8 In Anatomy of an Outfit

Fall transition outfits featuring longer layers

Fall transition
Wearing a longer third piece adds drama

Here in the Bay Area, we’re enjoying the fall transition fashion season. It can go on for weeks. My winter coats might come out in a month or so. With a few exceptions, the weather is not too warm, not too cold, but just right for adding a third piece that stays on all day. My third piece choice these days is a fairly lightweight, nearly knee-length jacket.

This third layer is my fashion lab coat

Is this third piece a jacket? A coat? Call it what you like. Because I’m apt to keep it on all day I think of it as my fashion lab coat. It can mimic the look of a lab coat, but it’s a whole lot better looking.

What I’m wearing under my fashion lab coat varies. It could be a blouse, sweater, or a T-shirt. I’ll wear jeans, corduroys, or knit pants on the bottom.

The two pieces under the fashion lab coat are happy to be support pieces. They love when the outer layer takes the starring role.

Coats or jackets this length are naturals for adding drama or personality to your outfits. It’s just what they do.

In three days I delighted in wearing three different 3/4 length jackets. Truth: If I could live in this specific climate twelve months a year wearing third pieces like this, I’d be as pleased as I am when eating a slice of my daughter’s homemade apple-cranberry-currant pie. Delish!

Day one of three: the Faconable raincoat is good for fall transition

Let’s start off with my Faconable linen coated jacket. It has rain and wind protection and was specially designed by Loro Piana (consignment store find). It has a great coating on the surface of it that gives it a slight polish or sheen. I’m wearing it with no reference to wind or rain. I’m wearing it because I love it.

Fall transition
A column of burgundy under my Columbo jacket

This lightweight jacket is made from linen, which is designed to get rumpled or wrinkle. Oh, I could iron it before wearing it, but most likely I won’t. If you like your fabrics to be neat and tidy, you’ll avoid linen. I can go both ways.

What works for me about this outfit is that I am neat and tidy underneath the jacket. I’m wearing a column of burgundy: burgundy polished cotton jeans, burgundy J.Crew 3/4 sleeve Merino wool sweater, and my burgundy laced AGL oxfords. Add to that my l.a. Eyeworks frames from Uber Optics and it’s literally head-to-toe burgundy.

You know how you have certain pieces of clothing that you put on and they feel like old friends? That’s what this jacket feels like. It also reminds me of a favorite TV crime show I used to watch in real-time, a long time ago. Were you around for Columbo? He was an LA homicide detective played by Peter Falk. His trademark was that rumpled beige raincoat, and he wore it in every scene.

fal transition
Excited about burgundy and tan together

The Bay Area is full of microclimates that you have to prepare for. Here the jeans and wool sweater keeps me warm. My Columbo jacket adds color contrast and is the perfect hostess for the beaded crystal pendant I’m wearing. Don’t they interact well together?

Day two of three: the shimmer blond leather 3/4 sleeve coat in fall transition outfits

A leather outer piece takes the starring role

Another coat I lust for this exact time of year is my shimmer blond Per Se leather coat. This darling came into my wardrobe in 2010.

fall transition

I bought the cocktail dress that went with it. Oh, it is gorgeous. Shimmer blond like the coat, a slinky sheath dress with clear paillettes all over it. I’ve worn the dress three or four times. This jacket, however, has been everywhere and done everything I’ve asked of it. It’s a champ. It’s in the starring role. Again, it’s pretty lightweight, so it stays on most of the time just like a lab coat.

Here I paired it with my soft white corduroy jeans by Kut. I have this same corduroy jean in olive green and burgundy. I wear a tank underneath my polka dot blouse because it’s pretty sheer. My handbag and Paul green booties are total chums of that blouse. Look at those colors together! Caramels, anyone?

Day three of three: my Per Se “dressy” satin black jacket begs to be in a fall transition outfit

I “heart” this jacket. It’s a no-brainer to grab this piece and wear it for dressed-up affairs. It brings sophistication to any fanciful event. Again, it’s in the starring role, so what’s underneath it can be as simple as a pant and sweater or a skirt and sweater.

fall transition outfit

But hey, I’m not patient enough to wait for a special event to come around, so I decided to wear it just because it’s Wednesday.

It was pretty warm out so I grabbed my gingham check top with layered sleeves. I slipped into my ballet ankle wrap Paul Green flats. Ruffles, ballet flats–it was starting to get feminine and girly. So why not add the feminine jacket with the pleated back?

I wouldn’t have paired this jacket with my burgundy jeans eight years ago. I would have worn more dressy pieces under it. But hey, the beauty of aging is that there are no excuses to wait for the right time to wear a favorite piece. Now is the right time.

Plus, this time of life is like being in kindergarten. Dress to please yourself and mix it up if you feel like it. You’re a kid at heart.

What happens when it gets colder?

I know that I’m still going to be in love with these combos come December and January. I suspect I’ll be pulling out a winter coat that is full enough to wear over these third layers. I’ll take it off when I get indoors but I’ll keep my longer third pieces on.

Tell me, friends: do you have a longer fashion lab jacket that you wear as part of an outfit? Do you like the drama of a longer third piece? Will you bring some of those fancier pieces out and mix them with your casual ones? Please share your clothing adventures!


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  • Reply
    Susa Berg
    November 7, 2019 at 1:51 am

    Hi Brenda, you are looking fantastic in your three outfits. The third piece give them so much more interest and expression. Oh, and I like so much your category “Anatomy of an Outfit”. I’d learnt a lot…
    Best regards, Susa from Cologne, Germany

  • Reply
    November 7, 2019 at 5:20 am

    I love that you refer to your clothing as friends on your team. You do realize you do that, right ? It has given me a new way to think of my clothes too. Some pieces are my BFF’s and some are mere acquaintances and some I no longer have any connection with and maybe it’s time to just let them go!
    I enjoy every outfit you share and every word you write! Please don’t ever stop !

    • Reply
      Patsy Henry
      November 9, 2019 at 10:41 am

      Dear Brenda,
      I’m so excited that I found you today!! I plan to get my hair cut so was looking for hair styles. Then I ran into you and my browsing stopped! I read a your blog from 2017 and fell in love with you and your ideas! I am 78 and have been widowed for 4 years. I like to always try to look my best when I go somewhere, even the grocery store. I love being my age because I feel free to dress as I please and say what I please in a nice way. I don’t feel 78 and people can’t believe my age. Keep on writing and I’ll keep on reading! I’d love to consider you a new friend!

  • Reply
    November 7, 2019 at 7:05 am

    I love doing the 3/4 jacket as well. It somehow feels more fun, less “corporate“ than a blazer. My favorite for years was a textured leopard print , but I’ve put it away for a few seasons… When everyone and everything is leopard, I’m not wearing it as much. Maybe the odd scarf, but really I want to stand out, not blend in. Haha!

  • Reply
    November 7, 2019 at 7:31 am

    I agree with you on the value of a topper, especially here in Minnesota. I dress with a conscious choice of which coat or jacket I will wear, making it part of my outfit three seasons of the year. Given a choice, I’d buy another jacket rather than an outfit.

  • Reply
    November 7, 2019 at 8:31 am

    Hi Brenda! The ‘Anatomy of an Outfit’ is my favorite of your feature articles. I appreciate how well you lend your heart to us through your descriptions of loved pieces. I wonder if you have any clients that are like me… a tall, larger framed, retired, young senior lady who feels she requires a little ‘camouflaging’ while creating casual outfits. Are there any specific tips you could share?

  • Reply
    Katherine Cramer
    November 7, 2019 at 8:51 am

    I have an artsy ANU jacket that is made for Fall. I love wearing it and get many compliments. It is finally getting a little cooler so I can wear it and other light coats. I agree with you in that I would love to wear 3/4 jackets much of the year. The Bay Area of Northern California is however blessed with warm days well into November so I often must take jackets off for ‘more air’. I notice you’ve begun to wear closed shoes. It is finally time to be able to do that too. Yet, my feet like to breathe more on warm days. I start the day OK then begin to shed the third piece and switch shoes. Not really complaining…just naming the weather challenges. I leave tomorrow for a week in Tahoe where it will be much cooler. Any advice for cool weather must-haves beyond a couple of flannel shirts?

  • Reply
    November 7, 2019 at 4:57 pm

    SCARVES and long sweaters are my go too’s!

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