Mixing It Up: Gunne Sax-Style Jacket with Denim, Boots, and Sneaks

My sister, Jessica, and I stay in touch mostly through text messages. She lives in New Mexico and I live in Seattle so we only get to see each other once or twice a year. Our sporadic texts throughout each day keep us posted on the little things and some of the big. Phone calls are reserved for Really Big Things, like celebrations and emergencies.

One recent text-convo involved talking about some fashion memories. When we were kids, Jess preferred her long, shiny brown hair to be pulled up and pinned into a bun. She had a doll called Dancerina, like the one pictured below. This doll stood on one toe and did a pirouette whenever you pushed down on the pink crown atop her bunned head. Dancerina is the image that comes to mind when I think of my sister as a child. She was pretty, graceful, and willing to wear tights and tulle for long periods of time.

Mattel Dancerina Doll 1978
This doll is similar but it seems she’s been dancing so long that her bun fell out. Photo from Worthpoint.com.

The doll that might capture my essence during this time was Holly Hobbie.

Holly Hobbie doll from The Strong National Museum of Play
Photo from The Strong: National Museum of Play.

Her patchwork dress and long braids were more my style, although I preferred to wear patched-up jeans more than any style of dress.

Each of us had our own likes and dislikes, as every person does, but it would be limiting to simply put my sister in a “girlie” box and me in a “tomboy” box. Sometimes she played football in the house with my brother (and got two baby teeth knocked out in the process), and sometimes I played hairdresser to my Barbie dolls (and then immediately regretted giving my doll a pixie cut). We both danced in the living room to Kool & the Gang, Neil Diamond, and the BeeGees. (Who didn’t?)

A Little Bit Country and a Little Bit Rock-and-Roll

You might say we were both a good mix of that old Donnie and Marie song–a little bit country and a little bit rock-and-roll. Rare is the person who is all one thing or another and I don’t know anybody who wants to be labeled just one way no matter where they fall on a spectrum.

So, as a tribute to my little sister I put together an outfit that mixes ballerina and Holly Hobbie. For fun, and to see how jeans and shoes can change a look, I played around with different styles of each.

Gunne Sax jacket with lace top, beaded collar, purple boots. 1970s style.

This jacket is a vintage gem from Suzanne Carillo’s Vintage Etsy store. It gets its heritage straight out of the Gunne Sax style by Jessica McClintock in the 70s and 80s.

My jacket isn’t Gunne Sax brand but the style of it is spot-on: tiny floral prairie patterns trimmed with cotton lace and black ribbon. It’s even quilted! So retro! And so perfect for a transitional season like Spring, I might add!

Under the jacket, I wore a stretchy lace top which I bought on Thredup.com. In the past, I have shunned lace–making the face you see below. My mother and I used to get into knock-down-drag-out fights over lace dresses she wanted me to wear. When I got old enough to decide for myself, I stayed as far away from it as I could get. It was so itchy that it turned my skin red.

Lace top, beaded collar.

Happily, I never make that face with this top–except when I’m kidding around. It’s comfy without a hint of itch! Plus, it poofs out just a little on the shoulders. Very Victorian/1970s.

The beaded collar is from the 1950s. You may recall it from a previous post earlier this year. I’m trying to get more wear out of this unique Etsy find. (Similar ones can be searched by following this link.)

The bottom half of this first style starts with skinny jeans and ends with high-heel, knee-high purple boots.

Yin and Yang Outfit: Gunne sax jacket, lace top, beaded collar, skinny jeans, purple knee-high boots.

Skinny jeans are primarily worn by women these days, although some guys wear them now too. Still, once upon a time denim itself was relegated to men only. And, if we go back far enough–colonial era and before–that “tight pants” look was men-only as well. Women just didn’t wear trousers of any style back when men sported breeches.

According to Tim Gunn’s Fashion Bible, denim wasn’t really in style until the 1950s when men like James Dean and Marlon Brando acted in movies showing tough guys wearing jeans.

James Dean in denim.
Photo from TheSelvedgeYard.com.
Marlon Brando in jeans and leather jacket.
Photo from JeansforGenesukblog.org.

As you already know, jeans quickly caught on. My dad tells the story about how, when he was in college in the 1960s, he would starch the heck out of his jeans until they could literally stand on their own in his dorm room. I’d like to try that some day.

Have you ever starched your jeans until they stood on their own?

My jeans are Paige “Verdugo” jeans. I got them last year at Nordstrom and I’ve worn them so often they may become “distressed” soon. As of this writing, 6pm.com is carrying them for about $80, which is a good deal. You can find similar styles even cheaper on Thredup if you don’t mind secondhand.

knee-high purple boots, skinny jeans pared up with Gunne Sax jacket and lace top

The boots are oldies from Sundance Catalog. They’re not that comfortable, but I can walk in them for short periods of time. I keep them because I like the way they look when I do wear them. I found a similar (gorgeous) pair by Gianvito Rossi but TheRealReal.com has several secondhand options of high-end brands at significantly lower prices.

Marlon Brando in a Lace Turtleneck?

For this next look, I channeled Marlon Brando–if Marlon Brando wore a Gunne Sax jacket and lace turtleneck.

Gunne Sax jacket with lace top, beaded collar, distressed boyfriend jeans, and black lace-up boots
You could also say I was channeling The Fonz in this outfit. Aaaaayyyyy!!!

My generation was the first to wear ripped-up jeans on purpose. My parents and grandparents used to shake their heads and ask me my why on earth I’d spend good money on ripped jeans. These days I find myself agreeing with them. I’ve visited third-world countries where “distressed” is all a person has–and not because it’s the style. When I put on clothing that has rips and tears that I didn’t put there from years of my own wear and tear, I feel a little mocking.

Still, here I am wearing denim with rips I played no part in creating. When I bought them I told myself that at least the jeans aren’t holes upon holes. Maybe I can use those prefabricated holes to be mindful of people who have distressed jeans because they can’t afford something else. And maybe I can turn that mindfulness into action that might benefit others. Let’s go with that.

Apart from the twinge of conscience, these jeans do have an edge to them that is the yin to the top half’s yang. Add the black lace-up boots and you’ve got Marlon Brando in a lace top. (Grin.)

The shoes are several years old from Eileen Fisher. If I was in the market today, I would consider these waterproof Timberlands or the Crave boot by Taos.

Mix It All Up and Add a Touch of Whimsy

If imagining Marlon Brando in a lace top doesn’t tickle your whimsical side, let’s break out the Van’s high-tops and see if that does the trick.

How’s that for yin-and-yang?

The same lady who sold me the distressed jeans sold me the suede Van’s. As with the denim, I was a little uncertain if I could pull off high-tops. I just wasn’t sure if they were my style. But they are so comfortable and, no matter what I pair them with, I feel young-at-heart and a little rebellious.

Gunne Sax jacket, lace top, beaded collar, distressed boyfriend jeans, suede high-top Vans.

Michael Jackson is The Word

I leave you with this final photo only because it makes me laugh. It shows how much I was able to cut loose to create this post. Michael Jackson was my playlist for the photo shoot. In days gone by when my sister and I shared a room, MJ was a major part of my soundtrack. His music seemed fitting for this walk down memory lane. I’ve included a Michael Jackson playlist from Spotify below.

gunne sax jacket, lace top, beaded collar, distressed boyfriend jeans, black lace-up boots

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  • I can just imagine you dancing around for this photo shoot, Sherry….and the smile on my face says it all!!
    And relating you and your sister to those dolls is quite ingenious! Now you got me thinking to which doll I’d be like!!
    As for the outfit–you know I have to say a word or two (or million–ha ha). I think I had a jacket like this growing up. Now I’m going to have to scour the old photos and look for it. And if I remember correctly, my mom made my jacket (surprising, I know).
    I think it’s quite amazing how different jeans & shoes can change the look of the outfit quite a bit!! But I’m also amazed at how much I love that shirt by itself. I’m one of those that almost always adds a topper—but I think you should try this blouse alone a couple of times!! It’s stunning!!
    As for the distressed jeans—I vacillate daily! In fact, I just bought another pair (oy), but I wrestle that they are silly (and we’ll look back and laugh) and the fact that I can wear what I want! And the truth is, if these are my worst daily struggles—then I must be doing just fine!

    • Did you decide which doll you would have been Jodie? And did you find your quilted jacket photos? I bet your jacket was stunning! If your mom made it, it was definitely a keeper!

      You’re right about the lace top–I’m going to have to wear it off by itself as soon as the weather gets warm enough. You’re also right about our “worst daily struggles”! I think we’re both doing pretty well overall.

      I miss you, lady! Hope you’re having a great weekend! Keep enjoying that Chico’s limelight!! You totally deserve it!


  • Sherry, love, love, love … and I don’t know what to say first. So in no particular order, your photos are AWESOME, the back story is AWESOME, and the outfits are AWESOME. I was a huge fan of Jessica McClintock and Gunne Sax back in the day. I think of it as boho/prairie chic before the millennials got a hold of it. And finally, your perspective on destroyed clothing by choice vs circumstance is enlightening. Personally, I think that a little bit of “distress” is fine but gaping holes in jeans are just ridiculous. Fabulous post!


    • Oh, Rena! Thank you! Every word you wrote here makes my heart so full and it makes me miss you!

      I bet you could totally rock a Gunne Sax dress today as well as “back in the day”! It was so boho/prairie chic–perfect description. It still captures my imagination as I write you now. Makes me want to go buy a Gunne Sax dress and style it with some cowboy boots or something! What do you think? Is there a future collaboration in the making here? Wanna go get a thrifted Gunne Sax dress, a big floppy hat, and go boho/prairie chic all up in here?

      As for the distressing, I keep wondering where that came from–why it’s been a thing since the early 90s. Fashion is so often a sign of the times, an indicator about what’s happening in the world. How do distressed jeans in any form fit in to what’s been happening since the 90s? One of these days we’ll sit together over coffee (or something stronger) and discuss. 🙂

      I hope you’re having a great weekend!


  • Ha ha! I LOVED this post Sherry!

    You need to start making videos of yourself with your Michael Jackson music playing behind.

    This outfit is one of my favourites of yours although I must admit you keep surprising me with better and better outfits all the time.

    Each piece you have chosen is brilliant. That top is stunning!

    When I picked up this jacket I just knew someone could really “rock it” and you have done just that.

    BTW…I was also a big Holly Hobby fan. Ha ha!



    • I need you to be around before I can have the courage to make videos, Suzanne! Ha ha!

      As for the outfit, it is one of my favorites as well! There seems to be a pattern here–I buy something from your Etsy store and it becomes my favorite thing! (Just wait until you see how I styled the Desigual sweater. I’ve taken the photos and plan on posting about it in a couple of weeks.) I was so pleased with how the Gunne Sax outfit all came together–very serendipitous, really–and I feel like it really suits my particular style. I do really wear it out–not just for the blog!

      How does it not surprise me that you liked Holly Hobbie too??? 🙂


  • Great outfits! You perfectly mixed different decades and made the outfits you. And I love the story of how it all came about!

    That lace top is like made for you! How great that it’s not scratchy! That’s what always scares me a bit about lace. And those red high tops are great! Glad you got them!

    Have a wonderful weekend!

    • Thank you, Andrea! The lace top and high-tops were both fun finds–especially when I learned the lace top didn’t itch! I’m learning that lace with added stretch to it makes it less itchy, as does having a lining between my skin and the lace. Back when I was a little girl, though, it always seemed like the lining was just as itchy as the lace itself!

      I hope you’re having a great weekend!!

      – Sherry

  • This post was REALLY worth waiting for Sherry. The way you describe the impact of your experiences with such charm and sincerity is very endearing. It makes me realize how so much of “what we wear” is really so much more. Clothing evokes memories that are colorful, textural, itchy, humorous, romantic and full of emotional impact.
    Providing the backstory, history, trends and the people that populated them make your posts so rich and satisfying Sherry!!
    You look so darn cute in these outfits. I love the lacy top and those red high tops just add that perfect contrast that says, ” don’t take my lacy top too seriously”… WOW Sherry, what a pleasure to be one of your followers.

    • You do my heart and creativity such good, Jude! Thank you for hanging out with me here and cheering me on. I hope you’re having a great weekend!


    • Thank you, Jacqueline! I’ve been on a “yin-and-yang” kick lately. This whole outfit, along with the different pairings of jeans and shoes, helped me explore that more.