2016 must be the year for letting go of wardrobe fantasies.
Earlier this year, I let go of fantasy fall. (And it was awesome!)
Now I’m letting go of fantasy holidays.
The holidays always make me feel like I need to stock up on party outfits. Like maybe a pretty velvet jumpsuit! Or an embellished maxi dress!
But when I look at my real life — instead of the fantasy — it becomes clear that I don’t need a bunch of fancy party outfits. Because I don’t have a bunch of fancy holiday parties to attend.
My holiday parties are more like little gatherings with two or three couple friends, having dinner at a usual spot. Casual. Low-key. Relaxed.
This kind of gathering calls for something laid-back and comfortable. But … something that still feels a little bit festive.
So, here’s my outfit formula:
1 | Oversized flannel button down
Flannel is like the casual girl’s version of velvet. It’s still got a rich texture, but it’s more relaxed, so it feels spot on for this laid-back holiday look.
Did you notice the shirt collar is missing in this outfit? When wearing a button down underneath a sweater, I prefer to tuck in the collar so it doesn’t show. Quick how-to? While wearing just the button down, roll or fold the collar to the inside of the shirt. Then top with the sweater and adjust as necessary.
2 | Slouchy sweater
A slouchy sweater in a neutral color keeps the look understated, while also adding warmth. Want to see two other ways I’ve styled this sweater? Right this way.
3 | Skinny jeans
Since the top half of this outfit is so voluminous, I balanced that out by keeping things simple and fitted on the bottom.
4 | Ankle booties and socks
The only way to finish off a warm, comfortable outfit like this is with equally warm, comfortable footwear — thick camp socks and a pair of feel-good booties. Don’t let the three inch heel fool you — these boots were made for walking with their grippy rubber sole and shock absorbing heels.
The color palette: grey, brown, berry, and blue
My favorite thing about this outfit — besides the comfort and functionality of it — is the color palette. I know! My neutral-loving self is getting into color more and more these days.
At first, I thought grey and brown wouldn’t look good together, but after experimenting a little, they surprised me. I like this deep, dark brown with the lighter grey. To me, the berry color serves as a bridge between them.
Try creating the look with different pieces
You don’t have to have these exact pieces to create a similar look. If you have a slouchy sweater, but you don’t have an oversized button down, try putting any longer top, like a tunic top, underneath. Or you could skip that layer all together and wear a scarf in holiday colors instead. You could also swap the slouchy sweater for a cozy cardigan. Play around a little and see what you come up with.
So tell me, do you have a go-to holiday outfit formula? Does your lifestyle call for more dressed down outfits this time of year or do you dress up more? What’s your favorite holiday color palette?
• • •
Liked today’s outfit? You can shop it and support Unfancy at the same time by using these affiliate links:
01 | Flannel by Madewell (Fit note: I wanted a generously oversized fit, so I’m wearing a M)
02 | Sweater by Topshop (Fit note: I’m wearing a 6) | similar
03 | Jeans by Madewell (on sale) | similar (made responsibly)
04 | J.Crew camp socks | similar (but even warmer)
05 | Booties by Timberland in dark brown (Fit note: runs small and narrow. I sized up half a size and got the wide width.)
I know just what you mean about thinking I need to have fancy holiday outfits. When I walk into stores that have all the sparkly holiday dresses on display, I think, who are these women going to all these super-fancy holiday parties? Small, casual family gatherings are much more the norm than retailers make us want to think. Thanks for being real.
I so love that you’re talking about letting go of fantasy wardrobe versus real wardrobe. I personally have decided to invest in a couple of great pieces of cocktail/costume jewelry to add to outfits, instead of buying clothing that’s fancy. It’s much more versatile this way! And I agree, 2016 does seem to be the year of letting go of fantasy. I think that rule applies in a lot of life as well- letting go of fantasy romance versus real romance. Letting go of fantasy home decorating, versus real home decorating. Realistic expectations, that apply to our actual life, not the expectations of others. It’s so much easier to be happy when we are listening to our inner voice, instead of those of other influences.
kim domingue says
I got tickled over both the post and your comment! I’ve let go of a lot of fantasies over the years as I realized that they were someone else’s idea of what my life should look like and not mine. But the holiday fantasy? That one hung on like grim death, lol! The vast majority of our holiday gatherings are casual in nature so what do we need fancy duds for? Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are spent at home with family and friends. We cook, we eat, we open gifts, we play games and we nap, lol! New Year’s Eve is spent cooking and eating and watching football and bundling up to go outside and shoot off some fireworks. At midnight, we’re back outside, all bundled up again, so we can watch other people set off their fireworks and then we go back inside for hot cocoa. New Year’s Day is filled with football watching and day long snacking on football kinds of food. Where in all of this would I need to be in fancy, uncomfortable clothes? Yep, nowhere, lol!
We’re a consumerism driven society whose insecurities are manipulated by advertising and merchandising into believing that having more, bigger, newer, fancier, more expensive everything’s are going to make our lives happier and more worthwhile and bring us contentment and joy and love and a better sex life, lol! I quit buying into THAT fantasy world years ago. Time to let go of one of the last remaining fantasies…..the holiday outfit fantasy….. bye-bye!
Phenomenally put — both of you! What a relief to read that I am not the only one! :)
Right on, Kim! I’ve undergone a style revolution of late when I realized I was succombing to exactly what you describe…I have an affinity for the party clothes and dressy duds but I hated actually wearing them. So it’s skirts be gone!!! Because I hate wearing them. They are pretty and I gravitate toward them in stores but when it comes to actually wearing them to work or on Christmas, I have to make myself wear them. MAKE myself! Lol Skirts just aren’t my real life. Luckily my casual overhaul only cost 50 bucks at a 2nd hand local store!
Thanks for the casual inspiration, Caroline!
I love this color palette, Caroline, especially the berry color.
Emily K says
This is such a good reminder for me! I am the same as you- my holiday get-togethers are casual with friends. As much as I would love to get dressed up, I have to be realistic! Nice to know I’m not alone! Xx
You’re definitely not alone Emily! :)
Bonnie Rae says
I always look to you for new outfit combinations! You put items together that I wouldn’t think to, love this post. I’ll be layering my Madewell flannel with sweaters this holiday season!
Woohoo Bonnie! Hope you like the combo as much as I do :)
My formula is pretty close to yours. Love longer shirts under sweaters. This year I am also rediscovering how dressier summer skirts can look very festive under my sweaters.
Johanne, very cute idea! :)
Caroline, thank you ever so much for your blog. You are such an inspiration to me! It is a revelation to play with simpler combinations, own less clothes and discover more and more about my personal style.
I cleared my closet 2 months ago and made three piles: 1st, 2nd, and 3rd priority (for each season). I then stored the 2nd and 3rd and have been wearing the 1st prio clothes since, adding very few new pieces. Last week I went through the stored pieces (so many!!), as I was curious whether I would like some of those pieces back in my closet – but no! I now organised a Ladies Night where we will all exchange the clothes we no longer wear. Then we will give the rest to the local Refugee Support.
One challenge I still face is the freezing (!) weather we’re experiencing in Switzerland. I am most usually cold when out in town, no matter what I wear. I would appreciate some tips by you or any of the readers around here – THANK YOU! :)
Hey Laura! Great ideas all around! Love the clothing swap event. :)
Kudos to you for giving your unworn things to refugees! The cold must be even harder on them.
In cold weather — I’m in Canada, so that’s from November to March — I wear thermal long johns and a thermal shirt under every outfit. Mine are thin fleece or wool so they don’t interfere too much with my style. I find the fleece leggings are warmer than the flannel ones I used to have. Just make sure the waist holds on properly because you don’t want them sliding down through the day. The pants I wear are from Eddie Bauer and the top was from Costco. Not sure if you have either of those stores in Switzerland.
I also have this extremely warm puffer coat from Eddie Bauer; they have a good selection of warm coats if you’re like me and can’t afford Canada Goose yet. If you’re looking to invest, I would definitely get a long coat as it makes SUCH a big difference.
Full disclosure, I don’t really like shopping at Eddie Bauer because I find so many items are made in countries with bad track records for working conditions, etc, but I have to be realistic, too, that I need these things. I just don’t buy anything there if I can find a better option. Does anyone have suggestions for ethical thermal clothing?
Finally, I would imagine you’ve already heard the advice of keeping your head warm? They say you lose 20% of your body heat through your head, so a full coverage hat with a polar-fleece, fur, or faux-shearling insulating layer is invaluable. (In practice, I would say so!)
Patagonia!! They are wonderfully ethical and have tons of cold weather gear. I don’t know if it’s universally ethical, but most brands at REI are well vetted in that regard.
Khadija McMahon says
I adore your style! Like you, my wardrobe is mostly neutral, but I’I slowly adding more pops of color into my outfits. I love how the sweater fits! You mentioned you got a size 6 — how tall are you?
Hi Khadija, I’m 5’5″ :)
Khadija McMahon says
Thanks for the quick reply! I am so happy I found your blog! I’m grabbing the sweater today!
Jody Brazee says
This is my kind of holiday outfit. My formula is much like this. Light sweater over tunic or plaid with jeggings and brown boots. Navy/denim, red/cranberry & oatmeal. In all honesty I never thought I had a style let alone style until I stumbled upon your blog. I wear comfortable, casual cloths all the time.
Hi Jody, what a refreshing discovery! Glad to hear you are making style work for you. :)
I love this because I have had the same realization this year! I love the idea of fancy holiday outfits but I have nowhere to wear them. Instead, like you, I’m focusing on cozy but luxe looking holiday wear. Makes me feel a lot better about using what I have in my closet and being able to wear again!
Hey Jess, it’s so easy to get lost in the fantasy holiday. But you’re right, when you focus on using what you have, you realize it’s probably enough — and probably just what you need. :)
Thank you. I’m so with you about the fancy outfits. Who wears them? Not me. For holiday parties from work my outfit needs to be a little more business-like. I like to pair a simple black, gray or burgundy sweater that I usually wear to work with a piece of glitzy jewelry – a little bling-bling adds enough festive spirit for me. As for Christmas itself – that day has never been fancy in our families, so I have never bought anything special to wear that day.
Tina, I love the idea of adding a couple sparkly accessories to glam it up. Good thinking! :)
This whole fantasy wardrobe and getting rid of the ‘saving’ mentality resonates so much with me. I grew up with hand-me-downs and Sunday best so I really treasured new clothes. I feel like this has trickled into my adult life, but has led to some bad habits. Thanks for helping me name my problem. I love your blog even though my style is nothing like yours. It’s just refreshingly simple and refreshingly you.
Thanks so much for the sweet comment, Angela! :)
I’ve never thought about tucking in my collar, but I love that look! Smart lady.
I love how by just layering a different piece underneath your sweater, it changes up the entire look! Thanks for sharing, Caroline!
i also feel the pressure to buy fancy party outfits this year… with no opportunity to wear them! my realistic holiday formula is a light dress and a cardigan. most of my holiday festivities are in a house crowded with family and friends, and it gets HOT, despite the northeast winter outside. and when i’m hot, i’m irritable. so i wear summer dresses to winter holidays. it’s weird, but it works!
That sounds like a great solution, Lindsay!
Anna W says
Love the insight about grey and brown! Ever since discovering my mom’s season analysis color book from the 70s, I’ve been really getting into making my color palette work for me, and it has been the most radical change in my capsule wardrobe. Every time I look at a list of white/black/denim “essentials” I’m always woefully reminded of how awful I look in straight up white and black. But put me in cream, grey, taupe, and denim and I totally shine! Plus it really helps with being able to mix and match literally everything in my wardrobe.
So after I finally accepted that black and brown were never going to be my go-to basic colors, I’ve learned to make peace with wearing my grey sweaters or slacks with my cognac ballet moccasins and mahogany brown booties. Anyone who wants to judge can go right ahead, cause I love it, and I know I look a million times better than if I were wearing black.
Anna, that book sounds awesome. Love those discoveries that make style work for you! :)
Anna W says
It’s really the coolest thing, essentially taking into account skin tone, eye color, and hair color and presenting a color wheel of specific hues that work for the individual. I found a modern online quiz equivalent that worked very well for me: http://www.30somethingurbangirl.com/p/free-quiz-what-is-your-seasonal-color.html?m=1
Tanya E says
I always wonder who wears all the sparkly, full on party dresses? Even when I was living in London and had no children (and went out a lot) I didn’t need more than 2 cocktail dresses, 10+ yrs later one of which I still have as it was worn so little. The most sparkly item I have is a navy jumper with a very subtle sparkle which I wear with jeans or a denim skirt.
Even my going out outfits are mostly peasant top/shirt with black jeans or trousers and heeled clogs or boots. I do have a velvet jacket for smart occasions and a velvet coat, though.
Tanya, absolutely nothing wrong with a few go-to party outfits! Loving the velvet comeback right now. :)
I was wondering how you got rid of the collar. Great tip on rolling it to the inside! I never would have thought of that.
Whitney Taylor says
Thank you for the inspiration and realism, as always, I love your blog!
My holiday color palette this year (discovered last year by chance) is cobalt blue, light grey and black. Feels festive and wintery without involving any red which I don’t really like to wear. Love sticking to separates for maximum flexibility- my cobalt top can go with a black skirt and tights, black jeans, grey jeans, etc. depending on the event.
That sounds really pretty Whitney! :)
I love this outfit!! This style is so me. I’m really enjoying seeing the proportions that you use, too, because that is something that I recently discovered is a real struggle for me. Looking through my closet, I realized that I have a lot of skinny jeans and a lot of small fitted tops – and when I pair them together, I never feel good about how I look. Seeing what a different slouchy tops make is definitely making me think that I want to start sizing up on my tops (I don’t need to buy the smallest size I can comfortably fit into – going up a size is okay! This may seem like a silly revelation, but what can I say…) and I would love to find some versatile sweaters like this one!
I love it, Stephanie! Those little things make such a huge difference in your path to style. :)
I love that you are promoting dressing for your actual life. It’s an unfortunately underappreciated concept. Your outfit also looks weather-appropriately warm!
i love this a lot! :) ox
i am 54 today!!! (in short), living with my elderly parents due to a disability caused by several drastic, life- altering surgeries. i have TOO much stuff and am bursting out of my tiny room. i also shop for emotional fulfillment and have lost over 100 pounds in the past year as a result of my illness (so i have tons of clothes in every size to accommodate my dwindling frame). i have been trying to figure out how to live with less (in all areas of my life) and found your blog. thank you so much for sharing your story and struggles (not to mention templates and examples). i am going to start today. i have already compiled a gigantic pile to give away and am trying to narrow down the remaining and i am sure your words will guide me. i will try to stay on top of my goal nd keep you posted as i go along. i am quite ill and fairly weak but am stubborn and will get there one step at a time. i will use your blog as a guide and inspiration.
Holly, thank you so much for sharing! I’m rooting you on from here in Texas. :)
I actually prefer this casual look!
Bettye Rainwater says
I love your refreshing take on a holiday outfit. My family was always very dressy-uppy for the holidays and that mindset just sort of stuck, but….I don’t have that family or those “formal” holidays anymore so why do I still feel like I have to “dress up”??
Two points for you!
WHAT?! Tucking the collar is brilliant. The whole sweater-over-a-button-up always felt to preppy for me to pull off. But I think I may try this exact outfit tomorrow. WITH A TUCKED COLLAR. Great post, as usual!
Randi, hope it works for you! :)
Oh how I love this post. Fantasy me needs lovely evening wear and actually is invited to events where these items are required… Real me has a handful or work + social pre-Xmas events which are BBQs or gatherings in the office. I love the suggestion above about having some fun jewellery to wear with the usual attire, that suits me perfectly.
I am reminded of your previous posts on evening wear capsules, that makes getting ready for the occasional special event so much easier (and ready just in case I get a last minute glitzy xmas invite somewhere!). Thanks again for sharing the thoughts.
PS love that colour palette.
Anna H says
Love this outfit! Couldn’t agree more it’s perfect for holiday season… comfortable sweater and a nice plaid shirt that will look cute when you unlayer with your jeans and boots!
I like to mix something fancy with something casual for those sorts of occasions – a flannel shirt with a lace skirt and clogs, boyfriend jeans and a sequin sweatshirt and sneakers, a slouchy sweater and leather leggings.
Gonna try the hidden collar trick – thank you
I was given a similar oversize sweater for Christmas last year (neutral/oatmeal) ~ I need to make it a significant part of my capsule wardrobe this Winter (it’s actually arriving in Dallas later this week ~ we’re expecting the lower 20’s!!!).
Thanks for the posts, Caroline. Your easy looks are piquing my renewed interest in comfort first, and cutting back on the “fancy” fantasies to get to where you already are! Loving this whole “theme” … !
I have a sweater very similar to yours with the high side slits. I always wear it with one of two silky tank tops underneath, so its been great to get some fresh inspiration from how you’ve been styling yours. And that collar trick is key! How have I never thought of that before?!
I do wish my sweater had zippers on the slits because it would be much more versatile that way. I’m going to investigate the possibility of adding some to mine this weekend.
Thanks again for the inspiration!
Yaaasssss!!!! While you fantasy fall was actually my reality fall, I’m right there with you on the fantasy holiday outfits. Sounds like we have very similar holiday gettogethers. So, I’m LOVING this post. Now, off to the closet to pull together some festive, casual outfits!!
Really loving your blog these days. It was always good, but I feel it’s…matured lately. In a good way. Even more calm & focused than ever. You find ways to share your real self while keeping the daily posts short & to the point.
Totally on board with letting go of fantasy fashion, lifestyle, etc. It crops up in so many unexpected ways–ideas of what you ought to be doing, without a real clear reason why. Just when you think you’ve got it down in one area, you discover it an another. Keep up the good work & keep reminding us, too!
Liesbeth Verlinden says
I actually like dressing up for parties, even if they’re just with family or friends… no need to bring sparkles and high heels and red lipstick, but either of those would make the outfit stand out from what I’d wear any day of the week therefore underscoring the festivity of the occasion. It’s probably also because my style fluctuates between casual (which is your dressed up lol) and classic feminine. So parties are an excellent opportunity for me to indulge in silky, shiny fabrics, form fitting dresses & pantyhose, silver or pearls, nailpolish & lipstick (not all at once though :)). Thankfully my female relatives and friends tend to do the same thing so I don’t feel overdressed. On the other hand, my hubbie (and most other men at these gahterings) usually just wear jeans and a t-shirt or casual shirt. So to each their own I say.
Duo Gigs says
I really love the quality of your photos! So nice! Keep it up!
You looking so great and classy…combination is too good….really a cool and best style you made with your style….best collections ever….thank you…
This year I have three dressed up holiday events to attend, two related to my job and one for my SO. Still, I will probably wear a pencil dress to one of my work events, and pants and nicer jewelry to the other. For my SOs work party I will probably wear a black lace fit and flare dress that is usually my go-to fancier holiday party dress when I don’t need to dress more professional/conservative. I’ve worn it every holiday season for past three years, and usually another once or twice a year as well.
Otherwise it’s leggings and sweaters for friends/family events, jeans if they’re lucky.
I like the toned down use of the plaid as it looks festive without being too, well, plaid. Wish I didn’t feel so awkward wearing plaid as this is a really adorable outfit.
Fun (nerdy?) fact of the day: “button-down shirt” is actually a very specific type of shirt where the collar has little buttons on the points to keep the collar, well, down. If a shirt does not have these buttons it would be a “button up shirt”.
I’ve always wanted to like the button-up-under-sweater look but it always ends up looking stuffy and fussy to me. This is the first time I’ve seen it look comfy and relaxed and I’m in love! I’m definitely going to try your trick with tucking in the collar. Yay for casual everything!
Carrie Voldengen says
Hello, I recently revisited your blog and was super excited to see you’re posting again!!
I love this look, I have a sweater just like this, but I can’t get any of my collared shirts to work under the sweaters. Can you give me any more details on how to fold it? Keeps showing around the edges and looks super weird. =/
Last year–after reading your old post about having a fancy clothes capsule– I created a holiday party capsule. It was really just a single outfit, but one that was comfortable to me and just the right amount of dressed up. It was a black crepe jumpsuit from Madewell (I hate wearing dresses in the winter, I’d rather be warm and comfy. Thanks jumpsuits for coming back!), a fun statement necklace, and some leopard pumps. I ended up wearing the outfit to three different holiday events because all three were with different people. It was super freeing to just have one outfit to worry about. I ended up using the outfit the whole winter (Valentine’s Day, and some other nice dinner/outtings that came up). I love it so much that I pulled it back out again this year to wear to more holiday parties.
I used the same model for a spring/summer outfit capsule that I then wore to three different weddings. It was AWESOME.
Thanks so much for all your inspiration! Your blog has really helped me embrace who I am stylistically and free me from the expectation of constantly being “trendy.” My closet no longer causes me anxiety, all my clothes fit, and I truly love everything I buy. Keep on writing! I’m so glad you came back!
Brooke Lorimer says
Love this! Your posts are always so practical and helpful. Inspired by your holiday capsule wardrobe, I ditched the fantasy holiday party garb that was no longer functional for me and invested in one nice dress that has color and fabric can we worn across all seasons with just a few simple touches. It takes up less space in my closet and is so beautiful I look forward to wearing it on Christmas, Thanksgiving, and to formal parties!
For a very affordable (and conscious friendly) take on the side zip sweater, here’s a look-alike from H&M! http://m.hm.com/us/product/54697?article=54697-B They have more colors in their store. Just found a grey one today and I plan remaking this classy casual look. P.S. Thanks for always keeping our imaginations fresh, Caroline!! Your posts are always inspiring <3
Thanks for sharing, Allie! Great find. :)
Hi Caroline! I’m in search of a heeled chelsea style boot for an upcoming trip and I love the ones you’re wearing in this post. The trip will consist of quite a bit of walking – I know you said they’re comfy but are they travel and sightseeing comfy?
Hey Mallory! I think they are comfy enough for travel! I would make sure and wear them around before you leave though, so you know for sure. :)
Ok thanks! :)