Sometimes you just need a jacket that’s practical

But that doesn’t mean it can’t be good-looking too. A lightweight utility jacket is a versatile option, and one of my spring wardrobe essentials. Keep reading for more women’s utility jackets…

What I wore: a lightweight twill utility jacket, navy cotton rollneck sweater, demi-bootcut jeans, platform ankle boots. More women's utility jackets at
What I wore for a day of errands & doctor’s appointments…

First, Chag Sameach to those celebrating Passover!

Though the rain has let up, I can’t remember when it’s been as relentlessly chilly and windy this time of year in our part of Southern California. My winter coats are feeling a bit “overkill,” but I still need something that blocks the wind. So I’ve been switching over to utility jackets, which I’ll wear now with sweaters and later in spring and early summer with tees.

This is one of the three utility jackets that survived last year’s closet purge. It’s from Banana Republic, and is (I think) from 2021. It’s a perfect fit (I’m wearing Petite Small). I like the shape of the collar and that I can turn it up to keep wind or sun off my neck. It can look polished enough for Smart Casual, and is machine washable. Unfortunately Banana Republic seems to have discontinued this style, but I’ve found some nice, practical-but-not-too-rugged options for everyday wear.

Women’s utility jackets

While I love a good blazer, some days just call for something more…utilitarian. For me, a utility jacket hits that casual-but-structured sweet spot.

You can find a boatload of styles in shades of olive green, though many have a worn-in, “dad’s old army jacket” vibe. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I think styles with a somewhat more refined look will be more versatile in the long run.

J.Crew recently updated their popular Downtown Field Jacket for a cleaner look. The trim on the pocket flaps and cuffs is a nice touch. The dark olive color is good for most Autumns. Sizes XX-Small to 2X. Currently 40% off with code SPRING.

This light sage color is another good one for most autumns. This jacket has a hood, and is available in sizes X-Small to XX-Large.

Here’s one that’s been around forever, and is still very well-reviewed. It’s offered in a few neutrals, and in Misses, Petite and Plus sizes.

Though listed as a shirt jacket, I think this one also falls into the utility-verse. This Biscayne Blue might be good for some Summers, maybe a few Winters. (I have this one in the Sandstone color, which you can see here.) It’s available in 4 colors, in Misses, Petite, Plus and Plus Petite sizes.

If you need something water-resistant, this waxed cotton jacket has old-school heritage, but still looks modern enough for city wear. Several (neutral) colors available, sizes 0-18 (some colors not available in all sizes).

The rope drawstring cords give this linen blend jacket a fun nautical feel. Sizes XX-Small to XX-Large. This creamy off-white color should work for Autumns and Springs.

I bought last year’s version of this slightly cropped utility jacket, and it’s one of the three I kept. Mine’s more of a navy, but this blue is nice too. Sizes X-Small to XX-Large.

This terra cotta color is good for most Springs and Autumns, and will look great with ivory, beige, camel. The jacket is also offered in Provence Blue (a lighter version of the “Biscayne Blue” above), and a nice olive color. Misses, Petite, Plus and Plus Petite sizes. Reviews suggest sizing down for a less oversized fit.

And just because it’s sometimes fun to throw a curve, here’s one in an unexpected color. In Misses, Petites & Plus.

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  1. Hi Susan—May I ask what size you purchased in the J .crew sweater since it’s not available in petite sizes? In the pictures it looks like the sleeves are long and loose and I was wondering if that’s the case for you. Also, would any of the colors work for winters? Thank you,

    1. Hi Rose, I’m wearing the Small. Surprisingly, I don’t find the sleeves too long (wearing them full length in the photo above). Any of the colors *except* the navy would work for most Winters!

  2. I hate that all utility jackets are mostly in the olive, camel, Sage green palette which is terrible for me – I had the LLBean one in what used to be a dusty rose color. I bought some Rit dye and turned it a beautiful vibrant egg plant color and I just love it!

  3. I bought the Talbot’s shirt jacket you recommended in the Sandstone and love it. It’s very well made and much more refined than your average shirt jacket. Great for days when I don’t quite need a blazer but want to look put together.

  4. I also have the Talbot shirt jacket in Sandstone and can vouch for it. I’m 5’3″, 140 lbs and the petite medium fit me perfectly, neither fitted nor oversized. I find it versatile. I’m eyeing the Downtown Field Jacket but J Crew tends to run a bit too long in the torso and sleeve for someone my height. The reviews on their site says it runs big. Will watch the comments to see if anyone has tried it.

  5. Hi Susan, thanks for these suggestions. I’m on the hunt for what appears to be a unicorn! I’m looking for a waterproof jacket for travel that you won’t overheat in and that you could wear in the city but also for a wander countryside. Any suggestions would be most welcomed. Thanks as always for your thoughtful posts, I have learned so much from them.

    1. I recently purchased from Orvis a Barbour waterproof jacket and says it breathes. It might be similar to what you are looking for. Orvis may have sold out of it, but you might find it on another website. Perhaps Barbour has a website. My jacket is navy.

    2. Terri, have you looked at Eddie Bauer rain jackets? I have had quite good luck with this brand and they have a variety of choices.

    3. I recently purchased the H2OFF rain jacket in lilac mist from LL Bean. (I’m a winter, and it works as an “icy” color in my palette.) I’ve only had an opportunity to wear it a few times so far this spring, but I did travel with it. It doesn’t wrinkle, and it both breaks the wind and keeps me dry. I was able to stuff it in my personal item bag on the plane. It also has some shape to it and comes in petite sizing, which made it a winner for me!

    4. I’m not Susan but the only breathable waterproof fabric I know of is goretex. They are probably more choices nowadays.

      For kayaking in cold weather I bought a very cute jacket in a very expensive sport brand that was a child sized 16. I’m a regular medium and the 16 fit perfectly, was not army, and was much less expensive.

      I might be outside hiking etc but I’m going to look cute doing it.

    5. After years of searching, I finally found my perfect travel jacket at Lands End, but of course they don’t make it anymore. It’s a black rain jacket/coat with a removeable hood. It keeps me dry, works as a casual comfortable jacket, and it looks dressy enough for a restaurant. The removeable hood is the key to its versatility. I don’t know why they don’t make more of that style. It also has a zip out lining. I don’t travel without it. It even fits in the front pocket of my carry-on.

    6. Terri – Try North Face. Last year, when my daughter moved to Portland, I needed waterproof jacket that would look polished enough for the city but not out of place in more casual settings. I found the perfect one at North Face. Try the women’s Alta Vista or City Breeze jackets. Waterproof, lots of pockets, very sleek.

  6. Terri, take a look at the Orvis Pack and Go jacket. I own three (taupe, blue and rust- they change color selections yearly) and love that the hood can be zipped away into the collar and that there is shaping at the waist. They also can be squeezed into their own pouch for travel. Lastly, they appear to wear like iron.

    1. I ordered the Orvis Pack n Go this past year….I’ve worn it so much and it always looks good. I ordered the light taupe….and it works well with my Summer (?)/ Light Autumn (?) coloring.

    2. Susan you always look so sharp and I have copied many of your outfits.
      I am curious about the appeal of the color beaded bracelets. I tried something similiar and my husband asked me why I was wearing kids jewelry. Of course he buys me very nice things. I never wore the beads again.

      1. Hi Judy, thanks! The colorful bracelets just make me happy to wear. They add a playful note to my outfits, though I get they’re not to everyone’s taste.

  7. I purchased the BR field jacket on your recommendation a couple years ago and love it. It’s a staple for me in Northern California. Thank you!

  8. Happy Passover to you and your family.! Looking for an alternative to my olive green utility jacket and will definitely check out the blue shirt jacket from Talbots. Thanks for the recommendations.

  9. Always on the lookout for a jacket with minimal detail. Some good choices, but I think that bright blue shirt jacket is too bright for a summer (my season). Most likely the sage, navy, and pink might work.

  10. I have that last one from Lands End in a warm cream color from a couple years ago. The fabric has a linen-like texture and a bit of stretch. It has a hood that doesn’t tuck nicely into the zippered collar, though and as its not waterproof seems useless. I just cut it off and tucked the leftovers back into the collar. Worked great. Land’s End, though often less fashionable, runs one size larger than the norm and offers petite sizing up to XL. So their XL Petite fits as a 1X Petite and that’s a rare find.

  11. I love your jacket and that moss green jacket of J. Crew.
    Your outfit of today looks ever so good. With the bag and the boots it is so now and stylish. Is that a Loewe bag?

  12. Hi, Susan. Funny, I have the same Banana Republic jacket. I, too, have been wearing it like crazy this season in Southern California. Your post gives me some encouragement to look for alternatives, however. I love how you’ve been using your bracelets these past few months. I would like to do the same, however, I am an autumn. Any suggestions for autumn-toned bracelets?