How to balance Classic style and a casual lifestyle…
A prior post about “style geography” generated a lively discussion in comments. Some of you mentioned that you either have moved or are in the process of relocating to a region where a more casual lifestyle (and style) predominates.
This article was published previously and has since been updated. I’ve left prior comments in place.
shirt | turtleneck | cardigan | shirt
jeans | dress (similar) | skirt (similar) | pants
loafers (similar) | espadrilles | sneakers
(I’ve created this basic capsule with a pared-back palette of navy, blue and white to provide a general idea of the types of pieces a Classic might wear in more casual settings. You can always adjust to your preferred colors.)
The elements of Classic casual style
“Classic” style by definition is elegant and understated. (Think Grace Kelly, Kate Middleton, Amal Clooney.) Because of the structured element it can read as more formal. So how can a Classic “casualize” their wardrobe without sacrificing their style essence?
✅ First, don’t forego structure. Classics NEED some structure in their clothing or they can look drab and tired. Structure doesn’t have to mean stiffness, though. Collared shirts, set-in sleeves, a front crease on trousers are all ways to add structure. Look for these details in your more casual clothing.
✅ Blazers and Chanel-esque tweed jackets can be dressed down (especially with jeans), and some sweater jackets may work well (avoid oversized, look for collared or structured styles).
✅ Yes, you can wear jeans. Look for neat fits (not super skinny) even washes, no distressing. Avoid extreme shapes like large flares. If you can, tuck your shirt in and add a belt. Woven trousers with a bit of stretch (again, not too skinny or relaxed) can dress up or down.
✅ Skirts and dresses can have a more relaxed fit, but shouldn’t be too soft or oversized. And avoid big ruffles, voluminous sleeves, gathered tiers, large or irregular prints.
✅ Stick to good quality natural fabrics as much as possible: cotton, linen, wool, fine knits. Nothing too fluid, flimsy, stiff, or bulky. Tee shirts are fine as long as fabric is substantial, not flimsy.
✅ Shoes: loafers, ankle and knee boots (in cooler months), ballet flats, espadrilles, classic sneakers can all work in a more casual setting. Remember to keep finishes smooth, and shoes well-maintained.
✅ Structured totes, shoulder or crossbody bags in smooth leather or canvas all work with casual outfits. Again, “well-maintained” is essential, be sure to repair or replace bags when they start to look too worn.
✅ Don’t forget the power of jewelry and accessories to dial up or down the formality of an outfit.
✅ Being well-groomed is important, but you may find you’ll want to wear less makeup in more casual environments. (And if you’re wearing your best colors, you’ll find you need less anyway. 😉)
Best brands to shop for Classic casual styles:
- J.Crew (many styles available to size 3X)
- Ann Taylor
- Talbot’s (many styles available in Petite, Plus, Plus Petite sizes)
- Vineyard Vines
- kate spade New York
- MM LaFleur (for structured knits)
- L.K. Bennett
- Equipment (esp. their classic silk shirts)
- Me + Em
Have you recently relocated or made other lifestyle changes that have impacted your wardrobe?