A relaxed fall outfit in browns & gold - une femme d'un certain âge

How to make a relaxed outfit look polished

These days, it’s all about comfort for many of us. We don’t want to wear anything that’s binding or constricting, but we still want to look put together. Here’s a relaxed fall outfit that rises to the level of “smart casual.”

I’m wearing size XXS in the jacket, size S in the sweater vest, Petite S in the pants. I’ve been a big fan of Eileen Fisher lantern pants for a few years now. This season they’re offered in several colors and fabrics. (See how my friend Lisa wears hers here.) I also love this corduroy jacket. It’s offered in several colors, sizes XX-Small to 3X.

I don’t know if it’s true where you live, but I’ve noticed that people are dressing more casually everywhere these days. Even at the theater or nice restaurants, you don’t see the kind of “trussed up” looks that used to be more the norm. I think for many, the pandemic years have accelerated the shift in our style priorities in the direction of comfort above all.

While I don’t argue with comfort (it’s been a must for me since I’ve been writing this blog), I also prioritize looking and feeling neat and put-together. Here are a few tips I’ve picked up over the years for looking polished without sacrificing comfort:

Stay (mostly) in the neutral zone

An outfit based on neutrals will almost always look more put-together and polished. Every seasonal palette has a few neutrals; once you know your best ones, stock up when they’re available. Neutrals within your palette can be mixed (think brown + camel / black + gray / navy + brown or black or gray). You can even mix two shades of the same neutral, just vary the texture between the pieces as I’ve done here. Then add color as an accent.

Add structure

Details like collars, set-in sleeves, seaming, leather (or faux leather) shoes, a more structured bag, can all add polish. Showing a little skin (by rolling up sleeves, for example) can also add structure to your outfit. Look for pants/skirts with a waistband rather than gathers or a drawstring.

Fit and fabrics

Lightweight knits are great, just be sure they drape and aren’t pilled or worn thin. Look for fabrics with a nice drape that don’t cling. I like to balance fitted and loose pieces within an outfit, but your personal style and proportions will determine the best mix for you. (Too much oversized can look sloppy, but a little ease looks more modern and current, IMO.)


You don’t have to go overboard, but a few well-chosen accessories can make an outfit look intentional and finished. I’ve accessorized this relaxed fall outfit with pearl huggie earrings (similar), a necklace with crystals and a filigree pendant, a classic watch (similar), and a stretch stone bracelet with a gold charm.

Do you have a formula for comfortable-but-polished outfits?

More outfit ideas & style tips at The Style Hub

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Stay in touch.

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  1. Margaret
    October 22, 2022 / 5:00 am

    Where I live – Wisconsin and Texas – this relaxed outfit reads as much more polished than the many jeans options that seem to be common in California.

  2. coco
    October 22, 2022 / 6:24 am

    Don’t forget your glasses! A very stylish and polished accessory.

    • Susan Blakey
      October 22, 2022 / 1:05 pm

      Thanks, coco!

  3. NancyMK
    October 22, 2022 / 7:24 am

    Your “trussed up” = my elegant. I do not care if others dress otherwise. Huzzah for dresses and heels (some of which are comfortable for this 79 year old) on festive occasions and structured jackets with jeans and boots in daily life. Our differences may reflect the great urban/rural and north/ south divide. To each her own. I do enjoy seeing more formally dressed people rather than sweats in a fine restaurant or at the opera house; still, remind myself that it is the food and music and conviviality which are most important.

  4. Judy
    October 22, 2022 / 7:54 am

    I really like the tips you shared today. Neutral colors with one textured accent and a delicate necklace make a lovely combination. They really do make a relaxed outfit look more polished.

  5. Mary
    October 22, 2022 / 9:22 am

    Hello All:

    I struggle with comfortable but polished. It seems I am mostly comfortable, but not sure I am always polished. This is great food for thought. Susan, you always look elegant in my opinion. Please keep showing polished,comfortable looks as I really need the inspiration.

  6. Carolyn V
    October 22, 2022 / 12:43 pm

    The outfit may be less trussed-up but the colors are FABULOUS on you! Magic!

    • Susan Blakey
      October 22, 2022 / 1:05 pm

      Thanks very much, Carolyn!

  7. Francoise
    October 22, 2022 / 2:11 pm

    I’m loving your hair here, color and cut. And your glasses look so great with your hair color.

    • Susan Blakey
      October 22, 2022 / 2:47 pm

      Thanks very much, Francoise!

  8. Joan
    October 22, 2022 / 8:35 pm

    Today’s outfit looks striking on you: proportions, and gold + brown.

    My “best neutral” happens to be black, my hair color: it is what everyone is trying to get away from! I have added some navy to my wardrobe, which is a bit less severe.

    Your simple formula, and breaking it down into a “formula” is helpful: following this line of thinking, I need some cute colored shoes that link to a contrasting top or other contrasting piece…

  9. Rose
    October 22, 2022 / 9:57 pm

    I love this outfit on you Susan. Brown is very becoming on you. Thinking of ordering it in black (I’m a winter) but wondering on the sizing. You really sized down. I don’t have a store nearby so wondering if you can advise, I’m 5’ tall, size 6 or 8 petite—short waisted and long legs. Thank you.

  10. No Fear of Fashion
    October 23, 2022 / 2:03 am

    Darling, I don’t have a formula. I wish I had haha.
    But you look very polished. Casually polished. Well done.

  11. Kimberly Malkiewicz
    October 23, 2022 / 6:02 am

    I never thought to break down polished steps. However, after seeing yours, I’d say structure is one I frequently use to balance out ease in the rest of the outfit.

  12. Karen
    October 23, 2022 / 6:19 am

    I am glad you listed your lipstick color, it looks very good on you! Many years ago I went to an Estee Lauder counter when they had makeup artists doing an event and they chose a pink-er lipstick for me. I have strawberry blonde (aka orange) hair. It looked good and I have been using kind of a muted pink lipstick ever since. Now my most favorite cheap lip pencil/stick thing is discontinued and I need to find a similar shade — or should I try peach? Probably not a spendy one to start out with, but your lipstick looks great on you!
    I have some leftover berry and not-quite-right pinks that are not very satisfying in my drawer that I might try to use up and not waste, but it’s not much fun.

    • Susan Blakey
      October 23, 2022 / 6:59 am

      Hi Karen, thanks! In the system I use, we look at skin (not hair) to determine the seasonal palette. If your best colors are within a warm season, then peaches and corals will be better, but if your season is cool, then rose pinks and berries are the way to go.

  13. Karen
    October 23, 2022 / 6:21 am

    Here’s another thought, there is this whole — let the computer pick your shades — app out there now. I did the quiz but have not ordered from them because I am just — slow to buy things. But I would be curious if you ever experiment with digital color selection. I think some bloggers do makeup for the color seasons.
    One more question — is the French Kande jewelry gold over sterling? It says gold plated but does not describe the metal. I like it. I like the bigger pieces that you are wearing, they look very good.

    • Susan Blakey
      October 23, 2022 / 7:00 am

      I’m not familiar with the digital color apps. I’ll check on the composition of the French Kande jewelry and get back to you.

  14. Kathy
    October 23, 2022 / 10:45 am

    Hi Susan,

    I don’t know if the pandemic has accelerated the “dress strictly for comfort” phenomenon around here or not. I think it’s been going on here for many years. I just turned 68 and am not a fashion prude, but I like to present myself nicely when I go out. Today I am going to the grocery store and I am wearing a pair of B.O.C. golden tan Maryjane clogs, cropped dark wash jeans, an Ann Taylor navy sweater with big burgundy, coral, and yellow flowers, and on top a warm-toned, pink, no-wale corduroy jean jacket. I am dressed more nicely today than everyone I saw at Olive Garden on my birthday last week. Everyone around me looked as though they were ready to go outside to do yard work – oversized drab tees or sweatshirts and sloppy looking jeans. No one made any effort to look nice. I actually commented on the slobbiness around us to my husband. I think I probably stuck out because I was the only person in the restaurant wearing a dress! I sometimes wonder how clothing manufacturers and clothing retailers stay in business. Around here no one seems to dress fashionably in public. I do not like to wear uncomfortable items, but as you show us all the time, it is certainly possible to dress in a stylish manner and still be comfortable!

  15. MJ
    October 23, 2022 / 10:52 am

    For me, life IS more casual these past few years. I simply don’t need “going out” clothes. What is my style formula for smart casual?

    1. Add a jacket when the weather allows. Even a casual jacket can add to an outfit.

    2. Dark wash elevates denim. I’ve been chasing jeans with a pin-tuck seam that gives the look of smartly-pressed pants. My size is always sold out.

    3. Stick to patterns and details that transcend seasons. No Christmas sweaters for me. That’s not my groove. I’m entertaining the idea of a bling for the holiday season in a less-is-more, casual way. No fancy, sparkly, special occasion-only dresses, just a small touch of “ta-da!” in an accessory.

    4. Color! Why not? Looking smart can be done as a hit of dopamine dressing or as a more moderate monochrome look. Color does not mean casual. It’s how you wear it, and the fabrics that take it up or down a notch.

    5. I’m having real trouble accepting dark, earthy colors. Been there, done that. Dark denim is my exception. Winter has blasted in with wet, heavy snow. Dark earth tones make winter heavier to me. They don’t suit my personality, so I’m going to be true to myself and dress authentically. This does not mean sweatshirts and pajama bottoms as day wear. It means uplifting my soul in my clothing choices, wearing clothes that fit well, suit my body shape, weight and please my eye. Clothes that not longer fit quite right are sure to drag any outfit down.

    6. Tights with winter dresses. It’s hard to look sharp with blue, goosebumpy legs.

    7. Footwear, always. Start with the shoes and boots used to be my motto.

    8. It all starts at home. I like to feel good in the clothes that never leave home, too.

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