Sampling Casual Elegance

In the United States, going out in public dressed for comfort has become a national pastime. It’s not uncommon to see a herd of teenagers wandering the sidewalks in happy-colored pajama bottoms. Just recently a couple of girls who were flying on a “Buddy Pass” were denied access to a flight because they were wearing yoga pants.

It’s all about comfort for us, often at the expense of style. I am no one to preach, though. Replace pajama bottoms with pink suspenders and yoga pants with a bad perm and you have my 10th grade high school photo.

1980s high school photo
Nothing says “stylish and sexy” like pink suspenders and a bad perm!

Even now, decades later, I prefer comfort over style. As I write this, I am sitting at my desk in black lounge pants and a sweatshirt. At my dressiest, though, I don’t feel timelessly elegant. That goes double when talking about my casual, everyday style.

In my mind, casual elegance can be summed up in the two photos below. Both were shot sometime in the 1930s in France. One is of a model at a beach, the other is of Coco Chanel, also at a beach.

1930s elegant woman by a beach in France.

Coco Chanel on the beach.

Today’s Casual Elegance

So today we might not regularly wear long pants, pearls, and a fancy chapeau to the beach, but I do think there’s a way to create a casual elegant style that is a bit nicer than just throwing on a pair of dark jeans. For inspiration, I turned to my good friend, Diane from Fashion on the 4th Floor.

Diane has a knack for balancing casual and elegant in a modern way. Her style is never fussy but it is always refined. If she wanted to, I’m convinced she could totally pull off pearls and a fancy hat at the beach.

Below are three examples of how Diane easily combines comfort and sophistication.

Fashion on the 4th Floor: Casually elegant in peach bomber jacket, pleated skirt, shiny sneakers, floral top.

Fashion on the 4th Floor: Casual elegance in a tailored skirt, t-shirt, and sneakers.

Fashion on the 4th Floor: Casual Elegance in yellow track pants, patent leather shoes, red sweater, and plaid coat.

Push It-Push It

Because Diane is so at home in these styles, she is opting to push herself in a different direction for her part of our collaboration. Throughout 2017, we’ve made a pact to push our boundaries and broaden our horizons through monthly partnered posts.

This month, Diane chose to follow her curiosity about glamorous versus preppy and why she feels so uncomfortable with glamour. Here’s how she stepped out of her comfort zone this month:

Diane tells me that this was a hard look for her to embrace. She doesn’t feel like herself at all. Be sure to follow your own curiosity to her website to learn why.

As Diane pushes herself to play with glamour, I pushed myself to go beyond “just casual” to “casually elegant.” My own curiosity wanted to see if I could create a casually elegant look, to at least shoot for that balance. Since having first discovered Diane’s blog over a year ago, she has been a source of encouragement and inspiration. This month, she is my muse.

Baby Steps

For a long time I divided casual into one mental box and elegant into another. Casual was meant for day-to-day wear and could be dressed up to wear to a restaurant with Hubby. Elegance was for special occasions. For my personal style, nowhere in my definition of elegant has casual entered into the mix.

That may explain why this is a challenge for me. I like the outfit I’ve put together, but it doesn’t have the polish of the 1930s French woman on a beach or the sophistication of Chanel’s pearls and chapeau. Nor does it come together the same way Diane’s sleek styles do. It’s a work in progress.

The Details

Being the astute observers that you are, you probably already noticed I borrowed the scarf idea from the first 1930s woman at the beach and added a rumpled military-style jacket in honor of Chanel’s wrinkled trousers.

My own trousers may look like denim but they’re actually some sort of polyester/cotton blend. I got them on Thredup. They’re a little wider leg than I’m used to but, again, I wanted to try something new.

Click here to see similar pants styles.

The top, the jacket, and the scarf were all purchased last year at Nordstrom. I love the top and the jacket together but I’m not sure about the scarf. It looked better in the mirror than it does in the photos.

Similar top, jacket, and scarves found by clicking the links.

Ellen Degeneres’s “ED” sneakers are my favorite part of the outfit. Take a look at the adorable puppy on the side poking his head up from the rubber sole! There’s a cat version too!

Click here to check out these sneakers online.

So, I don’t feel as elegant as I was hoping, but I do have a better grasp on the next direction I want to take with this. And how happy I am to have Diane along on this journey. Not only is she the perfect muse for casual elegance, she has a knack for gently pushing me forward. She is the perfect friend for urging me toward an ever widening horizon.

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  • I do think that stepping out of our comfort zone is the best thing for us. It may not feel like it at first, but if we only do what we know, then how do we grow?
    And even though some people will pooh pooh style & fashion as growth, I think it’s a great way to push ourselves. One because it’s easily changeable. But two because what we wear can really make us feel different on the inside.
    And look at you with those adorable sneakers!!
    I was going to do one of our categories as sneakers & work like pants—but then I decided to go with the leggings!!
    And what a cute photo from when you were young!!

    • Your recent series about trying new things to keep the brain healthy fits right alongside this idea of stepping out of comfort zone, right? I’ve found this whole blogging experience to be beneficial in so many ways. The inspiration I get from others (like you!) helps me step out and try new things I wouldn’t otherwise. Then I learn something to carry me forward. The risk of trying new looks is very low while the benefits go far beyond just the act of putting on a different style of jacket.

      I’m running behind in reading blogs this week but will hopefully catch up over the weekend. Always know how much I admire your work, Jodie, even if you don’t hear from me right away.


  • The photo of 10th grade Sherry and her perm is so sweet! You look like you were in 6th grade!
    Diane is truly one of those women who can wear just about anything and look MODEL GOOD!! That kind of beauty of face and form just wasn’t in the cards for most of us. For Diane the challenge may be mental comfort but I can predict that she’ll still MORE than physically pull it off.
    Your petite frame is also great for many looks but the sultry, Hampton’s, maven probably isn’t going to be easy or your best look! That’s not to say that you can’t do casual elegance. I’m thinking casual describes the clothing and elegance is all about attitude…

    • Jude, you would laugh to know that when I was 17 years old a man who was paid to “guess people’s ages” guessed I was 12. So your comment is not too far off the mark!

      You’re so right about Diane–she can wear anything. One of the many things I love about her is that she is honest about her journey. She has those moments, those styles, that make her feel like she’s standing on the edge of a scary cliff and to put those styles on makes her feel like she’s just taken a leap into the abyss. Just like the rest of us! Her honesty brings me comfort and reminds me we’re all human underneath whatever style we’re wearing.

      I’ve been giving my own look some thought and I really believe I would feel better if the fit was there overall. Each piece of my outfit–the top and the pants–is just slightly too big/too long and then I added a “sloppy” jacket on top. The combination took away from that “Hamptons” look you mentioned. But if all that had fit just right, I think we would be having a different conversation. My post next week (I think) might just hit the mark a little better!

      Hope you’re well!!


  • I suspect that my casual elegance would happen magically and automatically just by being on a frigging French beach! Hahaha. When I think of this style I think of linen and pearls. Not sure why. But I love both modern iterations you and Diane have given here. You’d fit right in on a French beach. The pup on the sneaks is sooo cute!

    We could have almost been twins in grade 10 – except my perm was a bigger planet than yours. I know we would have been friends.

    And forget Coco, I love what that man is wearing. Hahaha.

    • Melanie, I can totally see you pulling off those linen trousers, pearl necklaces, and fancy chapeau on the beach. All you need is a Speedo-clad man standing next to you to complete the look!

      When we finally meet, we’ll have to compare High School Hair Photos. In my later years of high school and early college I was inspired by the likes of Dynasty and Designing Women for my hair styles. You should see some of the dresses I wore–Mrs. “Shoog-ah-bay-kah” would have been proud of my linebacker shoulder pads! And yes–we would have been great friends in high school!

      Thank you for stopping by! I owe you a visit and comments and will be over soon!

      – Sherry

  • It seems to me that the core of the issue is whether a woman cares about her outfit. You and Diane amply demonstrate that casual elegance is achievable even without a lot of effort. We just need to care enough to make conscious style choices instead of mindlessly throwing on whatever’s there. Good post!

    • Thank you, Ally! It’s so true that when we care about our outfit we feel better about wearing it. For each person, that may mean more of something or less of something (like accessories and makeup). The goal for me is to stay as true to “my lane,” to use Diane’s phrase for feeling confident with my style. To be true to that lane, I have to be aware of it in the first place and then pay attention to what resonates there versus what makes me feel like I’m skidding down someone else’s road. These blogs of ours give us the opportunity to play with all kinds of lanes and discover if ours is more of a country road with winding paths or a massive highway with lanes for miles or something in between.

      How’s that for a metaphor? Ha ha!

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting! I love hearing from you.

      – Sherry

  • Sherry when I saw this look on Instagram I have to say my first thought was you looked styled by Diane. After coming here to read I was not in the least surprised to find she was your muse, so I say mission accomplished. I also truly admire the way she combines pieces I would never dream together and they just work so effortlessly. Anyway, you look fantastic. Those puppy sneakers are so flippin’ cute!

    • Jennie, your comment just made my day. For you to think Diane styled my look–that just knocks my socks off in the best way! I’m so glad you could see how she inspired my look.

      Thank you for stopping by and commenting!


  • Sherry
    Love Diane’s style too, the culote jumpsuit looks amazing..I think we are the same height and I never own cullotes, so I understand being out of the comfort zone…but they look great! I adore your look that top so springy I live yellow/ green print. If I hadnt bought my white sneakers already..I would have gone for those adorable doggy kicks!!!!
    Have a great weekend
    Jess xx

    • Jess, thank you for stopping by and commenting! Diane does look fabulous in culottes (or anything, really!) and I bet you would look just as fabulous. Your style is full of romantic, gorgeous details that serve to enhance the beauty that’s already there–from inside out!

      Have a wonderful weekend!

      – Sherry

  • I love those shoes! Adorable!

    Also I think you may be my long lost sister. I have a photo of myself somewhere and we look almost like twins. Same freckles, blue eyes, blond hair and same perm.

    Isn’t it maddening when something looks totally different in the mirror than the camera?

    I think trying for casual elegance isn’t easy but you still did very well.

    I agree with Mel, you just need to be on the Côte d’Azur to make it all perfect.

    • It does not surprise me that we would look so alike, Suzanne! Weren’t we separated at birth? 🙂

      The Côte d’Azur makes everything perfect, oui? When are we leaving? Ha ha.

      – Sherry

  • Wow! Diane certainly knows how to kick butt in the casual elegance department! And you, my dear, did a lovely, lovely job as well. I admit, I am not a fan of the overly casualness of our American society. Kicking around the – fine, but not once you walk out the door. But, when you add the elegance, the sophisticated touches I see here…this I love! It makes my heart happy!