In The Navy

Casual outfit idea with navy sweater jacket and accessories. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

Maybe it’s a phase, or some new and unidentified virus, but lately I just haven’t felt like wearing black. Shocker, I know! Easily 2/3 of my wardrobe is black. I keep looking at pieces in my closet and thinking, “gee, I wish I had this in navy.” There’s no alien pod under my bed; I’ve checked, really!

Earrings | Top | Sweater | Bag | Jeans | Watch | Shoes

I’ve always been ambivalent about navy. One one hand, I’ll concede that navy is kinder to most complexions than black, and often less harsh when mixed with other colors. And navy is a four-season neutral, unlike black which can sometimes look too heavy in summer. On the other hand, it’s always felt a bit too…conservative. If black was rebellious, navy was conforming. I don’t know what’s triggered this recent affinity, but I’m ready to start making space for more navy in my wardrobe.

Navy Wardrobe Basics

J.Crew cameron pants in navy. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

I ordered these pants in Petite during a recent J.Crew promotion, but they were just a little shorter than I prefer, so I returned and ordered the Regular size. (My local store was out of my size in Navy.) They run a little small, so do size up one size. They’re knit and washable, a nice travel wardrobe option.

Cotton utility jacket in Navy. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

I love a touch of olive, but even a utility jacket feels a bit more polished in Navy.

Navy wardrobe basics: this cotton cardigan is a perfect transitional season piece. Wear now and again in the Spring. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

Not just black anymore: Eileen Fisher has expanded their offerings in Midnight (Navy). This slightly nubby long cotton cardigan is a perfect transitional season piece.

Everlane polka dot blouse in navy. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

Wear this silky top on its own during warmer seasons, or layer underneath a sweater when the weather cools. This shirt is machine washable and could work well as part of a travel wardrobe.

J.Crew collarless French Girl jacket in navy. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

And this jacket is one of those pieces I wish I’d purchased in navy rather than black.

Travel-friendly stretch crepe pants in navy. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

Now that I’ve had a chance to try these new pintuck stretch crepe pants, they’re on my ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ list, especially for travel. The fabric on these seems just slightly heavier than the regular System stretch crepe, and the pintuck front gives them a bit more structure too. Fit is the same as the regular slim stretch crepe.

And when I DO feel like wearing black again, black and navy is always a chic combo.

Are you a fan of navy wardrobe basics? Or do you prefer black or another neutral?

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42 Comments

  1. Johanne
    September 15, 2018 / 3:25 am

    I’m with you on the slightly conservative bent of navy, but I have come to prefer midnight or ink navy (meaning it’s almost indistinguishable from black) over a straight black. Especially with denim. Perhaps it is related to my love for red and burgundy shoes – both of which I prefer with very dark navy rather than black.
    I think it was Ms Vreeland who described navy as “black with a tan.”

  2. in need of style help
    September 15, 2018 / 3:47 am

    Loved this post because it reflects my recent love of navy too. Like you, most of my closet is black. I do love the striped shirt BUT have stayed away from stripes because of a large chest…well large body period. Can you please give some suggestions how an XL or XXL might be able to wear a striped tee that would not call attn. to a large chest or what type of striped tee to look for?

  3. Elizabeth Milton
    September 15, 2018 / 4:49 am

    I just picked up an indigo blue bell sleeve top from Talbots during their great Labor Day sale. I love it even more than I thought I would. Next purchase will be a jacket or sweater jacket in this dark navy so your post is quite timely. I agree with you that this is a wonderful alternative (to black) neutral color.

  4. Vicki
    September 15, 2018 / 4:58 am

    Yeah for navy! I’m with you.
    Being raised in NYC, I’ve always worn lots of black, but now everyone does. It doesn’t seem so edgy. Navy seems more unexpected and trendy somehow, and certainly more flattering on my pale skin.

  5. Mary Clifford
    September 15, 2018 / 5:12 am

    Bonjour! Like you, I used to avoid navy like the plague. I thought it was frumpy. In the past year, I have been drawn to it more and more. I love wearing a deep navy t or pullover with dark jeans for a monochromatic look, but love to add leopard or olive for a bit of color. I have found one can even put navy and black together, but it has to be done carefully as it doesn’t work as a general rule. I love those leopard flats and the yellow stripes by the way!
    Thank you for passing on your flair and great ideas!

  6. Helga Peterson
    September 15, 2018 / 5:14 am

    I find navy and brown together a classic color combo.

    Sounds boring but I find navy and brown together a classic choice.

  7. September 15, 2018 / 5:50 am

    Yes! Suddenly I’m wearing more navy than black? Also I have purchased a few fall items, and mostly in navy.

  8. Annemarie
    September 15, 2018 / 7:02 am

    FYI – when I followed your link to the Eileen Fisher website, there was a promo code for 30% off today (Saturday) only. 🙂

    • Ann
      September 15, 2018 / 10:28 pm

      $30 not 30%

  9. Valletta
    September 15, 2018 / 7:20 am

    I went to Catholic school and the uniform was navy and white. It’s taken me 40 years to get over it!

  10. Eileen
    September 15, 2018 / 8:37 am

    I my past I have tried black, and found I am too pale for it to work successfully, I had to add more makeup, lipstick, accessories, color, too “ get it too look better”,so I gave it up. I prefer, navy, grey, ivory, and grey/ brown shades, I get a lot of compliments on ivory, so I embraced it. Black is sometimes a place to hide yourself, and sometimes bright patterns are a place to hide, better to just look good. Just my thoughts….

  11. Marybeth
    September 15, 2018 / 8:55 am

    I started buying Navy last year… my closet is also almost totally filled with Black! I’m with you… more gentle…

  12. Nancy
    September 15, 2018 / 9:04 am

    I’ve always been a big fan of navy. It’s still my favorite color. As I’ve gotten older I’ve gravitated to black and gray. But I still have some navy in my wardrobe.

  13. Connie
    September 15, 2018 / 10:03 am

    I adore navy and some years it is hard to find but not this year. I wear it year round and have pieces in different weights to accommodate the weather and my travels. The only negative is that unlike black, it doesn’t always match, as there are different shades of navy. In summer I wear it with white, greens, pink and red (yellow works great, but I’m not a fan). In winter I coordinate it with burgundy, grey, tans and crème. I love that purse you posted too…another classic!

  14. Cathy D.
    September 15, 2018 / 11:06 am

    I’ve always loved navy, even though there is some black in my wardrobe (after all, I’m a New Yorker). Navy is much kinder to my complexion and looks great with my blonde hair. I love the way navy mixes with so many other colors, and think it looks especially sophisticated with shades of brown and tan. Eileen Fisher has had many midnight pieces for the past two years, and I’m slowly stocking up. A linen slightly oversized v-neck sweater is one of my favorites. I’m going to order those crepe pants today.
    Susan, thank you for another interesting and useful post.

  15. Diane
    September 15, 2018 / 11:12 am

    Yes I’ve lately started to embrace navy more. Suddenly black just seems too heavy. I have recently retired from the corporate world and am transitioning from a work wardrobe which was black, black and more black, to a more relaxed way of dressing, but I still want to look polished. Navy fits the bill and is more flattering against my skin these days too. I like the outfit you’ve put together and its given me some ideas – I hadn’t thought to wear my leopard print loafers with navy!

  16. September 15, 2018 / 11:22 am

    Had always been a navy fan, and I now find myself often preferring a cadet or even french blue. I’m guessing it’s an artifact of getting ever grayer and paler of lip.

    But I love that tee in the last photo.

  17. Irene Bowman
    September 15, 2018 / 12:16 pm

    Have always loved navy and a staple in my closet is a good navy blazer which one can wear with navy pants , t shirt or white shirt as well as jeans.

  18. C.
    September 15, 2018 / 1:29 pm

    Navy. I am a skirt and dress gal. I wear navy lots with pinks- greens and blacks too. Certainly when traveling to Europe I wear these…. never take pants. If cool I wear tights and leggings. Since moving from Northern CA. to
    MI. I find tights far warmer in the winter. Think car seats meeting the cold air when seated in pants brrrr, tights take me thru this tuff season.

  19. DTK
    September 15, 2018 / 1:38 pm

    I have always liked navy, but at some point my wardrobe filled up with black, plus accent colors. Last 2 years I have been gradually trying to move towards more navy, and have been recently stocking up on EF midnight( navy) pieces. I already bought those crepe pants with a crease, and a merino sweater jacket. Oh and a merino cardigan…Will be going to NYC for a week soon and will be going with navy rather than black! As I have aged, I think navy is a better look with my grey hair and light skin.

  20. Agnes
    September 15, 2018 / 1:57 pm

    I am actually debating whether to buy this J. Crew jacket in navy or black 🙂 You may sway me into navy as most of my wardrobe is black as well and I have very few navy pieces. My real question to you is how do you manage your wardrobe? It looks like you frequently buy new pieces and I assume you must rotate to keep your wardrobe manageable. I find this a hard part for me.

  21. Anon
    September 15, 2018 / 2:31 pm

    You are not alone. On a recent shopping trip, a clerk told me that everyone is asking for navy lately.

  22. mary
    September 15, 2018 / 2:31 pm

    Yes, I have gone primarily to navy as my dark neutral. I think as we get older it is more forgiving. I also wear a lot of charcoal – the softer black.
    The only caution about wearing navy is staying clear of looking like a nun. It is somehow easier to get frumpy wearing navy then it is black. Not sure why!!

  23. Linda M
    September 15, 2018 / 3:17 pm

    Susan, I wonder is retirement has steered you away from black. When you work full time, as I do, your closet seems to just kind of fill with black as it is always polished and almost a uniform. Also, there is so much olive and rusty red out this year, and navy looks fabulous with both. I’m loving olive with navy accents this fall, as well as camel and navy as a variation of camel with black.

  24. Agnes
    September 15, 2018 / 4:05 pm

    Hi Susan, I am actually debating buying this J. Crew blazer in navy or black — you may have swayed me to navy 🙂 I wonder how you manage your wardrobe when buying frequently. How often to you rotate/edit pieces? I find it very hard to do especially for pieces I paid a good price for and I have not worn much (sometimes never). Please share your experience and tactics.

    • Susan B
      Author
      September 15, 2018 / 4:12 pm

      Hi Agnes, the full answer to your question is longer than I can tackle in a comment. The short answer is that I go through my closet seasonally, and assess what I’ve been wearing or not. I’ve learned to let go of pieces I don’t love and wear. I’ll address this in a post soon!

      • DTK
        September 15, 2018 / 5:12 pm

        Yes. Would love to have a post on this topic!

      • Agnes
        September 15, 2018 / 11:21 pm

        Thanks! I look forward to your post.

  25. Llisa
    September 15, 2018 / 5:29 pm

    I love a navy and gray combo. That’s been my go-to for a polished look for a few years now. I struggle with the pintuck pants – they remind me so much of the 1970s.

  26. Jane2
    September 15, 2018 / 8:53 pm

    Yay for navy! Until a couple of years ago, black was always too harsh for me – made me look dead. So navy was my go-to dark neutral. Since I let my hair go silver, I can wear black and grey finally – and they really are wardrobe staples.

    I re-assessed navy as a neutral when I switched my footwear to Mephisto and other similar brands, where blues and navy feature large. And I went back to navy for the summer – dressed up with brighter accents, navy is jaunty and summery.

    Still glad I can finally wear black and grey, though!

  27. Ann
    September 16, 2018 / 3:41 am

    Navy’s definitely going around! A few weeks ago I bought a raincoat and an ultra-light parka in dark, dark navy. And the last scarf I bought is grounded in dark, dark navy with other colored stripes.

    Now I’m jonesing for (don’t laugh!) a new navy blazer with gold buttons, which I haven’t had in my closet since I retired and lost weight.

    Finally, a big amen to others’ comments about how great navy pairs with so many other colors.

    Ann in Missouri

  28. Carol
    September 16, 2018 / 8:06 am

    I grounded my entire wardrobe & accessories around black for many years. Never had to make decisions when buying investment items like shoes, purse, glasses or coat. This year I’m trying out brown & olive for base items. I even bought a bright mustard yellow cashmere sweater in Paris this summer. Practically had to cut off my arm to put down the black one. Thank you for the inspiration!

  29. September 16, 2018 / 9:11 am

    No navy for me – it reads as “uniform”. I love grey. And am so happy to see dark forest green this year; in recent years all the greens have been too yellow for me.

    • September 16, 2018 / 4:37 pm

      The above post was from Lagatta à Montréal. Computer glitch. No idea what happened!

  30. Gloria
    September 16, 2018 / 9:53 am

    Just want to say how much I like the way you pictured navy and blue denim with mustard and caramel colors. A very pretty and modern take on the classically French combo of blue and yellow!

    • Susan B
      Author
      September 16, 2018 / 10:28 am

      Thanks, Gloria!

  31. Nancy
    September 16, 2018 / 10:07 pm

    Oddly enough as my red hair turns a mixture of white,, light brown and red, black, formerly too harsh, is becoming but navy seldom is. Hmmm. Thanks for the post. I am in Paris, finding that black and white Missoni jacket you bought in Italy so useful, and yes, the rose mask is great for long flights.

  32. RachelinOz
    September 17, 2018 / 3:50 am

    I’d say about half of my wardrobe is black, and has been since I was 15 (!). Until about 7 years ago, I associated navy with school uniforms, and ‘granny’ style, perhaps because the offerings were a little frumpy. But, I loved the idea of navy, and eventually found a suit I loved, and have gradually added pieces as I found them. For the last two years my main dark neutral has been navy, but I’m now reaching for black again. I could be tempted by a pair of navy very wide legged cropped trousers or culottes though!

  33. SuD
    September 17, 2018 / 4:17 am

    I am not adding any new black pieces to my wardrobe. I look ok in black, but it is not my best color unless I add another color around my face (silver jewelry or a colorful scarf). I found this out when comparing a black turtleneck with a gray and a navy turtleneck. The gray and navy were way better. For me, it’s charcoal gray (also medium gray), soft white and blue (I like many shades).for my base.

  34. Geri
    September 17, 2018 / 12:12 pm

    I wear black, too, always & forever, I thought, but this summer I went on a navy splurge and I’m loving it. It seems so summery and cool to me compared to black and most of the pieces will transition into Fall with denim. Black will always be my winter love, but navy for summer and with denim is very nice. I may even try the blue & black combo, too, for fun!

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