Putting a personal spin on a classic look

Susan B. shows how to personalize a classic look with colorful, quirky accessories.

There are many reasons certain styles come to be considered “classics.” For me, a classic piece is one that can be worn (in some iteration) season after season, and is versatile enough to be remixed in multiple outfit combinations. Here, I’ve started with a classic casual outfit formula: jeans, a striped top, and blazer. Then I added some favorite accessories to personalize the look.

earrings (similar) | blazer | pin | top | bracelets | jeans (similar) | bag (similar) | shoes (similar, also these)

(Sizes: blazer 8 Petite, tee Small, jeans 28)

How I personalize a classic look with accessories

If it works with your style personality, you could go straight-up Classic with a pair of ballet flats or low-heeled pumps or sleek ankle boots, a classic satchel or flap bag, and some pearl jewelry. But straight-up Classic tends to look stodgy on me. So I’ve “funked up” the look with some playful accessories and metallic platform oxfords.

Detail: Susan B. wears a J.Crew Regent blazer, stripe tee, red Gucci Soho bag, and red bead bracelets.

(I WAS having a good hair day, but the wind “funked it up” in about 2 minutes…😆 💨)

I’ve had the jeans, blazer, and shoes in my wardrobe for over 2 years. And the bag is older than that (2017, I think?). The tee is a recent replacement for one that was stained.

Detail: Clergerie metallic platform oxfords.
Susan B. strikes a goofy pose in a camel blazer, stripe top, red Gucci bag, jeans and metallic oxfords.

This is me being goofy. I’ve never been comfortable in front of the camera, and still am not, even after years of doing this. I often feel stiff and robotic after a few minutes of a photo shoot, so sometimes clown around a bit to loosen up. Or bark like a dog, as I once learned from a professional photographer. 🐶

For those of you with a cool season palette, you could:

  • swap out the camel blazer for black, gray, or navy
  • go with bracelets in a cooler tone, like these, other jewelry in silver
  • try silver metallic footwear, like these

I wanted to take a moment to respond to some of your comments/requests regarding my outfit posts, specifically about showing a greater variety of colors and styles.

We live a mostly casual life, so that’s what I dress for. I don’t have access to a “fashion closet” with a variety of styles and brands to borrow from, and only occasionally receive gifted items (usually with a very limited choice of styles).

Unless I’ve indicated otherwise with “(gifted)” or “(c/o)”, all items I’m wearing are from my personal wardrobe and that I’ve purchased at one time or another. Because I’m quite petite (5’1″), I often need to wear Petite sizes or have clothes altered, which makes purchasing, photographing, then returning items unworkable. And ultimately, I want to be an advocate of creating a cohesive wardrobe that reflects personal style. 😉

I often use collages to feature looks and ideas outside of my color palette and style. Here are a few recent examples:

Outfit idea with a teal teddy coat and rainbow knot pullover sweater, grey corduroy jeans.

Stylish winter warmer: a teddy coat

Wardrobe capsule with Blackwatch plaid pants.

Blackwatch Friday

How to wear white jeans for fall: a cool-based wardrobe capsule idea.

How to wear white jeans for fall

I’ll continue to include collages like these in the future, and will do my best to include a variety of color options in my “roundup” posts.

In case you you haven’t already…

Here’s your chance to help me know what topics and content will be most valuable to you in 2022. You’ll find a short reader survey HERE. I’ll keep it open for a few more days, and really appreciate your time and responses!

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  1. One of the things I like best about your blog, Susan, is that it is about styles and activities that are authentic to you. Although my coloring is quite different, that’s A.O.K. by me, because it inspires me to express my authentic style in my own way. And I love the pic-collages as well.

    Best wishes for the New Year!

  2. I agree. I am on the opposite colour spectrum to you but share the same smart/casual lifestyle choices and love seeing how you put outfits together. I can take inspiration from you and adapt for myself. I like to think of myself as classic with style and a modern twist. In your words. Funky not frumpy. Love it.
    Best wishes for 2022.

  3. I recently retired so I’m all about casual style now (no more suits or heels!). I enjoy your blog since you showcase clothing that is comfortable, practical and yet still stylish and cute. I also love reading about your travels. Don’t change a thing!

  4. Love this look . It’s a polished casual lifestyle look that is perfect for us retired ladies who no longer have any need for ‘ fancy ‘ clothes .
    Please don’t change anything about your blog as I love to see your authentic everyday clothes rather than lots of clothes that you wouldn’t actually wear for your lifestyle .

  5. I agree with the other comments. Your blog is a great showcase for smart casual looks. I am one of the many folks who work from home now, so it’s good inspiration for every day style.

  6. Ditto Lyn comment. I love your collages! I’m a warm season also and appreciate seeing clothing for that season. Also wondering….if a person let their hair go grey, what would you change to your wardrobe colors?

    1. Thanks, Karen! If you’re building your wardrobe around skin tones (rather than hair color) then the “best” colors in your palette may shift, but you won’t go from warm to cool or visa versa. Some color systems incorporate hair and eye color. I’m not as familiar with those so can’t speak to that.

  7. For me, your ability to write well making each and every post enjoyable is one of the main reasons I follow your blog. In addition to good writing, your honesty coupled with your self-effacing, fun personality is a winning combination. I appreciate how you stay true to your style (and seemingly, yourself) while sharing tips that we can take, or leave, depending on our style.

    Watching you embrace (and run with) your new style since your makeover by Red Leopard has been educational in the main. I aspire to do something similar, and your journey is inspiring. You look fantastic!

    Please don’t change a thing.

  8. Thank you so much, Susan, for being responsive to your “Cool Tone Followers”. Will definitely keep an eye out for the collages! Your pieces are always a source of the type of items I’m looking to add to my wardrobe.

  9. I love that you post quality pieces. It is interesting that you mentioned bloggers who feature items and then return them to the store. Something about that practice is off-putting to me, for several reasons. One is that they are encouraging the “fast fashion” consumer lifestyle by creating an impression of constantly buying a large volume of new items.

    1. Hi Marilyn, thanks! I understand why some bloggers do this, as we’re often under pressure to present a lot of variety. But my approach is to try and create variety with a smaller, cohesive wardrobe. It may not be enough variety for some readers, but I hope most will appreciate the intent.

  10. Thanks for including suggestions for the traditional classic – on me classic looks good and funky, silly, although I admire it on others.

  11. Hi Susan, love your blog.
    I am hoping you will do some MAXI skirts and dresses for spring and summer !! I’m on the tall side (5’10) and prefer the long look ….
    Thanks so much for all the background work/research you do for us!
    Mary H

  12. I love your style— I’m a jeans girl too. I enjoy seeing how you style your jeans with fun shoes and top options. I use your ideas and adapt them to my winter colors. Isn’t it fun to get to the age where you finally know who you are and what you like to wear? I like the concept of a minimalist wardrobe, but will settle for small, versatile and interesting. 🙂

  13. I really would like to see shoes other than the clunky Oxfords and tennis shoes you wear, as well as colors other than those of your own style. I much prefer bright, summer toned clothes. I also see dresses and skirts making a comeback. How abt some focus on those styles. Thanks. Happy New Year.

    1. Hi Susan, I thought I’d explained myself pretty well in the post above 😉 but I’ll do my best to incorporate some of these in future collages. Happy New Year to you!

  14. I love the outfit you are wearing today. I also love your blog. I think your approach to the blog works well, and I wouldn’t change a thing.

  15. I too appreciate that you are blogging about things you actually wear and have in your closet. There are a multitude of clothing blogs out there that folks who want to see something different can view. Please don’t change anything to satisfy those who clearly are looking for a different blog.

  16. Don’t change a thing. Your approach to casual yet polished clothing is perfect for me. I’m retired and I get so much inspiration from you.
    Thank you!

  17. I really enjoy your blog, as I feel that you are authentic. I like your style, which is close to mine, though I am more cool season colours.
    Your style boards show other colours and ideas. I have recently unsubscribed from a few blogs as the stylists were ordering a inordinate amount of clothes, many of which they admit would be returned. That to me is so wasteful , an not something I either afford to do or want to. Thank you and Happy New Year

  18. I can’t imagine anyone thinking you would change what you do to suit their own preferences. There are other places they can go. You previously mentioned planning to address the conflict between slow fashion and a need for variety. Did I miss it or did you not get to that yet? I’m really wanting to get your opinion on that.

    1. Hi Mary, I’ll actually be addressing that over the month, using a wardrobe capsule as a starting point, and then creating outfits using accent pieces and accessories for variety.

  19. Hi Susan, I hope you keep doing you, that’s why I come here! I have a question. While I know you can’t predict the future, do you think that the boots with the thick soles will still be around next year? I ordered a pair of Chelsea boots after Christmas that I haven’t received yet and am having second thoughts. Thanks and Happy New Year!

    1. Hi Nancy, what I’ve observed is that trends seem to last much longer than they used to, and multiple trends run concurrently. I don’t think your Chelsea boots will look dated next year or the year after, and if they suit your personal style, you can always wear them regardless of whether they’re on trend or not.

  20. I enjoy your blog and your fashion choices, and you help me stay aware of fashion and shopping options. We moved from SoCal to smalltown Midwest, so reading your blog helps me stay current and aware of new brands.

    I am envious of your light layers during the winter, but appreciate your Oxford and boot suggestions, since I have extremely hard to fit feet (no ballet flats for me)!

    I am pretty much the opposite of your coloring, so I appreciate your visual collages. I also get gift ideas for jewelry and clothing from your blog.

    I like seeing how well you wear your clothes, particularly after your fitness improvement, since I, too, am 5’1”!

    It is unrealistic to serve everyone’s needs or, at least, meet everyone’s expectations.

  21. You cannot be all things to all people, and we all respond best to authenticity. Don’t change a thing! You’re doing a great job and you are an inspiration!

  22. Here’s the thing. I know how to put basics together. What I don’t know how to do is add the spark that takes that outfit to a new level. For instance, adding brown, metallic shoes or just the right scarf. You inspire me in that way to try accessories I would never think to try. Or add a print with small leopards. Your print choice for tops is just so right.

  23. Susan I love your honesty about ‘posing’ for the camera and how you deal with not looking ‘robotic’ LOL to the dog barking!! Too funny:) I am totally opposite to you in colouring yet often wear the exact outfit in my day to day! The camel blazer, navy striped tee and red purse! Camel is a difficult colour for me to wear but there are shades of it (rare) that work. As much as I admired the ‘cool’ collage with the dark green coat, I would never wear that colour or even the baby blue sweater as much as I love it. I too am 5’1” and simply can’t with the thick soled brogues as I have size 9 feet! I am an ankle boot wearer all the way with a small heel. It just goes to show that we should wear what we like and suits us. I am beginning to think that finding one’s colours is simply the gateway and there is so much more to style.then that. Women do themselves a disservice by stopping at just one’s season/colors. I wouldn’t wear the brogues but I find the metallic charming and fun so I’d look for a style that suits me in metallic…adopt but adapt! Happy New Year and thank you for your hard work!

  24. Susan, I love that you stay faithful to what you love to wear, both color and style-wise, even though our styles are fairly different! I think I am your age or a little older, and still don’t have as cohesive of a “style story” as you do. I aspire to that. . . I have been more “lost” in this style journey since I retired a few years ago, half a year before Covid hit, with the pandemic stay-mostly-at-home time further sapping my desire to create fun ensembles. So I appreciate all the ideas you share.

    My husband and I have three international trips planned for 2022, and we’ll see which can actually happen. I have been poring over some of your old travel posts for wardrobe/packing ideas. I think our trip to the beach in Oaxaca will pull of in a week and a half. . . But Japan in March? The borders are closed tight. . . And Ireland, Scotland and England in the summer? Who knows how bad the pandemic will be there by then. But I am crossing my fingers., and appreciating all your packing advice so much.

  25. I really enjoy following your blog as is. As a matter of fact, I’ve slowly begun switching my wardrobe to spring colors and many items have been replaced with recommendations from your blog; so thank you very much, Susan! I’ve begun wearing French Kande pieces, which I adore! but haven’t been able to swing the purchase of Clergerie shoes. Donald Pliner styles are a reasonable substitute though. I am trying to wear more casual pants rather than jeans and I’m straying from leggings right now.
    Thank you for a great year of fashion outfits, Susan.

  26. Keep doing what you do.
    I am the same color pallet as you and am also gravitating to dark mustard accents. But I still love black. I wore a black cashmere turtleneck sweater for New Years and was happy as a clam. The sweater is at least 25 years old — you can’t get much more classic than that!
    We also have the same fine, straight hair, so I tried to get your haircut. Epic failure! It will take months before it even begins to look like the picture I showed her. (That will give me time to find someone new.)
    Happy new year!

  27. I absolutely love your style. I am newly retired and need a much needed wardrobe overhaul to better suit my casual life style..

  28. Hi Susan,

    Many of the previous posts said what I was thinking—taking inspiration from your ideas and adapting them to our own style, in line with your own comment above about embracing what makes each of us unique and your expression “tools not rules.” I’ve also enjoyed what I think of as thought or issue pieces—two that come to mind are one on wardrobe detox and organization, and another from some time ago, on aging out of our insecurities. Always enjoy reading your blog!

  29. I really have nothing new to add to the positive comments already made, but I want to join them in telling you how much I love your blog (just the way it is) and look forward to your Instagram posts.
    Happy New Year!

  30. You really don’t need to hear it again; so many before me have said it, but I will say it none-the-less: don’t change a thing. You are authentic. You share a real life with readers. Continue to resist. As you can tell, we appreciate it.

  31. I am one who appreciates the overall coherence and cohesiveness of your wardrobe, since these practicalities emulate all my fashion/clothing related values. You are modelling thrift, pragmatism and wisdom. There is little that is good to be said about our societal misuse of clothing. No one needs more and more, especially when the ‘more’ represents the worst forms of excess. Susan, although I don’t know you personally, I come to this site on pretty much a daily basis because you continue to represent what I consider to be the best in clothing use: coherence in a small-ish wardrobe that works because all the pieces in some way go together. You also have a personal style, an eye for types of clothes, that I look to for inspiration. My own style is okay, but tends to be too conservative, and I feel the need for some sparkle (not of the baguette type) from time to time. Thank you for being sensible about how to use clothing responsibly, because even when someone’s coloring or body type is entirely different, it’s the ideas and the style that I personally learn from. I’m going to say that I personally never need to see you, at 5’1″, show maxi skirts. I don’t need to see colors you’d never wear. I don’t want you to stop talking about things you care about. I check this site almost every day because I want to see you do you. 😉

  32. Thank you for showing up in this space and consistently providing fresh style inspiration. I’ve followed you through your style/color/fitness transformation and your outcomes have motivated me to make my own improvements. Wishing you a healthy and happy 2022.

  33. I love this outfit! You find such great ways to introduce fun and quirky elements into classic outfits. It is so inspiring and I love seeing the changes in your style.

    I do have a suggestion. When you post items that you’ve had in your wardrobe for a long time, could you post the brand and style if possible? Even if they are no longer available, sometimes an older tried and true favorite can be tracked down on poshMark or eBay and it would be really helpful to have that information on your outfit posts.

    Thank you for your amazing content! I also want to point out that you are inspiring an amazing community—very few blogs get the number of comments you do in this day and age. As content has shifted towards Instagram, YouTube, and other platforms, I love that there are still blogs that drive and generate a lot of meaningful comments.

    PS I took the survey!

    1. Hi Joy, thanks so much! I’ll keep your suggestion in mind and make a point to do this in the future.

  34. Echoing the majority of those who have commented…keep on doing exactly what you have been doing. I have gotten lots of inspiration from many of your posts- and since I have little patience for trolling through pages of online sites much less tromping through stores in real time, I really appreciate your posted and pictured item suggestions. Even though my budget cannot match yours I am able to zero in on certain brands and styles and wait until they go on sale (Eileen Fisher, I’m looking at you). Among other things I have two pairs of the L’Amour des Pieds metallic oxfords you suggested a couple of years back (the 2nd is a spare form when the first pair get trashed!). I also especially look forward to your European travel posts.
    Thanks for all the time and thought you put into your blog.

  35. Love your post! Even though my style and coloring is different, you give some very informative shopping tips and style advice. That’s what keeps me coming back. Happy New Year!

  36. Well done. I think this is a very Parisien look. Classic, personalized and modern. And of course with an awesome bag.
    I was eyeing that red braided camera bag, but I will hold off from buying any bags. I might have to carry reading glasses after my cataract operation, so I might want to use bigger bags.
    I give you a A for styling my dear.

  37. Hi Susan, I agree with all of the above comments about your blog but just wanted to add that it is also interesting to read the comments you get for every post! Such a great variety of women from all walks of life, yet all are unified by something in your blog that speaks to each of them, which is quite an achievement. And then they are motivated to speak back! Always interesting!

  38. Oh, and I love the “barking like a dog” idea. I’ve always hated posing for pictures – although I look back at pics in my 30s and think, “Dang, I WAS photogenic!”