Casual elegance: how to elevate a simple outfit

I’ve been on a real decluttering kick around the house lately, and that desire for clean, open spaces has spilled over into how I want to dress. Here’s a simple, casual elegant outfit that ticks all of the boxes for me.

Anything too complicated or contrived feels like style kryptonite. I’m coming back around to the (loose) idea of a uniform, to keep things simple and prevent “closet creep.” Wearable, relaxed elegance is what I’m drawn to now, but that doesn’t have to mean bland or generic. A few well-chosen accessories can do a lot of heavy lifting to personalize and add interest.

Style goal: uncluttered, relaxed elegance

Susan B. wears a relaxed elegant outfit with a cashmere cardigan, silk tee, leopard belt, slim straight leg jeans, and slingback flats.
My sizes: cardigan – XS, tee – small, belt – medium, jeans – 28

It’s been a bit too warm for a sweater lately, but it’s supposed to cool down quite a bit over the next few days. So I’m hoping to wear this out to lunch with a friend later this week. This relaxed cashmere cardigan has a very luxe look and is incredibly soft! 3 colors available, sizes XXX-Small to 3X. (I’m wearing X-Small.)

With a longer sweater or top like this, I like to keep the bottom half relatively slim. If I had to pare back to single style of slim leg jeans, I’d probably go with this rag & bone “dre” style which is comfortable and easy to style. (It’s described as low-rise, but on me it’s a mid-rise.)

I’m wearing the washable stretch silk tee from Quince (gifted) which also hits my “relaxed elegance” target. And it’s quite lightweight and comfortable. I really like the open rounded neckline, which makes it easy to style with a variety of jackets or top layers. It was a bit long for me, so I had it hemmed a couple of inches. It’s a great piece for transitional weather, and comes in a bunch of colors.

More washable silk tops…

I’ve become a fan of belts to make a simple or casual outfit look more finished. Here I’ve added a skinny leopard belt, which pulls together the various browns/beiges in the outfit.

I find most ballet flats a bit too straight-up Classic for my style, but this ballet-slingback hybrid has a more modern look that really grabbed me. They’re quite comfortable for daily wear, and can dress up or down. They’re available in four colors, and like most Vince shoes, run 1/2 size large.

More slingback flats…

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  1. Great look Susan! I would have to say this outfit you’ve put together is my ‘default’. Many of us seem to be in the throes of ‘fall cleanup’. Thank you again for curating these wonderful outfits.

  2. Once again, a fabulous outfit. I have found the AG Mari’s to work well for me, what is the difference between them and the Rag and Bone Dre’s? Thanks

    1. Hi Arlene, thanks! The Mari’s are also a favorite of mine. They have a higher rise, and a slightly narrower leg.

  3. I like the outfit a lot, especially the shoes but you know I need more “whistles and bells” with my outfits. As you are sophisticated and modern, I am loud and modern hahaha. I totally agree on the elevating effect of accessories and belts.

  4. I absolutely love this pared back look too, BUT I think it requires that each piece be very high quality, which can be a challenge to the average woman’s pocketbook and may necessitate scouring resale options. So many 90s styles are back, and I still have a few pieces in my closets. I for sure have my old 18k Charles Garnier earrings I splurged on at Nordstrom when I lived in San Diego 30 years ago. They’re right on trend again apparently.

  5. Hi, Susan, great look. What light neutral would you recommend for winters? White sort of misses the mark for me as a fall color. I am not a fan of animal prints but might step out of my zone with the leopard belt. I’m the same build as you are: are you wearing a small in the belt? Thanks.

    1. Hi Maeve, many winters can wear light gray as a lighter neutral. I’m wearing a Medium in the belt as I wanted it long enough to wear at the hip as well.

  6. I have been in that same mood, of streamlining my wardrobe. I’ve really been enjoying your posts because I also have a similar style as you. I look forward to seeing them in my inbox. Thank you!

  7. This is you to a tee. I cringe when I see your style venture from this uniform. Of course, we all experiment with our styles and you have a blog to write necessitating coming up with new ideas/posts.

  8. This is a lovely, uncluttered look for you. Those shoes add the pop of interest I crave. I agree with an earlier poster: for a pared down look like this, quality fabrics really make the difference between looking polished and looking a bit cheap. Not all of us can afford a cashmere wardrobe or very high end shoes, but there are ways of making purchasing decisions over the long term that can bring us to a, dare I say it, curated (such an overused word!) closet that works for us over many years. I hope you are taking care of yourself as you navigate this next stage of life.

  9. Susan, thank you for this post–my new favorite. The older I get (71 now), the simpler I want my clothes. It’s not “giving up” (I hate that reference often aimed at older women). It’s a desire–as time becomes more precious–to streamline/pare down my style into sleek, well-fitting, simple outfits in good fabrics. It’s always kind of been my aesthetic, anyway, but now more so than ever. A comfortable, casual uniform I can easily–yet elegantly–live in is really what I want. I hope there will be more posts like this one! Thanks again.

    1. Thanks, Linda. I agree, simplifying doesn’t mean “giving up,” but rather a different set of style priorities.

  10. Hi Susan: A question for you and all regarding an item that I feel challenged to hang on to:
    Here is the problem: 1. It is a great color for me, it is J.Crew so not bad quality, but 2. it is very lightweight, a linen knit. So, it can only be worn in warm weather, but most warm weather does not require a light sweater, so I end up wearing this on very few days of the year when it is warm but not too warm. It is nearly see-through so it is not a stand alone piece; it will always require something underneath. Does it merit the space it is taking up in my wardrobe? I certainly like it, but it just seems hard to style. As the weather cools down, it will be too lightweight. Thanks!

    1. Hi Mary, here’s what I’d ask: do you LOVE it? Really love it? I have a couple of items that I wear rarely and aren’t easy to style, but I love them and feel amazing whenever I wear them. If you don’t love it and it’s a) hard to style, and b) not appropriate for your climate, I’d say let it go.

      1. thanks. I think I do need to let it go. Someone else might really love it. And thank you for responding. I would love to see a post about what you really love but don’t find easy to style. Obviously there are special occasion outfits which will get lighter use, but those great items that are just tricky…would love a post on that!

  11. I’m so glad to see you in those *shoes*! I’ve seen them around, but never anyone wearing them. I’m interested in the sea stone color.