade.

    • Susan B
      March 8, 2018 / 11:13 am

      I still have that one, and still wear and love it. But to me it’s more of an outerwear piece rather than something I’d keep on inside.

  20. Emily Bryson
    March 8, 2018 / 11:12 am

    The jacket style you have on is perfect for you and I like it better than any of the ones you previewed…..Utility jackets now come in all colors, so maybe try a navy or grey with your coloring. Although I must say, whatever you wear look great on you.


  21. Tracy
    March 8, 2018 / 12:10 pm

    I bought the one from Garnet Hill last fall (they call it a cargo jacket) and I love it. Typically, structured garments don’t work for me, but this has a nice fluid drape and isn’t stiff. The peat color isn’t too green in person. I wish it were still available in the carbon color.

  22. Sheri
    March 8, 2018 / 1:36 pm

    I bought one from Guess @ Nordstrom’s based on your suggestion more than a year ago. It is coated, and I wear it a lot outdoors. Then I got one from Stitch Fix, Market & Spruce brand that has a detachable hood. More of the Utility jacket, can wear it indoors/outdoors. I love both of them!

  23. Mary
    March 8, 2018 / 2:21 pm

    I recently purchased the classic utility jacket from LLBean. It comes in petite sizes and is well made and well priced. It also comes in 3 other colors beside olive

  24. Nicole
    March 8, 2018 / 2:22 pm

    I didn’t think I’d wear one either, and I’m so glad we aren’t limiting ourselves. 🙂 When I saw the one from Macy’s in a sage green I ordered it and I love the color. It’s less army-green and a nice shade for my skin tone. It’s Style & Co.’s Cotton Hooded Utility Jacket and the hood is removable. I took it off right away. It has the cinch cord so it doesn’t look boxy and it’s roomy enough when I’m layering underneath. I love it! ~Nicole in CA

  25. Ainsivalavie
    March 8, 2018 / 4:49 pm

    Many hoods can be rolled and tucked around the neck to form a pretty collar. I only like olives in martinis!! No green anything in my closet! That being said a field coat can be practical addition to the wardrobe but I’ll take black, charcoal or even navy. Susan looks great because it works with her blonde colouring. À chacun son goût, non?

  26. Nicole K
    March 8, 2018 / 4:57 pm

    Susan- I had the J Crew Downtown Jacket for years and wore it often to work as a blazer with skirts and dress pants. At some point slouchier, more casual field jackets came into style and I let it go. The pockets on the bust and shiny gold snaps, etc. also seemed to be “out.” Now gold is back “in”! I think it would look great on you! I like the Nic + Zoe. No more pockets near the bust for me! Good luck with your search.

  27. Shybiker
    March 8, 2018 / 9:05 pm

    Nice. It’s funny how we doubt we’ll like something and then end up doing so. That happens to me with new clothes all the time.

  28. plutrell
    March 9, 2018 / 3:22 am

    This is on my list to add to my wardrobe in the next year….thanks for the candidates, Susan.

  29. The Dance
    March 9, 2018 / 7:30 am

    Thank you Susan for this blogI I’m 57 years old an am forever questioning whether or not certain clothes are age appropriate for me. On one hand, I do not want to be one of those woman who are in their 50’s & dress like theiy’re still twenty; but I’m still a young spirrited woman & am not ready to dress like an old lady! I love the jacket you are wearing, where can I find it?

      • The Dance
        March 9, 2018 / 7:47 am

        Thank you:)

  30. Pam
    March 9, 2018 / 12:16 pm

    I can’t wear olive, either, like others. Also not sure this is the style for me (plus I have a bit of a jacket problem), so I looked at Amazon. I found a burgundy one for $29.99. For that price, I’ll give it a try.

  31. Cinzia
    March 10, 2018 / 10:36 am

    I love the color of the Eileen Fisher jacket. Olive and khaki just wash me out but I’m hoping that color, which looks like it has a lot of blue in it, will work for me. I also like the relatively clean lines — as someone with a generous bust, pocket placement on these types of jackets aren’t always the most flattering…!

  32. March 11, 2018 / 11:03 am

    I’m still looking for the perfect utility jacket. I chucked out my old one a couple of years ago and haven’t replaced it. The new jacket has to be the right length (I have a long body) – and also has to be exactly the right shade of army green.

  33. Renee
    March 11, 2018 / 1:24 pm

    I have a tricky time with green. The right shade brings out my eyes, the wrong makes me look dead. I actually bought a burgundy utility jacket from Lucky Brand 2 years ago, but it didn’t get a lot of wear (it’s lined so a little heavy, and I wear a lot of burgundy shirts and wanted to avoid burgundy overload. And it’s not *quite* as long as I would like it.) Then I fell for a sagey green one with embroidery on the sleeves from Target last year and wore the heck out of it. It’s still a little too cool to wear it but I look forward to breaking it back out as spring warms up.

  34. MARLA
    March 13, 2018 / 5:25 pm

    LOVE mine thanks to you!! I’m plus so mine is Sejour from Nordstrom. Inexpensive too!! Glad you made me aware of them. I was a year ahead of my daughters!!

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