Enlisting Navy - une femme d'un certain âge

Enlisting Navy

Join the Navy!
Join the Navy! by deja pseu featuring J Crew

(Recent posts by LPC at Priviledge here and here inspired the Polyvore and following rumination.)

Une femme and Navy (the color, not the branch of Armed Services) started off on the wrong foot and have mostly been at odds for the last few decades. I’ll admit, it’s entirely guilt by association, but then the associations were pretty strong.

First, there was my great-grandmother, who in my mind’s eye is always wearing navy dresses and orthopedic shoes. Don’t get me wrong, she was a lovely lady, but the connection between “navy” and “old” was firmly cemented early on and not easily dislodged.

Then there was the high-school Frenemy, a prissy, sanctimonious type who was fond of crested navy blazers (this in public school in the 70’s) and light blue shirts because they brought out her blue eyes (which she never failed to remind anyone within earshot). Her style was total Brooks Brothers before any of us in California knew what Brooks Brothers was. Her hair (blonde, natch!) was always in a perfect flip, her eyelids graced with blue shadow, and she only ate small salads on dates so the guy “wouldn’t think [she] was a pig.” She was horrified by denim. I learned a few months after we finally fell out that her parents always thought I was a bad influence because my mother was a divorcée, and were not sorry to see me go.

The 1980’s brought us “Dress For Success” and skirted navy pinstripe suits with the floppy bow tie blouses. Enough said.

And then there were so many damn *rules* about navy, specifically about all of the other things you couldn’t wear with it. No black, no brown, no patent leather, no green, ad infinitum. Navy was Serious and Stodgy and played by all the rules. Sort of like Miss Frenemy, come to think of it. Navy was a demanding boss. Navy was pedestrian. I regarded black and a smattering of browns and greys as my neutrals of choice. I avoided anything navy (or even blue for that matter) like the plague, with the singular exception of jeans. Strangely, I never thought of my denim jeans as “navy” perhaps because of MF’s abhorrence of them, and have always had a pair or four rotating through the wardrobe since my teen years.

I surprised myself when I was drawn to a navy Italian wool jacket at Talbot’s a few years ago. “I could wear this with jeans,” I thought. I tried it on and it fit like a dream. I bought it on the spot and brought it home where it mostly languished in my closet, at least until Karen laid eyes on it. She pointed out how flattering the cut is, and how easily it works with just about everything else I own (including black…take THAT, you outdated rules!). I was finally able to see that it didn’t make me look like Thurston Howell III, or even my high-school nemesis. And navy, while providing the same slimming advantages of black, is a much softer color against the skin, and quite a bit easier to coordinate with other colors.

So Navy and I have declared a truce, and are in the process of getting to know each other a little better. I’m not giving up my black, but I’ve recently purchased a t-shirt in navy, and a cream marinière with navy stripes. While we may never be BFF’s, I think this may be the start of a solid friendship.

All original content property of https://unefemmenet.wpengine.com

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 United States License.

Stay in touch.

Affiliate links in posts may generate commissions for unefemme.net. See my complete disclosure policy here.


  1. February 22, 2010 / 1:34 pm

    Mostly because of my (corporate) career history, I rarely wear navy, quintessential corporate drag. But when I find of the right *casual* navy piece, so versatile! Little beats navy for spring, which is when I like it best. I see a lot of black with navy in Paris! My favourite navy riddle: how come you can wear black shoes with navy but navy shoes look wrong with black?

  2. February 22, 2010 / 2:26 pm

    ha! I have a post scheduled for later this week, “In the Navy” – I’ve always loved navy..it’s actually a great color on me! I’m obsessed with getting a navy handbag for Spring. I have lots of different bags, and wanted something different this year -I think it will go with everything and is so fresh with all the spring colors! Great post!
    Check out my blog tomorrow for a special treat!

  3. February 22, 2010 / 3:41 pm

    Its funny, I don’t think I own anything in navy.

    But I probably should reconsider.

  4. February 22, 2010 / 4:11 pm

    Poor navy gets such a bad wrap, doesn’t it? With your coloring I’m betting navy is super-flattering. [Probably more so than black.]

    It’s not the best blue on me–bring on the midnight, thanks!–so I usually wear an underlayer or scarf that brings in rose, paler blue, or an energetic green.

    Because as you’ve said, dark jeans + navy upper (T or fab wool jacket, for those who have one cough cough) = a flattering monochromatic line, and I can’t get enough of that.

  5. February 22, 2010 / 4:22 pm

    Instead of lightly turning to thoughts of love in the spring, this (not) young (wo)man’s fancy turns to navy. After a winter of greys, blacks, and browns, navy seems just the change I want, and I love it with almost any other colour — I especially love its stripes! You and LPC have inspired me to try a copycat post one of these days . . . (I love these more organic memes — great ideas that get copied spontaneously)

  6. February 22, 2010 / 4:27 pm

    Always hated navy. It was like a dark color that couldn’t commit to being black. Also am still traumatized by noisy navy cords (“WHIFF! WHIFF! WHIFF!”) my mother made me wear as a child. But I do now have two beautiful navy cocktail dresses.

  7. SarahN
    February 22, 2010 / 4:54 pm

    Wow, I couldn’t live without navy! My entire spring/summer wardrobe is navy, white and various shades of green. And my navy Jackson trousers from BR get plenty of wear all year round.

  8. February 22, 2010 / 5:12 pm

    Love your salute to Navy…like the fun punches of color too…yes I agree that LPC has inspired us to go Navy. Love the stripe-y Breton tops…lovely daughter arrived in one last evening…she looked so fresh!

  9. February 22, 2010 / 5:43 pm

    Oh this is so much fun! Deja I love your take on navy, your constant je ne sais quoi brought to the standard uniform and elevating it to chic! I am honored that you would be inspired. Organic memes indeed, mater! No navy shoes with black, well, yes, it would look silly, wouldn’t it. Hmm.

  10. February 22, 2010 / 7:18 pm

    Oh I love navy – I wear it quite a lot, with jeans and it’s so much kinder than black (which makes me look like a corpse). Navy always makes me think of Jean Muir, a class act!

  11. Someone
    February 22, 2010 / 1:50 pm

    I’ve been following the convo on navy with interest, ’cause I too have not worn it much, ever. It’s starting to feel like an exciting discovery, a new element I could have fun with if I stopped ignoring its existence.

    (Actually I did inherit a vintage 1960s French sailor sweater from my mom, wonderful quality wool, but its horizontal stripes, high buttoned turtleneck, and butt-covering length were really all wrong on my petite, busty hourglass frame. Gave it away a few months ago.)

    Though I don’t have many old associations with navy that keep me away (well, beside the boring men’s navy blazer with gold buttons), it’s funny to see you and LPC make note that one shouldn’t wear navy with green. When -I- was a kid at preppy day schools in the 1970s, one saw the combo quite often. Not that it wasn’t ugly, but it was certainly done.

    Navy just never felt like “me” – but I may just give it a whirl.

  12. metscan
    February 22, 2010 / 2:04 pm

    I do own one d.blue knit and then there is some blue in one dress of mine. I prefer mid d.blue jeans. In my opinion red, as a color, is so much more demanding, but so much depends on the surroundings too. It is easier to wear bright colors in places,where the sun is always shining.

  13. Sal
    February 22, 2010 / 2:04 pm

    I’m so glad! I’m not familar with that giant list of navy-based rules, and thank goodness … I love pairing navy with greens, magentas, grays, even black. Looking forward to seeing that navy blazer in action.

  14. February 22, 2010 / 10:28 pm

    I love the “new” navy, which is sort of purpley/grey and close to black. It’s just softer and so much more flattering on the skin. There’s a lot of it out there at the moment. I hate what I call “regulation navy.” Had to wear it at school (yuk)and it put me off forever. The newer navy shades in this winter/spring are killer.

  15. February 22, 2010 / 10:49 pm

    Love it all, of course. I can just see you in the lime and the coral, stunning for your coloring.

  16. Denise
    February 22, 2010 / 3:36 pm

    I’ve loved navy as a neutral for many years now. Black is so hard next to the face unless you have the right complexion. I don’t: I’m very fair and it just looks so harsh. Navy has always seemed so sophisticated and subtle to me, and looks like you tried (in a good way, even if you haven’t!) to have some style. I know I’m in the minority here, but black almost always just looks like lazy, “don’t look at me” clothes. Plus everyone wears it.

  17. February 22, 2010 / 11:41 pm

    It’s true there are various colours called ‘navy’, but the real navy is very, very dark, not the sad, ‘regulation’ navy one sees so much of in the US. That flaccid navy is a nasty, dusty, lifeless colur. Real navy is as deep and attractive as a sailor’s smile.

  18. February 23, 2010 / 2:03 am

    I love navy, despite my corporate career. So much navy that you see in the stores is not my favorite. I love the really dark navy. I never knew all the navy rules; I love mixing it with colors. The only rule we had about navy when I was growing up was to never wear it with black shoes– my snobbish father considered the combination to be sad and “working class” which is perhaps why it worked so well in a corporate world.

    I love navy in the spring.

  19. February 23, 2010 / 3:32 am

    I never really thought about it until I read your post, but I have very little navy in my wardrobe, probably for the very reasons that you stated here. Yet, I know that it is a trend for spring. Perhaps, I will give it a try and see if we can establish a cordial relationship with one another.

    Thanks for your get well wishes. Your verification word cracked me up…a perfect description of how I feel! Having said that, I am off to take some medicine and go to bed! Good night!

  20. citizen spot
    February 23, 2010 / 4:07 am

    Ha! Just today I got notification that my navy rain parka just shipped from the manufacturer in Oregon. I have not so fond memories of my 80’s job interview costume that incorporated a navy skirt and pumps, with a light blue shirt and a navy pullover frilly sweater vest (with linebacker shoulder pads) and the horrid giant navy bow tie. Blar. Pinning the skirt to my motorcyle seat to keep it from flying up while en route to the many job interviews was just the icing on the humiliation cake. And yet, I don’t hate on the color navy, but I do hate on pumps, skirts, and shoulder pads in general. Go figure.

  21. La Belette Rouge
    February 22, 2010 / 8:24 pm

    I am wearing a navy cardigan with black trousers. I was a little worried when I put this outfit on. You have made me feel more confident. You have also made me want to go to Talbot’s, again!

  22. tiffany
    February 22, 2010 / 11:34 pm

    I have a navy blazer that I love, but ever since Imogen did my colours and told me that blue is not one of them, it’s been languishing in the cupboard. You have inspired me to resuscitate it, perhaps worn with a scarf in a colour more flattering to me. Thank you!

  23. spacegeek
    February 23, 2010 / 11:01 am

    No green with Navy? Oh dear. I’ve been wearing a fashion faux pas all these years!? I love navy and peridot green, navy and pink, navy and white, navy and mustard yellow. I have a pair of navy trousers that I wear for work. I wear colored shoes with them, which definitely keeps it non-stogy.
    Good post.

  24. February 23, 2010 / 11:20 am

    I LOVE navy- find it hard to pass navy items in the shops. I love it for winter and summer. Sailor type tops, navy trousers- every summer I have a version of this outfit – and it stays in style (though perhaps not as of-the-moment as it seems to be this year) I pair it with gold, green, pink, coral, winter white, some greys, red (though that can be a bit ‘flag-ish). I am reddish of hair, pale complexion, freckled and it works better than black.
    Let us see how you style it- I think you could really work it.

  25. February 23, 2010 / 10:38 pm

    I love Navy but was dead set against black until a few years ago. Although I had to wear navy uniforms all through my school years, Black was the bigger culprit being the color of mourning! So I shunned black and learnt to spice up the navy. (just how many ways you can wear a uniform to school everyday year after year?!)
    I still love it, it works with all complexions and almost every color scheme and looks pulled together instantly.
    As for rules, I just follow one: match it with a hue that is a few shade or tone lighter. Navy usually doesn’t go with dark chocolate brown but with a nice medium one or with caramel color accessories it looks divine. Also navy and black together looks monochrome and too somber but match navy and dove gray and it looks très chic.

  26. February 24, 2010 / 5:16 pm

    Duchesse – love that, it’s the Fashionista Koan. Yes, navy is a great neutral for spring and even summer.

    Someone – perhaps the “no navy+green” rule was because it was too reminiscent of a school uniform? I don’t know where half of the fashion rules I was taught originated, or why.

    metscan – well, despite popular lore, we have plenty of cloudy/foggy days in Southern California. 🙂 Red can also be a very demanding color to wear, but I’m finding that red bags and shoes can actually be quite neutral.

  27. February 24, 2010 / 5:19 pm

    Sal – I think my mother’s generation was raised with a whole bunch of do’s/don’ts that were pretty much thrown out the window in the 60’s and 70’s. Most of them we’re better off without!

    Beautifully 50 – looking forward to seeing your take on navy!

    Denise – I agree that navy is less harsh against the skin than black.

  28. February 24, 2010 / 5:22 pm

    g – it might be worth a try.

    Vix – to me, navy and midnight are probably interchangeable, probably because when I refer to “navy” I’m thinking of the very dark iteration. My navy jacket almost looks black in dim light.

    materfamilias – I’m very much looking forward to your take on navy!

  29. February 24, 2010 / 5:31 pm

    WendyB – ACK!! Cords!!! I think I still have PTSD from wearing noisy cords in high school.

    SarahN – I wish BR would offer Jackson trousers in navy again! All I ever see on the website anymore is black, grey, black and taupe.

    Hostess of the Humble Bungalow – I agree those striped tops do look fresh, but wonder if they will in a few months once they’ve been worn by every other person we see. I’ll be a contributor to the overkill, though; I love mine and wear it all the time on weekends.

  30. February 24, 2010 / 5:34 pm

    LPC – I’m often inspired by your themes!

    That’s Not My Age – now I’ll have to google some Jean Muir photos…

    LBR – you’re one of my other navy inspirations…I love some of the navy items you’ve worn when we’ve had our lunches.

  31. February 24, 2010 / 5:37 pm

    Janet – thank you!

    Rosina – yes, that’s the color I’m talking about! Very dark, sophisticated, but more flattering next to the face than black.

    Tish Jett – thanks so much! Yes, coral is one of my “Power Colors.”

  32. February 24, 2010 / 5:48 pm

    tiffany – I’ve found that a scarf in a “good” color is a great way to be able to wear those items that aren’t. But hasn’t Imogen also said that navy is a universal neutral?

    Mardel – yes, it’s the deep navy I’m referring to. A lot of what passes for “navy” in stores is more of a dark royal blue, which I absolutely *cannot* wear.

    Style Artisan – hope you’re feeling better! If you decide to try some navy, I’d love to see how you style it.

  33. February 24, 2010 / 5:56 pm

    citizen spot – knowing you, that ensemble sounds like pure torture. Glad you survived it and bear no grudges against navy.

    spacegeek – I think wearing non-traditional colors with navy is a great way to keep it fresh and non-stodgy.

    tippchic – I probably would avoid red/navy combos as well, due to the “flag” associations. It sounds as though you’ve really nailed down some great color combos!

    Aradia – that’s an interesting guideline for mixing colors with navy. I try to vary color intensities within an outfit, so if I pair navy with another color it tends to be brighter/lighter.

    Great comments, everyone, thanks for all of the input!

  34. March 25, 2013 / 12:20 am

    I love navy and would be happy to buy a suit in that color. However, what color shoes look best and most professional with a navy suit? Pantsuit or skirt suit? Black doesn’t seem right; brown seems like the shoes might either be too dark or not quite the right shade; navy seems too matchy-matchy; and, while I love the idea of dark red or green or some other jewel-toned shoes, I’m not sure how professional that looks. Maybe camel or tan shoes? That seems like it would only go in summer, so I’d still be stuck not knowing what color boots to wear with the suit in the winter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

- powered by chloédigital