What comes to mind when you think of a laid-back style? Jeans and a t-shirt? Sandals and your favorite dress? Flip-flops and a swimsuit? A hooded sweatshirt and yoga pants, perhaps. There are so many ways to define the laid-back style, but truly, not every outfit that is “laid back” would also fit into the category of “stylish.”
Thanks to movements like athleisure and pajama dressing, laid-back and casual dressing are more on-trend than ever. Sneakers, flat shoes, sweatshirts… It’s never been cooler to wear your most comfortable clothes out of the house. (However, we’re standing by this always: NO sweatpants outside the home. Ever.)
As trendy as casual wear is these days, there’s a time and place for these trends—especially for those not still in their teens, 20s, or early 30s. Heavily trendy clothes don’t always work for busy moms and/or working professionals. You need to step out of the front door feeling grown up and at least somewhat put-together… Who knows who you might run into on the street, at the grocery store, at the mall…
As an adult with a job, perhaps a spouse and children, a mortgage, and a car… What constitutes laid-back dressing for you? If you ask us, it’s a mix of comfort, utility, and timeless appeal. You want to look great and feel great at the same time.
In the list ahead, we’ve laid out five essential pieces that will help any stylish and modern woman create a no-fail wardrobe of laid-back essentials she can reach for again and again, whether it’s Casual Friday at the office or just another Saturday afternoon.
For more style advice like this, check out our guide to timeless style and our discussion of the ‘capsule wardrobe.’
A Pair of Straight-Leg Or Skinny Blue Jeans
A pair of skinny or straight-leg blue jeans are perhaps the one, single pair of pants that will never let you down. They are an essential part of any laid-back wardrobe, but they can also be dressed up with a beautiful blouse and a pair of heels. These are the kind of jeans you can reach for any day of the week, for any occasion, and they will feel just right. Pair them with flats and a white shirt for a lunch with girlfriends or a sweater and ankle boots for Casual Friday. Wear them with sneakers and a t-shirt for a day of errands in the car!
Finding the right pair of jeans takes time and patience, but our denim expert is a great resource if you’re looking to reboot your denim wardrobe. One thing we do know? You can’t go wrong with Levi’s.
A Slightly Oversized Crewneck Sweater
The image at left is a perfect example of how one piece can so easily be dressed up or down, but the effect is always a bit effortless and yes, laid back. Crewneck sweaters are classic, but super-fitted styles can feel fussy and formal. We prefer a sweater that has a bit of slouch to it—which means you can wear them with everything from mini skirts to yoga pants.
Many women’s brands make slightly oversized sweaters, but we also love to shop the men’s department for the same fit. For affordable menswear pieces, you can wear too, check out Uniqlo’s huge selection of basics in plenty of colors and fabrics.
A Pair of White Sneakers
2018 was truly the year of the sneaker, but we’re confident that you’ll be able to wear a crisp white pair of sneakers (especially classic Converse and Keds) for generations to come. There’s a reason they’ve been around so long!
Rather than pairing those cross-trainers, you wear to work out with your jeans, invest in a pair of “street sneakers,” meaning shoes that aren’t meant for the gym. We love Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars, The Adidas ‘Stan Smith’ and Vans ‘Authentic’ sneakers, too. Wear these with your favorite blue jeans, that oversized sweater and you’ve got a stylish, laid-back look that works.
A Leather Tote BagA Leather Tote Bag
There’s no easier bag than the tote. Simple, roomy, and easy to throw over your shoulder or hold in your hand, it’s the bag that does it all. For that reason, we’re all for investing in a genuine tote bag that will last for more than a few seasons.
This is the bag you can take on the airplane, to the office (shop more work bags), out to brunch, and throw in the back seat of the car when you’re off to pick up the kids from school. It does everything, holds everything, and looks effortlessly sleek and polished. This is the essential bag to carry on your most laid-back and casual days.
A Pair of Aviator Sunglasses
Did you know that aviator sunglasses are the most universally flattering shape of eyewear there is? That’s why we think they’re an essential part of any laid-back wardrobe. They are the easiest finishing touch to your casual Saturday outfit (once you’ve thrown on your favorite jeans, sweater and sneakers—toss a pair in your leather tote!).
Everyone’s face shape is different, so you may need a smaller or slightly oversized frame to suit your nose and brows. (Here are our best tips for shopping for sunglasses.) Try a few pairs on to find the one you like best. In our opinion, it doesn’t get any more classic, timeless, and flattering than Ray-Ban.