Start With The Basics

Creating fall outfits centered around a white shirt and a pair of jeans is a frequent topic among bloggers of all ages. A button-up shirt isn’t right for everyone. They can add bulk, and when you layer them, the collar always wants to go its way, and let’s not forget to mention those pesky buttons that gap open at all the wrong places. My solution is to wear a scoop neck, sleek, slim-fitting top, and a pair of dark wash jeans with a smooth pull-on waistband instead of a zipper.

Today I share my tips for getting the most mileage out of these basic pieces. The top should have a neckline that flatters your face. The fabric should skim your body and be thin enough to add bulk as you layer over it. The jeans should fit well, have straight legs that stop at the ankle bone, and there should be no trendy fades or rips. If you go for unadorned pieces in solid colors that fit within your color palette, the sky’s the limit. The jeans shown are by Liverpool Jeans Co. The Simple Comfort long-sleeved top is by Covered Perfectly here. (Buy two tops, get a third for free!)

Add a pair of espadrilles, a navy lightweight hoodie jacket, and an orange crossbody bag to run errands. The shoes are by Keds. The crossbody bag is by Dooney & Bourke. The casual jacket is from J.Jill.

My very casual looks always include a watch, a ring, and a small pair of simple earrings. Sunglasses and lipstick are a necessity. In these photos, I am wearing a new lip color called Poppy – Shimmering Pink Red from Beautycounter here. I layered it over a red Lancome lip pencil.

If I have a doctor’s appointment or lunch with friends, I will add a cashmere sweater, a pair of nude loafers, and carry a top handle bag. This sweater is at least three years old from J.Jill. My gray bag is several years old by Calvin Klein. My nude loafers are from last year.

Again, my jewelry is minimal, but it makes a statement and finishes the look with intention. The necklace is from Stein Mart. The large face watch is old from Michael Kors. I added a simple silver bangle.

If we have a fun date night, I can add a leather trim black blazer, slightly tuck in the tunic and wear heels to create a more polished going outlook. (Jeans are not always appropriate in restaurants. Check for a dress code when you make your reservations.) The Helmut Lang jacket is a few years old.

The shoes are by Rockport. As always, affiliate links provided in my posts may generate a small commission for me at no extra charge to you.

Oversized blazers and block-heeled loafers are classics. The blazer is by Everlane from last year.

I hope that showing you how I mix and match the same classic pieces worn over and over again inspires you to shop your closet and wear your basics in fresh ways. Have a beautiful day!

  1. Hi Susan. Thank you for putting this selection together it is very useful to see ideas in action. I agree with you about white shirts and how difficult they can be. The soft top is much more flattering
    Could I ask a question I notice that you always seem to wear open front jackets or knitwear. Do you ever wear what we in the UK call sweaters or jumpers that you pull on? I have some of these and am not sure how to style them
    I also must say that yours is now the only blog that I follow regularly as the ads on all the others are very annoying. Your investment in your service to us is really great and makes such a difference
    Also your advice is very valuable as I have just retired and my wardrobe needs a reboot
    Sorry for the long post

    1. Thank you for your comment, Margo. I rarely wear a sweater or jumper but if I do it is a fine knit such as cashmere. I have a larger top than bottom half, so I do not want to add more volume with bulky fabrics.

  2. Thank you for sharing these tips today!!! I’m retired so most of my wardrobe is casual( mostly jeans), with a few dressier pieces for church, weddings, special date nights, etc. Since I wear jeans most of the time, I love how you took the looks from casual to dressy!!! I’m 59 and I still want to look nice and put together even if I’m only going to the grocery store! Thanks again!

  3. Susan, these outfits are perfect for my lifestyle and this is probably the most helpful post I’ve every read from your site. My problem is finding the right pants and I keep hoping you’ll show a jean that has the pull on style and close fitting “leggings” look BUT with a looser fit around the knee and coming down the lower leg. Maybe into even a slight flare which would be more flattering for my wider hips. You have such slim hips that you always show a very slim fitting lower leg but that doesn’t look good on me unless I’m wearing boots. It seems if I find a pant with a loose fit in the lower leg it’s too loose in the thigh and butt and then the longer tops I like don’t look good. Have I missed a post where you demo a pant like that?
    Thanks for all you do!

    1. Try on some flare leg jeans, Julie. I rarely wear that style because I don’t enjoy them. The straight leg style suits my shape and height better. I do wear longer pants in the winter when I wear socks and boots.

  4. I think every person could find some inspiration from all of the combinations you presented. Everyone looks classic and easy to put together. I have a question about handbags. I have a lot of great bags but tend to carry one for many weeks before switching to another. As a result, some bags don’t see the light of day for months and the one I’m carrying doesn’t always go with what I’m wearing. Do you find it somewhat tedious to always switch bags. I’ve tried to pare down what I carry in mine so there is not so much to switch, but it seems easier to just grab what is already set to go.

    1. I only carry what I need for the day in my bag. I keep the items in zippered pouches so that I can grab what I need and put it in the bag that goes with what I am wearing.

  5. Hi Susan, your site is the first one I check each day. I rarely comment, but not for lack of appreciation for all you do. Love your style and especially how well you craft your commentaries–so friendly, open, honest! Love Mr. Mickey, too, what a gentleman. THANK YOU for all you share.

  6. I love your series posts, Susan. So helpful to see how you style ‘the basics’ for different purposes. I am busty/bulky in the chest and shoulders, so I always wear a tank top instead of a shirt with sleeves. But all of these ideas work with that too. So many companies are coming out with pull on jeans now (Lands End, Spanx). Have a great day!

  7. I love this post. I am retired now and my life is fulfilling and interesting. I volunteer for several organizations and I am always on the go. My uniform is usually jeans, a jacket ( lightweight cotton cardigan in the summer), and a camisole or tank . I always wear sunglasses to prevent UV rays from causing cataracts and usually a fedora to prevent sunburn as I had skin cancer in the past and I don’t want it again ! I would wear every thing in your post! Thank you!

  8. This was a great, timely, and inspirational post!! Hope you’ll do some more similar ones throughout the seasons!! Very helpful in planning for fall!

  9. Susan, I always enjoy this type of post, please keep them coming.
    You have so clearly shown us basics in solid colours are so useful, – but as white is an advancing colour and navy is receding, could you show an alternative to a white scoop neck. A side by side picture with a darker colour base – say a navy top and bottom – would be good to see the difference it makes.
    The reason I ask is I feel self conscious when wearing the white top alone with jeans, but will happily wear a darker top with jeans and no third piece.

    Just a note from Margo’s comment about sweaters –
    Another option in UK cold weather I find useful Is a zip cardigan, as you can close it up under coats but open it as much as you like when indoors.

  10. Susan, a question about the jeans. I understand from previous posts that you generally wear around a size 6 jean, straight leg. Since the link you provided described these as “slim leg”, and I know you have stated that you have “athletic” calves, did you have to size up in these jeans? Due to my athletic calves, I have trouble finding jeans that are attractively slim but don’t have the “pull-down” effect.

    1. I ordered the size six in these jeans. The narrow part is in the thigh area which is where I need the pants to be slim. The skinny jeans are the ones that I cannot even put on.

  11. I, too, always read your posts and enjoy them, but rarely comment. Have you ever shown how you store your scarves? I have many scarves, and a scarf hanger, but they are all crammed over each other so that I cant’t see what I have. Plus, it is bulky in my small closet. Most of my scarves are wool blends from Talbots, so a little bulkier than yours.

  12. I love every single pair of shoes and am on the way to order the loafers. Do you think the Rockport’s are comfortable? I have some Cobb Hill by Rockport that are amazing, and I need some new dressy black shoes…

  13. I love that you specify if you’re wearing something old, and also that you provide links to similar items. I wish everyone would do this, because it’s very helpful! As usual, all of your looks are terrific! Thank you, Susan.

  14. These combinations fit my lifestyle so well. Thanks you for showing looks for everyday. From your post I can see how to create multiple looks by just changing a few accessories.

  15. Thanks for your help. I’m usually ok in casual clothes but my big bugbear is evening clothes for a posh do. If I wear a dress I just look frumpy.
    Dressing at this time of life takes so much more effort!

  16. Thank you for talking about the white shirts. I finally found one that works, after years of looking. So much can go wrong: collars that go funky, bottoms that don’t fit over my hips, bunching at the waist, sleeves thst are never the right length. I like your idea of the scoop neck tee instead.

  17. Hello Susan, I just have to tell yu I follow yur site and yu are just simply lovely, yur classic dressing is beautiful. Thanks for all yur advice, Anne, from Nanaimo, Vancouver island, British Columbia, Canada

  18. I can’t thank you enough for your advice! It has completely eliminated the stress of dressing over 60.

  19. I just love every one of these outfits – so simple, but classic and sophisticated and could work for many things!

  20. I was thinking that your posts were getting a little repetitive, but this was was a fresh look at multi-tasking classic pieces for optimum variety. The classics are great investments as well as fun puzzle pieces to move and enjoy. Versatility really pays off.

  21. Hi Susan,
    You hit it out of the park with this post. I love all the different look and will be buying at least three of the tops in different colors. You have given me so many ideas on how to wear the basics and create many different looks.
    Thank you,

  22. All great looks and perfect timing as I am off to another 2 weeks of work trip with some family time on the weekend. Easy packing this way!

  23. Thanks, Susan. I am working on organizing my fall wardrobe and your post was SO helpful. I like that you provide similar options when what you are wearing is no longer available.

  24. Your style is impeccable. I love every piece. You look fabulous. This is really my style. Thank you

  25. You never cease to amaze us, and we thank you. If getting dressed that many times to be photographed is not enough, how do you ever have time to shop for new pieces, along with all else you do. Are you an online shopper? Keep up the energy.

  26. Susan, In your opinion, are the wide leg jeans trendy? Maybe the skinnies are changing to straight or larger legs? Fashion changes about the time we think we have a good closet, so what are the true classics. Thanks!

  27. What is the fabric of your white top Susan? As always, I thoroughly enjoy your blog. Thank you for all your help.

  28. I absolutely love these looks. Purist at heart!
    Do you think that any woman can wear an oversized grey blazer?
    I am not sure about that.
    It always looks stylish on some, but sort of not on me.

    1. It is a matter of getting the proportions right for your shape. Notice that I only wear them with pushed up sleeves, a belted waistline, slim fitting jeans, and heels.

  29. Hi Susan. Thank you for your very useful tips and ideas. Like Margot, I am from the UK and have not yet found another blog that matches your style to help keep us over 60’s from going down the ‘frumpy lane’. I have followed your blog for a while now and often wanted to make a comment of thanks, however, this blog was fantastic with so many ideas. I now go shopping in my wardrobe before hitting the shops, although I will be searching for that lovely orange bag you have shown – never thought of buying orange before. Thanks again. Lyn

  30. Thank you for your great tips and advice. I have just discovered your blog and I love it! Your style vibe really resonates with me…so glad to see some sexy classy style for us older gals. I’m 57, work with many younger women and I have felt a bit lost fashion wise.

    Seems there’s clothes for younger women (too young) and then frumpy old lady stuff (I’m not dead!) but not much for my age that has a decent figure and still wants to dress sassy and classy. I’ve adopted several ideas and already feel more confident in my updated style! That you so much
    Looking at your shop as well

    Looking forward to new posts and fresh new ideas. Keep up the great encouragement. You are beautiful!

  31. Very inspiring. Have always struggled with button ups, both because they do add bulk and because the buttons are always gaping (figure I have big ribs as there is not much in the boob department!).
    Thank you.

  32. I have long been happily reading your blog. But I must say that today’s post documenting the transition from bare bones basics to many looks was the best mental picture for me. I always enjoy your pictorial examples of how to mix and match basics, but this one hit it out of the park and has given me more ideas on how to pare down my wardrobe and emulate your well organized way of dressing.

    Please do this type of transitioning from basics again!! Keep up the fabulous work for we ladies over 60. You’re an inspiration.

    1. If you look better in gold tone jewelry, a red with orange tones might be better for your complexion. If you are like me and your skin is better with silver jewelry, you should seek out a red with clear vivid or blue undertones.

  33. I love the outfits that you have created from the basic top and jeans. Which style of Liverpool jean are you wearing? I can’t determine from the linked website which jean looks like yours. I ordered the three tops. Which neckline looks best with a round-square face?

    You look fabulous in your outfits. Thank you for all of your posts. I have learned so much from them.

    1. I am wearing the Liverpool Meredith Ankle Slim Pull-On in Silky Soft Denim in Elysian Dark. The best necklines for round or square faces is a V-neck or low scoop. Thank you. I’m glad you have enjoyed the examples and tips I share.

  34. I love this idea, but what if your not a fan of straight leg jeans, would this work with bootcut or flare leg jeans?


  36. I have these jeans by Liverpool and LOVE them! They wash and dry w/no problems. Easy to dress up or down just like the examples.

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I share tips and inspiration for using what you already have in contemporary ways. Defining words include effortless, classic, refined, discreet, and elegant. My style is chic, minimal, and timeless with a bit of edge.