You don’t need grandkids or a house near a beach to be a “coastal grandmother.” In fact, you probably have everything you need in your closet. So if you’ve heard about this style craze that’s resonating with women from 20 to 40 to 60 and beyond, and you want to try it on for size, carry a pitcher of lemonade out to your back porch where you just put that vase filled with hydrangeas and let me fill you in.
Coined by Tik Tok phenom, Lex Nicoleta, just this past March, the coastal grandmother style aesthetic reflects the lifestyles and clothing choices portrayed by middle aged women (aka grandmothers) such as the characters played by Meryl Streep in It’s Complicated, Diane Keaton in Something’s Gotta Give, Diane Lane in Nights in Rodanthe and Vanessa Redgrave in Letters to Juliet, among others. Additional icons of the coastal grandmother aesthetic include home cook Ina Garten and homemaking guru Martha Stewart. If you’ve seen (and can still remember) any of those movies or you’re familiar with those quintessential homemakers, you may be getting the coastal vibes by now. But if not, hang with me.
The coastal grandmother doesn’t have to be a grandmother or even a seasoned woman. I’m not sure, but Nicoleta, who not only evidently trademarked the term but also professes to live the life, looks like she’s maybe in her young 30s. In fact, a lot of younger women seem drawn to this casual chic fashion aesthetic. But Nicoleta has done more than define the style of clothes hanging in the coastal grandmother’s closet (or armoire). She’s elaborated on her choice in furniture, food and pursuits. The style essence is really just a reflection of this woman’s full and satisfying life.
Let’s see if you fit the bill…even if just in your wildest dreams! How would you like to…spend your mornings collecting shells on the beach, cutting fresh flowers and hydrangeas from your garden, walking into town to buy fresh fish for your evening meal and delivering the aforementioned hydrangeas to a sick neighbor? And then maybe you would like to…knit a little, read a beautiful home decor magazine, volunteer at the church rummage sale and shell peas on your roomy back porch while listening to “This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)” by Natalie Cole. Then your grown kids might gather at your home for a special dinner featuring your signature dishes. That is if it’s not your book club night.
Sounds a little idealistic doesn’t it? And that’s just as it should be. Nicoletta says the coastal grandmother visual elements are aspirational. A coastal grandmother is “a successful woman who creates a beautiful life for herself” by “embodying elements of coastal living and homemaking,” Nicoletta told BuzzFeed News in a recent article. If that picture resonates with you, then you might enjoy putting together outfits that reflect this trending style.
The coastal grandmother style is comprised of simple elements thrown together in a somewhat careless but comfortable manner. The individual pieces are often classic or even preppy, but they’re worn with a nod to the natural and relaxed style aesthetics. When I examine the outfits, for instance, worn by the leading ladies in the movies I mentioned above, they are…
- classic but without the structure
- romantic but without the frills
- bohemian but without too much color
- masculine but still soft
- sophisticated but always a little casual.
Today I’m sharing an outfit I wore recently when we visited an historic resort in French Lick, Indiana. The West Baden Springs Hotel is definitely the kind of place where the coastal grandmother would take her grown daughters for a relaxing mother-daughter getaway. And they would certainly enjoy the afternoon tea and tour that we experienced on that Wednesday afternoon. It felt completely appropriate to wear my linen pants and linen sweater in muted flax tones that day.
The coastal grandmother’s summer closet is comprised of things such as:
- linen pants, shirts, skirts and dresses
- slightly oversized, plain button up shirts in cotton, gauze or linen
- loose fitting cotton trousers and chinos
- pullover cotton sweaters
- chunky knit cardigans
- comfortable sandals, loafers, flats & sneakers
- a straw hat and/or a cotton bucket hat
- wraps appropriate for the season in gauze, cotton or linen
- comfortable jeans (but not skinny)
- soft, muted tones of colors
- rich neutrals
- impactful but minimal jewelry, often heirloom pieces
Personally, I love the coastal grandmother vibe and I could wear it every day…if I truly lived that lifestyle. But, alas, I don’t. So I save my coastal grandmother outfits for those days when I do have the opportunity to go through the hours at a more leisurely pace, paying greater attention to the niceties of life, savoring a cup of fresh brewed tea or a glass of wine with cheese.
When I want to create a coastal grandmother aesthetic (although I didn’t know that was what I was doing until just recently, of course!), I pull the pieces from my closet that feel special and feminine, but also relaxed and natural. I often gravitate to neutrals, but you can certainly wear color for this style essence, too. Just keep them muted and solid.
Of course the coastal grandmother outfit I’m sharing today from my afternoon tea and tour is slightly elevated. But when I look back through my archives I find other examples of this very now style aesthetic. Just this spring I shared this look complete with linen skirt and straw hat and fisherman sandals. True coastal grandmother.
And a couple of summers ago I shared this comfortable but chic coastal grandmother outfit as something you might wear to a book club, an activity dear to this style icon’s heart. This outfit includes some bright colored linen pants. But the linen fabric, relaxed fit and surrounding neutrals make them oh so coastal grandmother chic.
This mostly linen outfit from last year would definitely resonate with the coastal grandmother.
J.Jill fashions are very on point with the coastal grandmother style essence. You might check out how I styled their clothing for my own trip to the coast in this spring blog post.
And here’s how I think a coastal grandmother might wear shorts in the summer…
or maybe like this…
or this outfit created again from J.Jill.
Speaking of brands that the coastal grandmother would shop, you might check out these for more inspiration and wardrobe building:
- J.Jill – true beach living inspiration, soft fabrics and relaxed, earthy styles
- Chico’s – more color, but still on trend with both elevated and casual styles
- Eileen Fisher – the matriarch of coastal grandmother style, more expensive but buildable and classic
- Garnet Hill – relaxed styles in muted shades, soft fabrics and feminine silhouettes
- Jenni Kayne – high quality and a little pricey, but more youthful and modern
- Everlane – more urban, but still lots of relaxed styles in muted solids
- Madewell – more youthful, natural fabrics and relaxed fits
- J.Crew – preppy, classic clothes in natural fabrics and modern silhouettes
- Talbots – just focus on their more relaxed fits and softer hues, steering clear of the super tailored pieces
- L.L.Bean – especially for their utility pants, simple tops, comfortable shoes & hats
In fact, I’ve created a style board on Pinterest filled with inspiration and some shoppable pieces. You can check it out HERE. And be sure to follow the board so that my pins will continue to pop up in your Pinterest feed as you’re browsing.
My outfit that I wore to tea at the West Baden Springs Hotel is all from Eileen Fisher. You just can’t beat EF for the quality and finer touches. And I find these pieces to be buildable. For instance, my linen cotton blend sweater is from last year, as are my sandals (similar but not in this color and these in similar color). I know that not everyone will like the lantern style of my linen pants, but they are definitely on trend for the coastal grandmother and they’re delightful to wear.
But you don’t have to shop Eileen Fisher or any of the other higher price point brands I mentioned above to dress in a coastal grandma fashion aesthetic. I found similar pieces at Macy’s, Dillard’s, and even J. Crew Factory and Amazon. I’ve filled a couple of style widgets below with lots of fashions for the coastal grandma, and they’re at a full range of prices.
And don’t forget to add some of the non-fashion related details of the coastal grandma’s lifestyle to your life as well. It’s as we pause for afternoon tea, arrange some fresh flowers from our garden, cook a hearty meal and set the table for our extended family or visit with neighbors over the fence that we create the lifestyle that is at the heart of this trending style aesthetic. And that is what will make the outfits feel authentic and lovely to wear.
Thanks so much for visiting with me today. What do you think about the coastal grandmother style aesthetic? Do you enjoy wearing it? Or do you just admire it from afar? Can you think of other brands that are great to shop for the coastal grandma? I’d love to hear from you today.
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Blessed for My Day
While I love to look to style boards, blogs and Instagram for fashion and lifestyle inspiration, I know that I can’t build a life based on the images of other people’s lives. Even if I were able to replicate all the visuals that inspire me, I wouldn’t be able to create the peaceful and harmonious life I aspire to that way. It takes much more to build a satisfying life than clothing, pretty furniture or even walks on the beach and flowers in the garden.
I have chosen to build my life on the foundation of the gospel instead. When I remember the saving work that Jesus Christ did for me on the cross and the hope He gives me through His resurrection, I can have true peace and hope. That’s where the quality of my life is established. And as I read, meditate on and study God’s Word my life becomes truly fuller and more substantial. I invite you to look beyond Pinterest boards and fashion blog posts to build a life that truly satisfies, too.
For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? ~ Mark 8:36