Using Grey As A Wardrobe Neutral

Style blogger Susan B. wears a grey J.Crew sweater-jacket, grey jeans, blue plaid scarf and forest green DeMellier Midi-Venice bag. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

Over the past several months, I’ve been working to shift my mostly black wardrobe basics to other neutrals. (No, I’m not completely banishing black; it will always have a place in my wardrobe. My goal is adding options.) This has been a good year for navy pieces, and I’ve added a few to the mix. But even more than navy, I’m finding grey is what’s hitting my style Sweet Spot.

Earrings | Scarf | Jacket | Top (similar) | Bag | Jeans (c/o) | Boots

Grey can be a versatile and easy-to-wear alternative to black. Unlike black though, grey has many variations, and what works for one person’s coloring may be dreadful on another. I’ve learned that a light-to-medium grey is best for me, at least near my face. (Darker charcoals and “lead pipe” greys make me look dead. Along with the lighter grey pieces from J.Crew, Eileen Fisher’s “Ash” and “Dark Pearl” are both good options.)

So yes, this is the THIRD color I’ve added in this sweater-jacket. It’s just such a good weight for our climate, and works so well in my wardrobe. I don’t feel that this duplicates the houndstooth jacket, as it’s a different color, shape and length, and a solid rather than a print. Lightweight toppers that aren’t black have been a tough find for me, so I’ve taken advantage of greater availability this season.

It’s still just a bit warm for this scarf, but I love how it ties everything together. The colors are 💯

Detail: Susan B. carries a DeMellier London Midi-Venice bag in forest green. Info at une femme d'un certain age.

Until October 31st, you can get $55 off this bag or any DeMellier London order over $375 with code BDAY55.

Detail: Susan B. wears ivory Via Spiga water-resistant ankle boots. Info at une femme d'un certain age.

I anticipate these off-white ankle boots will get a mixed reaction, but I love them. I’ve been seeing some cool outfits featuring white or off-white footwear for several seasons now, and have tried on probably a dozen styles. This was the Just Right pair. If you don’t like this color, they’re also available in several other colors and finishes. And a bonus…they’re water-resistant!

More Sweater-Jacket Styles

Give Warmth This Winter

Donating coats to J.Crew for coat drive. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

Need to clear out some old coats from your closet? J.Crew has partnered with One Warm Coat for a coat drive to help provide warm coats to those in need. Between now and December 25, every customer who donates a gently worn coat to any J.Crew store nationwide will receive $25 off a purchase of $125 or more. Many people who live in poverty cannot afford a winter coat, and according to One Warm Coat,

Health experts report that even a 2-degree drop in body temperature results in reduced heart rate, loss of coordination, and confusion. Adults cannot work effectively and children find it difficult to learn. For most, a warm coat solves the problem.

One Warm Coat delivers over 5 million coats each year, and this is the second year that J.Crew is collecting donations for them. I think this is a great initiative to help the 15% of people here who live in poverty. I donated a few coats yesterday, and hope you’ll join me. (Thanks to Chanel at the Century City store, who took this photo. The staff there is always so helpful!)

Any items you’ve purchased in multiple colors?

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68 Comments

  1. Linda B Kerr
    October 26, 2018 / 3:47 am

    I love this outfit! The shoes are great. I also love the scarf, and I think I’ll save up for that gorgeous bag. Have a nice weekend!

    • Susan B
      Author
      October 27, 2018 / 1:30 pm

      Thanks very much, Linda!

  2. Ann in Missouri
    October 26, 2018 / 3:56 am

    You really ARE changing it up. Congratulations on finding lovely alternatives to black.

    Like you, I’ll never break up with black. But with your encouragement this fall I’ve added both navy and grey to my basics. Speaking purely for myself, I have found that the “column” basics (pants, top) drive my style. Without that foundation in colors other than (cough!) black I revert to (cough!) black everything.

    Have a great weekend, everyone. 🙂

    • Susan B
      Author
      October 27, 2018 / 1:29 pm

      Thanks so much, Ann! I agree that starting with a column makes the look coherent, and makes getting dressed easier.

  3. October 26, 2018 / 4:09 am

    I am going to be one of the mixed reactions on the shoes…don’t think I would do them, but I LOVE the rest of the entire outfit and would wear…the topper is great and I love the scarf and bag.

    • Kathy Walsh
      October 26, 2018 / 8:01 am

      I agree.

    • Susan B
      Author
      October 27, 2018 / 1:28 pm

      Thanks, Pam!

  4. RoseAG
    October 26, 2018 / 4:45 am

    Nice combinations. The white boots are striking and a nod to the clunky white athletic shoes that keep popping up all around.

    • Susan B
      Author
      October 27, 2018 / 1:27 pm

      Thanks, RoseAG.

      • October 28, 2018 / 8:16 am

        They are beautiful booties, but white would be utterly impractical for autumn to early winter wear here, also because I walk and cycle everywhere. Congratulations on finding a good charity – Lolé here also has a coat drive; some will be given to people who can’t afford a warm winter coat, others sold in pop-up charity shops to raise funds for food and other necessities.

        Lead pipe (Parisian roof) grey works best for me, but I have a somewhat darker complexion and a lot of black strands in my increasingly silvery hair. No, I don’t look like Cruella de Vil; I’m short and cuddly

        What I love most of all is your hair. Did you have to remove any blonde colour, or just change the tint to a silvery one?

        • Susan B
          Author
          October 28, 2018 / 8:50 am

          Hi Lagatta, thanks! I’ve made one slight change…went a shade darker with the base and added some lowlights. Now that my hair’s longer, I felt the color needed a bit more dimension. The change is subtle, but exactly what I wanted.

  5. Roberta Steve
    October 26, 2018 / 5:04 am

    I love this blog and your style. A question: You have an amazing assortment of bags. What’s your secret to changing them up – how to you easily move contents from one to the other? Any organization tips? I end up using one bag because I get tired of pulling things from one bag to the next, and having to cull items from bigger bags to smaller bags and back again.

    • Kelly
      October 26, 2018 / 7:19 am

      If you search “Purse Organizer” on Amazon you will find a variety of liners for bags. You can put all of your bag’s contents in the organizer and make a quick switch to another purse by just lifting out the organizer and placing into another bag. I’ve used a large one and a smaller one in the past and found the smaller one is easier to switch since it fits in more bag sizes.

    • Susan B
      Author
      October 27, 2018 / 1:26 pm

      Thanks, Roberta! I tend to use pouches for my smaller items, but changing bags every few days has been a good way to encourage me to carry less, and not let my bags become “accumulation zones.” 😉 Now that I’m not going to work in an office every day, I find I don’t need to take as much with me. And Kelly’s suggestion for a bag organizer is also a good one; I used one of these regularly when I was working and still do sometimes when I travel.

  6. Ruth
    October 26, 2018 / 5:39 am

    Love the outfit, but honestly focused more on your hair. Love the slightly longer, softer look. I have baby fine hair, but am afraid to cut it too short. Yours looks great.

    • vicki fekete
      October 26, 2018 / 5:48 am

      Agree- the hair is very good!! Looks really good on you!!

      • Susan B
        Author
        October 27, 2018 / 1:22 pm

        Thanks, vicki!

    • Susan B
      Author
      October 27, 2018 / 1:23 pm

      Thanks very much, Ruth! I really like it a little longer too. My hair is thin, fine and straight, so probably won’t go too much longer.

  7. Judy
    October 26, 2018 / 6:18 am

    Love the bag, love the boots (daring and a surprise ) you can pull it off.! Bravo

    • Susan B
      Author
      October 27, 2018 / 1:21 pm

      Thank you, Judy!

  8. Michelle
    October 26, 2018 / 6:41 am

    Vraiment cool et chic, comme d’hab.

    • Susan B
      Author
      October 27, 2018 / 1:21 pm

      Merci beaucoup!

  9. SuD
    October 26, 2018 / 6:55 am

    These colors look great on you. Grey is a fantastic neutral for your coloring.

    • Susan B
      Author
      October 27, 2018 / 1:21 pm

      Thank you, SuD!

  10. October 26, 2018 / 7:27 am

    Oh my goodness… that was a gorgeous surprise! Almost as surprising as your “new do” post when you pulled off your toque and had short hair. Love the layering of the light grey over the dark grey. And that scarf is beautiful. The boots make the whole outfit a knock-out, I’d say. And you’re right about grey being a bit sticky sometimes. I go the opposite way and prefer charcoal or deeper greys for my ruddy colouring.
    Great inspiration, Sue.!

    • Susan B
      Author
      October 27, 2018 / 1:20 pm

      Thanks so much, Sue! I’m glad you like the boots.

  11. melmi
    October 26, 2018 / 7:28 am

    Love love the way you wear your scarves but I’m finding the older I get, the shorter my neck gets and I no longer wear a longer/heavier scarf! Oh, the problems of aging! I loved today’s scarf but notice it is out of stock.

    • Susan B
      Author
      October 27, 2018 / 1:17 pm

      Thanks, melmi! I’m sorry that color is out of stock…I try to be sure they’re available when I post, but sometimes things sell out quickly. I can’t tolerate anything bundled up too high on my neck, so always try to arrange my scarves so that there’s a bit of space. I’ll be working on some scarf tutorials next month to show some different options.

    • October 28, 2018 / 8:19 am

      Not much choice about heavier scarves here in Montréal at certain times of the year! But important to know how to tie them.

  12. Karen
    October 26, 2018 / 7:33 am

    Like you, I am the devoted owner of a King Charles Cavalier Spaniel. I avoid black clothing and choose grey as the most effective way to camouflage dog hair.

    • Susan B
      Author
      October 27, 2018 / 1:14 pm

      Oh, yes, the white hair over EVERYTHING!! I never go anywhere without a small lint roller, 🙂

  13. Hadilly
    October 26, 2018 / 7:35 am

    I would consider rolling up your pants just a little bit to show your ankles. That will give a deliberate small visual break.

    • Susan B
      Author
      October 27, 2018 / 1:13 pm

      Thanks for the feedback!

  14. Lee Rosenthall
    October 26, 2018 / 7:47 am

    WONDERFUL color combination on you – the lighter grey looks fabulous with your coloring! I have dark hair and look better in charcoal grey myself, but one thing I have always loved, and am CRAZY about, are THOSE BOOTS. A little too pricey for me but confirms my commitment to getting a pair of off-white booties this season. (I owned a pair of bone riding boots when I was in my twenties, and I still miss them. A wonderful neutral with a little pizzazz!) I also really want a bag that color, but that one is out of my price range too – even with the nice discount. I will find something to replicate the overall look however. Thanks for another great outfit!

    • Susan B
      Author
      October 27, 2018 / 1:13 pm

      Thank you very much, Lee! I’ve seen more off-white boots this season, and hope you find some that work for you.

  15. Cindylou
    October 26, 2018 / 7:50 am

    What a great outfit from top to toe. I’ve been reading about bookending, where the shoes match the hair, or are similar in color. You rock those booties.

    • Susan B
      Author
      October 27, 2018 / 1:11 pm

      Thanks, Cindylou!

  16. Carol Montanti
    October 26, 2018 / 8:21 am

    So funny to read your blog today since I was shopping yesterday and bought GREY! You are right, it’s up there with black and navy. But it is like navy in the sense that there are many variations of the shade eg. my new greyish purse looks a little bit purple next to my new lighter grey jeans but it still works. It was not easy finding grey jeans. Love your scarf!

    • Ruth from St. Louis
      October 26, 2018 / 9:05 am

      Athleta has a terrific grey jeans in a fabric called sculptec. Stretchy and fitted, but very comfortable. Also, Eileen Fisher has darker grey ponte knit pants that are wonderful.

    • Susan B
      Author
      October 27, 2018 / 1:11 pm

      Thanks Carol! I think different shades of grey are easier to wear together than different shades of navy.

  17. Jan whichard
    October 26, 2018 / 8:29 am

    For those looking for a gorgeous medium soft gray slightly longer jacket and also topper, go to Reset and look. I was there in person yesterday and the quality, design and pricing are amazing. I love EF but this brand, while it has a smaller selection, is luscious. I felt every item and looked at every seam! Also, the online size guide is off. You don’t have to be a skinny Minny to wear the clothes. I’m a 12 top and the medium jacket was fine.

    • Nicole K
      October 26, 2018 / 12:46 pm

      Hi Jan! I just went to The Reset site and love the Boyfriend jacket. I am also a size 12 top usually (36DD), so I’m curious if this is the jacket you bought in size M? Thanks!

      Susan–thanks for the inspiration!

    • Susan B
      Author
      October 27, 2018 / 1:09 pm

      Glad to hear you found something that worked for you, Jan! I really like their aesthetic and hope to try on some of the clothes soon.

  18. Lin Taylor
    October 26, 2018 / 10:02 am

    Great outfit. But what I really love is the picture of you with the J.Crew’s One Warm Coat promotion. You have a big beautiful smile and are facing straight on. Do more of that. You look radiant!

    • Susan B
      Author
      October 27, 2018 / 1:08 pm

      Thanks very much, Lin!

  19. October 26, 2018 / 10:51 am

    So beautiful! And of course I love those boots. Keep on rocking in the free world. Emmanuelle Alt would approve.

    • Susan B
      Author
      October 27, 2018 / 1:08 pm

      Thanks, Lisa! High praise indeed. 😉

  20. Daniella
    October 26, 2018 / 11:35 am

    Finally, you nailed it!! It flows, it does not need any “inner analysis of why I chose this and that”. That’s what style is all about. Effortless! just choosing a few “choice” pieces. And they need not being very expensive. Also, Grey beats Black anytime in my book unless it’s for a funeral.

    • Susan B
      Author
      October 27, 2018 / 1:07 pm

      Thank you!

  21. Nicole K
    October 26, 2018 / 12:46 pm

    Hi Jan! I just went to The Reset site and love the Boyfriend jacket. I am also a size 12 top usually (36DD), so I’m curious if this is the jacket you bought in size M? Thanks!

    Susan–thanks for the inspiration!

    • Susan B
      Author
      October 27, 2018 / 1:07 pm

      You’re very welcome!

  22. October 26, 2018 / 4:20 pm

    Recently I have been searching for grey/gray clothing items. Now that my hair is silver I am paying more attention to the many shades of grey! It is a great neutral!

    • Susan B
      Author
      October 27, 2018 / 1:06 pm

      I love seeing silver-haired women wearing grey, think it’s very striking!

  23. October 26, 2018 / 6:49 pm

    Grey has definitely become my go-to neutral. Like you, the lighter shades are best suited to my complexion. Though I’m not sure that I would wear the off-white boots, I think they look great with your outfit.

    The One Warm Coat initiative is one I’d love to support. You don’t happen to know if it applies to J.Crew stores outside the US do you? I’m in Canada.

    • Susan B
      Author
      October 27, 2018 / 1:05 pm

      Thanks, Elaine! I’m not sure whether they are doing the same program in Canada, but you might want to check with your local store.

      • October 28, 2018 / 8:46 am

        I checked: “one warm coat” seems to be a US-only charity. As you can well imagine, there is no shortage of places – both retail and charities – that accept slightly-used coats and other warm clothing. Other than the fitness/yoga/athleisure chain Lolé, there are certainly places that accept slightly-used garments; not only warm winter coats, but are also asking people to donate new (or perhaps slightly used but utterly clean) socks, as well as shoes and boots – both winter boots and rain boots. I give at Le Chaînon, a centre that helps women in crisis with emergency and transitional housing, but even small communities have at least a donation centre at a place of worship or community centre.

        Restaurants in my neighbourhood have banded together to hold a sock drive; this is mostly for homeless people, who have no way of washing their socks, leading (along with the cold) to serious food problems. They offer a glass of bubbly to anyone who takes socks, but most people don’t even take them up on it.

  24. October 26, 2018 / 11:30 pm

    I LOVE this outfit. Every piece of it. Love that perfect scarf with the white polka dots (makes the scarf), swooning over that green bag. That brand is a big risk for me. They are in the UK, so no restrictions for me in the sense of custom fees or high shipping rates and I think they have such lovely bags. Your green ones proves that again.
    As for white boots…. I have been a white boots lover my whole life. Always had fun discussions about that preference with Sylvia and Anja who didn’t like them. Fine with me, we all have different taste. Big cheer for your white boots I say.
    Ggreetje

    • Susan B
      Author
      October 27, 2018 / 1:03 pm

      Thanks very much Greetje! I have to say that your white boots outfits have been one of my inspirations to keep trying. 😉

  25. Anne Sinclair
    October 27, 2018 / 6:08 am

    I love the outfit and I love the One Warm Coat initiative!

    • Susan B
      Author
      October 27, 2018 / 1:02 pm

      Thanks so much, Anne!

  26. Deb
    October 27, 2018 / 6:32 am

    LOVE the white boots! Tried some on yesterday, loved them, but didn’t buy them since I have no clue what to wear them with. Love the scarf, too! Gray is dreadful on me! Just washes me out. I did buy that sweater blazer in the burgundy, though. I love wearing color.

    • Susan B
      Author
      October 27, 2018 / 1:02 pm

      Thanks, Deb! I think you could wear these boots with denim, navy, black, white, camel…it just depends on the level of contrast and what you’re comfortable with.

  27. patricia blaettler
    October 27, 2018 / 7:21 am

    I never heard of Reset, but I just went to the website and the video is SPOT ON for how most of us think about ‘fashion’ these days. It’s perfect.

  28. Lisa B
    October 27, 2018 / 8:31 am

    Although classified a “Winter” back in the 80’s. I look awful in any shade of grey. Just washes me out completely. My coloring has definitely changed over the past few years and lots of those bright jewel colors no longer work for me. My neutrals tend to be black and navy. I’ve added some pine for my neutral. An update on that color system: A woman named Lora has formulated a new system using 12 (!!!!) sub systems. Too complicated for me.
    PS You look great. Love the longer hair length.

    • Susan B
      Author
      October 27, 2018 / 1:00 pm

      Thanks, Lisa! It’s funny, I’ve had my colors “done” 3 different times, with a completely different result each time. Most recently (a few years ago) I was typed as “Light Summer.” The color analyst told me, “it’s weird though, black isn’t bad on you.” I don’t adhere to any system these days, just go with what I like and what works in my wardrobe.

  29. Marybeth
    October 27, 2018 / 8:37 am

    You look beautiful in those colors! Well done!

    • Susan B
      Author
      October 27, 2018 / 12:57 pm

      Thanks so much, Marybeth!

  30. Anna
    October 28, 2018 / 11:19 am

    Susan, this indeed is a lovely look, if you are out and about and outdoors. But could you please model some more indoor outfits? These sweater jackets/toppers would be too heavy at a dinner table at friend’s house.

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