The Utility Jacket: A Wardrobe Workhorse

unsung hero: the utility jacket

field jacket, utility jacket

left: J. Crew | right: Burberry

I never had a utility jacket in my wardrobe until about three years ago, and now I can’t imagine how I got by without one. It’s become one of my casual Wardrobe Workhorses, and just the thing to throw on when it’s too warm for a sweater, but too cool for a tee alone. I have two actually: one that I purchased in London that’s wind and (somewhat) water-resistant, and a second lightweight cotton version from Gap, purchased a couple of years ago on sale. (Similar from Banana Republic.) I find that olive is such a plays-well-with-others option, though navy or khaki would also be versatile in most wardrobes.

And though I’ve been wearing mine casually, I’m intrigued by the idea of mixing it up with dressier pieces (inspired by the J.Crew image above) and will be experimenting.


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  1. May 5, 2016 / 5:53 am

    I feel the exact same way, how did I go so long without the workhorse staple? And it took me until this season to finally purchase one. But you’re right, I wear this item all the time, it’s seriously the perfect inbetween jacket. Thank you for sharing a few more ways for me to use this fun workhorse.

  2. susanburpee
    May 5, 2016 / 6:05 am

    I love a utility jacket for casual wear, too. I almost bought one a couple of years ago, but already had a jacket that was too similar. My friend Liz sometimes gets frustrated with me because I try something on, love it, and then consult the little book that I carry in my purse with my list of “already own” items. Oh, oh. Forgot about that Theory windbreaker. No sale. So now, I’m getting lots of wear out of my Theory camo windbreaker, same length as a utility, but in blue and black camo. I love it with jeans but also with dressier pants. Love that mid hip length.

  3. May 5, 2016 / 7:02 am

    I bought one at uniqlo while traveling and encountering an unexpected drizzle. Now I wear this inexpensive jacket all the time.

  4. Joanna
    May 5, 2016 / 7:30 am

    I’ve been trying them on all over but always the same – short waisted. Does anyone know where I could find a Tall utility jacket?

    • samantha4blair
      May 5, 2016 / 10:57 am

      Try ASOS, Next, Topshop or long tall sally? Worth a look. XX

      • Joanna
        May 5, 2016 / 5:12 pm

        Thank you Samantha. Wish me luck!

  5. May 5, 2016 / 8:03 am

    I have the opposite problem with drawstring jackets although I love my utility jacket and wore it all over Europe dressed up or down…I am short waisted and so there is always a big hunk of extra fabric between my shoulders and waist….any suggestions other than tailoring which is a complete rebuild job?

    • Susan B
      May 5, 2016 / 8:08 am

      Hi Jan, have you tried Petite sizes? J.Crew offers here, and Banana Republic here.

      • May 6, 2016 / 5:31 pm

        Thanks Sue..I will try. Great idea. Will see if I can grab the Eileen Fisher jacket someplace!

  6. May 5, 2016 / 8:09 am

    I love mine!!! And I can layer it up for more warmth. I bought mine from gap and it’s so well made.

  7. Amy
    May 5, 2016 / 8:12 am

    I just bought one over the weekend and am wearing it to my semi-casual office with black pants, a cream silk blouse and red ballet flats! Expect to get much use!

  8. May 5, 2016 / 9:22 am

    Great idea to wear the utility jacket with dressier pieces! I have one that I don’t wear enough because it feels too casual to me with jeans. I’m going to try mine with a pair of dressier pants and shoes and I bet I’ll feel a lot better in it. Amy’s outfit sounds perfect!

  9. RoseAG
    May 5, 2016 / 9:59 am

    I see a lot of utility jacket over a girly outfit on the subway as I commute.
    It’s a young look that I think can go dowdy on a mature woman.
    If I were doing the J Crew version you show above I think I’d do the utility jacket or the trainers with the girly skirt, but not both.

  10. May 5, 2016 / 10:02 am

    Yes, they can be useful. My daughter wears the one my husband got in the army, it has his name patch on the upper arm. It’s big on her but she likes the authenticity. By the way, the J. Crew model looks like she is wearing a skirt made out of an old chenille bedspread.

  11. Liz in Paris
    May 5, 2016 / 1:32 pm

    Une femme/Susan, your jacket from Sandro (French brand but I seem to remember you bought it in London) impressed me so much when you showed it on your blog that I raced to the shops in Paris the next day to see if I could find one. All stores only had the small size left. I ended up buying a similar one from Jaeger in London, which is more of a grey-green colour than the military green Sandro one you have and suits my colouring better. I love it and have worn it with everything.

  12. May 5, 2016 / 2:28 pm

    Gosh— my daughter bought me an army green jacket like this from Tommy Hilfiger—like 2+ years ago. I left it sit in my closet and just pulled it out within the last month to wear. You are so right– the more I wear it, the more ways I find to layer it up with my outfits. I am going to try it with dressier items such as you’ve shown us from J. Crew. Thanks Susan for the inspiration!!

  13. Jill Ann
    May 5, 2016 / 4:45 pm

    I am not saying this to be obnoxious to those of you in cold climates….but….it was literally not cold enough here this winter (Houston, TX) to wear a jacket, more than half a dozen times. I love coats and jackets and wish I could wear them more! I bought an adorable white pea coat two years ago, and didn’t get to wear it at all this year. Did wear my olive green utility jacket, which I got at Nordstrom, a couple of times. My local Dillard’s, each winter, carries a Katherine Kelly cashmere wrap coat with a fox fur collar. It is fabulous, (and expensive), and I deeply covet it, but there is no way I can ever justify it!

  14. May 6, 2016 / 10:37 am

    I bought a cotton version of this sort of jacket about 6 years ago at H & M, and it has definitely been a work horse for me! Everyone needs one of these, in my opinion! I wear this olive jacket way more than my denim jacket.

  15. MEA
    May 12, 2016 / 4:52 pm

    I’m “under 50” but I enjoy your blog! Thanks for the heads up, got the awesome j crew jacket here and it’s perfect

    • Susan B
      May 13, 2016 / 5:33 am

      MEA, thanks, and I’m glad you found a jacket you like.

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