A few weeks ago, I started working with a delightful new client. I’ll give her the alias Mrs. Sunshine because you immediately feel a warm glow when you meet her. Mrs. Sunshine hired me because she is in transition, which is when most clients call me. She’s nearing retirement, her daughter and her daughter’s wife, who live a decent distance away, recently had a baby and Mrs. Sunshine has been traveling frequently to be with her grandchild and help out. In addition to these fresh changes, Mrs. Sunshine lives your typical life of spending time with her family and friends, traveling and enjoying her third act.

With these transitions have come expected wardrobe challenges. As she explained to me, Mrs. Sunshine has work clothes, nicer casual summer things to wear on vacation, spending time with friends or out to dinner. She also has super casual things, like leggings and workout-wear that could double as streetwear. The big missing is in-between the dressy-casual and the super-casual part of her wardrobe and often finds herself wearing her Athleta leggings and her workout/streetwear clothes to go visit her grandchild.

As I went through Mrs. Sunshine’s closet, I could totally identify this small sliver of wardrobe need. It’s this mid-casual, not too nice but not too casual part. While it’s a small range, it makes up such a huge part of most people’s lives. It’s the, “what do I wear to look nice, but not too nice, while not looking like I just threw on a pair of leggings and a t-shirt?” part. Even though most people’s lives are lived in this mid-casual range, it’s a part of the wardrobe that often goes overlooked

Not Super-Casual, Not Dressy-Casual: Styling Your Mid-Casual Life

Mrs. Sunshine and I have yet to go shopping to build up this part of her wardrobe, but I felt inspired from her wardrobe consultation and decided to share my thoughts on it because I have no doubt that there are other women out there with the same problem. I have put some looks together to show how I envision solving Mrs. Sunshine’s wardrobe needs, and possibly your own.

Outfit #1

mid-casual style

The first mistake a lot of women make is they assume casual means buying cheap clothes. Think about how much time you spend living this casual part of your life. Why would you buy garbage? It’s fascinating, that women will plunk down hundreds of dollars on a dress they will wear once to a formal event and then neglect to put a little extra towards a pair of pants they will wear at least once a week. I’m not suggesting you spend so much money it makes you fearful of actually wearing these things in a casual way, but at least buy quality.

In this outfit, I styled a pair of wide-leg cropped pants from Eileen Fisher with a grey and white striped t-shirt from Nordstrom. Over the t-shirt, I added a white denim jacket from Vince Camuto and finished the outfit with a coral scarf from Zappos, grey slides from 1.State and a grey casual crossbody bag.

Outfit #2

mid-casual style

I pulled a basic Eileen Fisher dress out of Mrs. Sunshine’s closet. It was basic, cotton, comfortable and easy to change up. I said to her, “This. You need more of this.”

I chose this dress from Tommy Bahama to illustrate what I am talking about. It’s an easy, no-nonsense style that is comfortable, cool and casual enough that it doesn’t read dressy. When I was a designer we used to call these “grocery store dresses”; a dress that is casual enough that you could wear it to go to the grocery store. Taking most women’s feelings about arms and frigid summer temperatures indoors, I added this warm weather cardigan from Halogen and finished the look with a pair of red sandals from Caslon, canvas graphic tote and simple drop earrings from Something Navy.

Outfit #3


I have decided this is going to be a jumpsuit summer for me. I don’t care that I need to get completely naked to pee. I don’t care about any of the shortcomings that come with jumpsuits. The payoffs far outweigh them. I now have three mid-casual styles that are so comfortable and perfect for this part of my life.

I styled this summer striped jumpsuit with a pair of teal comfortable sandals from Miz Mooz and added this roomy peach tote from Madewell.

Outfit #4

This summer sweater from Eileen Fisher is on major sale right now. It’s quite lovely. Another client purchased it recently. It works perfectly with these cropped cargo pants from Frame. The gold slip-on sneakers add a bit of polish while keeping the outfit wearable for mid-casual. To finish the outfit, I added this olive bag from Born and square hoop earrings from Bony Levy.

Outfit #5

This last look takes jeans and a t-shirt to a slightly elevated level. It’s still a basic tee and jeans, just nicer. I styled the look with white cropped jeans from Paige and a mercerized cotton t-shirt from Cos. I finished the outfit with a pair of soft blue ankle strap flats from DSW, metallic crossbody from Urban Originals and long pendant from Talbots.

Don’t neglect the mid-casual part of your wardrobe or you too will find yourself running around wearing your gym clothes for this very large part of your life.