For many of us, the climax of a new season begins the same way: standing in front of the closet, observing its contents, asking, “What will I wear?”
In September, the anticipation that comes with a new school year (do we ever grow out of this?) Only adds to the pressure. Going from drawstring linen pants and fluttering dresses to more structured fit and tailoring can feel frighteningly abrupt.
There’s a seasonal middle ground, though, and if you haven’t already embraced it, it’s worth taking a spin, if only to get out the front door with minimal fuss. The recipe is simple: a shirt, a blazer, a pair of jeans. Not exactly innovative, but it’s one of those cases where keeping things simple exudes a lot more elegance and confidence than a more elaborate outfit.
It is also versatile; the blazer, jeans and t-shirt (BJT) formula can work for a myriad of occasions: you just have to focus on the footwear that best suits your day’s needs: add sneakers for school; moccasins and you are ready for work; switch to heels and you’re ready for happy hour. Do you need to make a qualitative leap? Swap your blue jeans for a black, beige or cream pair.
The BJT is the latest smart-casual uniform; a point of reference for the prized Belgravia woman (an aesthetic borrowed from Princess Di of the divorce era). As office dress codes have relaxed in recent years, it has become a firm favorite with trendy types who want to look chic but not like they’re trying too hard.
No wonder, then, that lately we’ve also seen him on a smattering of celebrities: Julianne Moore arriving at the Venice Film Festival; Jennifer Garner on the set of her latest project; Katie Holmes speaking at a panel in New York; Eva Longoria goes to dinner in Los Angeles. Blazer? Check. Tee? Check. Jeans? Check.
It was also adopted by royalty. Despite having very different lives on different continents, Diana’s daughters-in-law, the Duchesses of Cambridge and Sussex, have followed suit with blazer-jeans-t-shirt suits (though those soaring pumps are entirely optional).
Unlike many trendy looks, the BJT formula has no age or size restrictions – it’s universally flattering. The vertical lines of the blazer have a lengthening effect, while the high-waisted jeans attract the eye at the narrowest point of the bust. A fairly loose T-shirt, tucked into jeans, hides any muffin tops.
Of course, as any good chef will prove, you’re only as good as the quality of your ingredients, so choose them wisely. The blazer is the most important element: whether it takes its name from the red sporty “blazer” jackets worn by Cambridge rowers in the 1820s (the preppy label Rowing Blazers pays homage to this heritage), or from the uniforms worn from the crew of HMS Blazer about a decade later (navy blue, double-breasted with gold buttons), one thing that is not in question is that it was a garment originally designed for men, so there is a borrowing element from the guys with this look.
And while many women look fantastic in boxy, double-breasted styles with strong shoulders, which have proliferated across the high street, they tend to overpower the petite structures. Massimo Dutti is a reliable source for more classic silhouettes, while M&S, Boden and Reiss cater well to the little ones. I’m 5 feet 4 inches and I find that rolling up the sleeves of an oversized blazer makes it look more proportionate.
Look for single-breasted blazers if you want to look slimmer; wearing a shirt of a similar color to your jeans will also help to elongate the body. If you like this look, but find the construction of a blazer uncomfortable, consider a knit or stretch jersey version like the one from Boden here.
The next key element is your favorite jeans. If you’re on the hunt for a new pair, consider a straight leg style instead of skinny for a subtle update, as all the celebrities pictured here have done. The Flares are also making a comeback this fall and look great in heels.
Finally, you will want a T-shirt: one for adults that does not fit too tightly, caresses your body well and is not too veiled. Sunspel is good at this, although Boden’s super soft cotton tops are my favorite at the moment (from £ 22, boden.co.uk). When the weather cools, you may want to add a lightweight jersey under the blazer as well.
Get these ingredients right and you’ll not just have a fashion editorial-approved look for September – you’ll have a sleek, chic uniform that you’ll want to wear for the rest of the school year.
The collegial aspect
Julianne Moore’s double-breasted blazer and Gucci loafers are the modern way to go preppy.
The forever summer look
Margot Robbie proves you don’t have to part with your sandals yet – keep everything coordinated.
The appearance of Alpha Sloane
For Diana, a powerful blazer with an otherwise understated look kept the focus on her humanitarian work.
The cool look of the center
Katie Holmes keeps her cool by pushing back the sleeves of her blazer, straight-leg jeans, and Chloe sneakers.
The glamorous look of the evening
Eva Longoria’s soft neutral palette, high heels, and gold jewelry elevate her ripped denim.
The sporty look
The ribbed cuffs of the Duchess of Cambridge’s Chloe blazer lend a sporty touch to her look.
Get the look
Clockwise from left: Puppytooth fiance, £ 295, I + EM (medem.com); Double-breasted wool blend with gold buttons, £ 189, Massimo Dutti (massimodutti.com); Stretch shirt, £ 110, Boden (boden.co.uk); Linen blazer, £ 225, puzzle (puzzle-online.com); Relaxed fit in tweed, £ 69, Marks & Spencer (markandspencer.com)