Have you looked in the back of your closet at all the fancy jackets you own that hardly get worn? I bet some of them are truly stars of your wardrobe…or have been. Sometimes when I ask a client about those pieces, they get wistful. I can tell how much they love them! “How about if I use your fancy jackets in a new configuration so you can start wearing them this week?” I’ll ask.
She’ll sigh deeply and say, “I’d love that.”
I’m going to ask you the same thing. If I could help you wear your favorite jackets that you’ve only worn for dress up, would you like that?
Let’s explore what that would look like.
Step one: Decide that it’s okay to repurpose your fancy jackets
The first step in repurposing your fancy or arty jackets is getting permission to take pieces that lived in a firm wardrobe category in the past and slide them over into a new category that’s about today, now, the present. There could be some mental resistance because it’s always been a certain way. There could be words like:
Client: But I only wear that for weddings!
BK: How many weddings have you been to lately?
BK: Can I turn it into something you can wear now?
Client: Okay, show me how!
I’d like to introduce you to Sheila-Merle
The perfect person to use as an example for turning your fancy jackets into chic jean outfits is my friend and client, Sheila-Merle. (Here’s her Instagram account.) Her hashtags include:
#stylist, #fashionover70, #stylelift, #70pluswithstyle, #over70androckingit, #70plusfashionistas
I wanted you to read her hashtags because it says a lot about Sheila-Merle. She loves fashion and style. She’s artistic—the stained glass art pieces in her home are ones she’s made. She’s a very active 70+ woman. She studies improv, takes a conversational French class, loves interior design, attends lectures, loves to travel—the list goes on!
This would make her a great candidate for taking her fancy jackets and turning them into upscale casual outfits that she could wear for many of her activities.
Step 2: Pull your fancy or arty jackets out of your closet and move them to another room
Erin and I have been helping her purge her wardrobe and all the while making new, modern outfits. When we arrived a couple of closet visits ago, she wanted to go through her fancy jackets. Erin set up our portable rolling rack and we moved all of her fancy (rarely used) jackets to her living room where we assessed each one.
Clothes look a lot different when they’ve been pulled out of the closet and into another room. I saw that look in Sheila-Merle’s eye when she viewed them on the rack. Wistful, appreciative, adoring. I think I’d even add longing to that list.
As her stylist, I wanted nothing more than to please her by creating outfits that would focus on these cherished beauties. After all, Sheila-Merle is a consummate appreciator of beauty, clothes, and style. Her keen eye notices pattern, texture, buttons, collars, pocket details and these jackets had all of those things going on.
So I asked permission. “Sheila-Merle, would you let me style these jackets in a new way so you can be wearing them now?”
Here’s the next thing I want you to know. Even though Sheila-Merle (and maybe even you) said yes, it can be trippy to see the piece you only wore to the opera be teamed with jeans and boots! Your brain needs time to recalculate. The good news is that it only takes looking at yourself in the mirror for a decent amount of time until your eye accepts this as the new normal. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a cheerleading team there to encourage the change. Erin and I helped her brain by explaining the “why” and “how” of this repurposing project.
Step three: Pull out your best-fitting jeans and nice boots or shoes
From the waist down, the outfit will consist of jeans (darker jeans for fancier jackets, lighter jeans if you want to make it more casual) and cool shoes or boots. Sheila-Merle had some great fitting jeans and Lucky Brand booties that were comfortable. I created a cuff in the jean. This gave clearance for the bootie and made the jean look modern and cool which is Sheila-Merle all the way. Our weather has still been cool so booties are a great choice. When it gets warmer, a platform or wedge sandal will be another option.
Step four: Bring on the fancy jacket!
You’ll need an underpiece—that knit sweater or T-shirt that will support your star piece, your fancy jacket. I think it’s easiest to figure out what the support piece will be once you’ve chosen the jacket you want to wear. Sheila-Merle tends to run cold so she has a great selection of layering pieces. She’ll regularly wear ribbed turtlenecks, knits or long-sleeved T-shirts. For warm months, you could easily swap the long-sleeved pieces for short or sleeveless ones.
Erin and I would look at the jacket in the living room and then go back to her closet and pull out underpieces or layering pieces. (I always call them underpieces because it’s what goes under the jacket when you’re most likely never going to take the jacket off, but nice enough that you could if you needed to.)
We had a full-length mirror propped against a chair in the living room and did all of our styling there in front of it. All the better to get your eye used to the new wardrobe plan!
Step five: Add the very important accessories
We loved working with Sheila-Merle’s accessories. Most of us have a collection of accessories but some of those aren’t getting used either. Many times as we chose a necklace or an earring it was like discovering an old friend. “Oh, I love these! Michael bought them for me on a trip to Italy,” she said.
That’s such a sweet bonus that happens when styling new outfits. Old things feel new. Treasures that have been hibernating get brought into this year, this month, this moment and shine once again.
(More ideas about making casual outfits more interesting.)
Step six: Enjoy your newly configured chic jean outfit
There really is so much pleasure in wearing things we love. Those fancy jackets? Pull them out and see if you can make an outfit with one or two of them and take that outfit to the streets wherever your life leads you. You’ll feel great, you’ll be appreciating the things you love, and people seeing you will appreciate the beauty of your look and want to hang around you.
And remember, you can dress any way you want. So if your outfit is more put together than most people walking down Novato Ave., that’s fine! You’re being you and isn’t that just the most divine thing of all?
And one last tip: If you’re trying to pull a creative outfit together using one of your jackets and realize you don’t have the right fitting jeans, go shopping! This is a super important investment that will make all your outfits work.
Questions? Comments? Need ideas for putting together outfits like these? You’re an expert at this kind of dressing and have more tips to share? Please fill in that comment box and we’ll support each other!
AngieMay 1, 2019 at 6:36 pm
This is why I love Brenda Kinsel! <3
SharonMay 1, 2019 at 8:17 pm
This inspires me to rummage through my closet as I know I have many fancy jackets I haven’t worn in ages. Thanks, Brenda!
BrendaMay 9, 2019 at 5:30 pm
You’re welcome Sharon. Have fun!
SusanMay 2, 2019 at 4:54 am
Have been doing this forever…. and they are not always older, saved and never worn jackets. I am lucky to be a designer, dressmaker and am always falling in love with relatively expensive luxurious fabrics. My answer, always get enough for a jacket and wear it casually.
A winning look and I feel special and stylish even grocery shopping!
BrendaMay 9, 2019 at 5:30 pm
Boy would I ever love to run into you in the produce section every week just to see what you’re wearing!
Linda BMay 2, 2019 at 5:47 am
I think I have one or two jackets like this I am now inspired to play with. But I want to mention one treasure that I recently have started using in exactly this way. In fact I bought this piece with the idea in mind that I would wear it with jeans. It is a Christian Lacroix lace coat (with some sequins!) that I got at a fantastic vintage/consignment shop in Austin, TX about 6 years ago. It was new with tags on, actually, and being sold for about 2% of the original price. The shop owner convinced me it would be great with jeans. Once I had it home, I was intimidated by it. But in the past month or two I have finally gotten brave enough to use it in my “outfit composing”, and one of those times was just two days ago. So fun! I may have gone a bit over the top by using one of my self-made pairs of embroidered jeans. But they were cropped and casual, and I think the big, colorful cabbage rose was great with the long lace coat.
BrendaMay 9, 2019 at 5:29 pm
This outfit sounds splendid to me! Glad you’re wearing that special lace coat!
JaneMay 2, 2019 at 7:55 am
What a great idea. I only have one fancy jacket, but I guess I will pull it out and take another look at what I can do with it. I love some of the jackets your client has and would so wear them with jeans.
BrendaMay 9, 2019 at 5:28 pm
I bet you’ll find a way to make this idea work for you!
SusanMay 2, 2019 at 8:04 am
This is a great post and a reminder to continue re-inventing ourselves!
BrendaMay 9, 2019 at 5:27 pm
So true, Susan!
HopeMay 2, 2019 at 9:06 am
This is inspirational. Off to search my closet and make new outfits. 🙂
BrendaMay 9, 2019 at 5:27 pm
Have fun, Hope!
StephanieMay 2, 2019 at 11:13 am
Hi Brenda, wonderful ideas. I am having trouble integrating my vintage jackets- more blazer type styles into my more casual wardrobe. Mostly wool gabardines and crepes in luscious colors with colorful linings. From 1940-1980. The underpinning pieces hang me up. I don’t like turtlenecks.
TracyMay 4, 2019 at 6:28 pm
Try it with a lace edged sleeveless top, or a printed (e.g. a band) t-shirt. A super casual shirt can contrast nicely with an overly formal jacket. If it is a blazer that buttons high enough, you could even try it sans shirt – just be super doubly sure you won’t want to take it off 😉
I also dislike turtle necks, but there a re so many options don’t feel constrained by what other people do. Wear what you love.
BrendaMay 9, 2019 at 5:21 pm
Super great ideas, Tracy! Thanks!
BrendaMay 9, 2019 at 5:26 pm
I’d take a couple of jackets shopping with you and just focus on the underpinning pieces. Look through lingerie departments, T-shirt departments. I find the Tippi sweaters from J.Crew are simple and can be worn under vintage or fancy jackets. It’s been a go-to for me. They have 3/4 length sleeves. I’m wearing one right now!
AnneMay 2, 2019 at 3:14 pm
Inspirational article, gorgeous jackets, beautiful model. How fun!
BrendaMay 9, 2019 at 5:25 pm
Gail A GuinnMay 2, 2019 at 5:40 pm
I really loved this post!! I have been working on just this since late winter. My lifestyle is much more casual at this point in my life, but I do like to wear nice jackets with jeans. My taste in jewelry is much like Sheila-Merle’s. Finding the correct underpinnings are difficult for me. I want something that looks fitted but has extra room in the tummy area in case I take the jacket off. This also means I need to make sure it’s long enough to cover as well, but it can’t be too long or that’s not good either. I have found that using shorter jackets with longer shirts underneath might be my best bet. Thank you for this!
BrendaMay 9, 2019 at 5:24 pm
Having the inner piece sticking out beyond the hem of the jacket is a great look. Also look for T-shirts that have ruching at the sides. It really does make for a great shape in the tummy area. Very forgiving. Also surplice tops are great.
AnonMay 2, 2019 at 6:39 pm
This is just what I had in mind for a Chanel-type jacket that should be walking on sunshine.
BrendaMay 9, 2019 at 5:22 pm
Yes, get that jacket out in the sunshine where it belongs!
JenniferMay 2, 2019 at 7:30 pm
Love this post! What fun to “watch” you totally reinvent her wardrobe and, she looks amazing in all of it! Thank you for all the ideas and inspiration.
BrendaMay 9, 2019 at 5:22 pm
You’re so welcome, Jennifer! Our pleasure!
RebeccaMay 2, 2019 at 7:40 pm
Sheila-Merle has some fabulous jackets and you have demonstrated how to style these treasures in a way that looks modern and fun. I love this post because jackets are ,my favorite clothing items but I usually fail to wear them because I think they are too dressy for my more casual lifestyle now. I will definitely explore new ways of wearing them more often. Thanks Brenda!
BrendaMay 9, 2019 at 5:21 pm
You’re so welcome! And wasn’t Sheila-Merle the best model?
La semaine d'une gourmetteMay 7, 2019 at 2:48 am
You’re so right, fancy jackets should be worn often! I wear mine with black trousers, not jeans (I almost never wear jeans – not my style). I love embroidered kimono-style jackets, luxurious fabrics… Thy shoud get some use!
BrendaMay 9, 2019 at 5:19 pm
Love hearing this! Yay to fancy jackets!
JoanneMay 8, 2019 at 12:57 am
So much fun and an inspiration to repurpose fancy jackets! But where to get decent fitting jeans to go? Always a problem fir me. Thanks for the great blog!
BrendaMay 9, 2019 at 5:12 pm
The trick with jeans is to be willing to try lots and lots of them on to find the one that fits and flatters you best. I’ve found a company that fits me so well and doesn’t cost a fortune: Kut from the Cloth. I wish you luck!
Ann JacobsMay 12, 2019 at 8:55 am
Wow! I’m going on a lengthy cruise where playing dress up is important, however Im an artist who doesn’t tend to follow the norm. Thus your ideas on bringing out artsy jackets to wear with jeans has solved that issue! I’m no longer stumped as what to pack. BTW I’m 74 with several interesting jackets in my closet!
As a featured artist at our local gallery last night, five other artist had on various garments in different geometric black and white patterns . What a giggle!
BrendaJune 5, 2019 at 9:54 am
Oh my gosh, that sounds so fun–the five artists in geometric black and white. Have a great time on your cruise. Whatever you wear will be fun and exciting I’m sure!
Anne SowdenMay 15, 2019 at 11:05 am
Fantastic idea Brenda! You’ve inspired me again. How wonderful to see you with Sheila-Merle. She and I roomed together a couple of times at AICI Conferences and lost touch. Please say “hello” to her from me.
BrendaJune 5, 2019 at 10:15 am
Oh Anne, how cool! Yes, she really is divine. I love working with her. I saw her this week and she said, “I love the way we collaborate.” So true. Her love of fashion and appreciation for it is so fun to “play” with! And you’re such a great person too! I can really see the two of you together. I’ll pass on your message.