Utility Jacket Outfit Ideas for Spring

In my example Spring Capsule Wardrobe I repeated many closet staples from my Fall Capsule Wardrobe.  One of those was a cargo or utility jacket which I discovered just a few years ago and now don’t think I can live without.

Back in September I did a remix post showing the ways I’ve worn my cargo jacket on the blog so far.  Today I want to go a step further and talk through some of the styling ideas and pull out outfit formulas for us.

If you’ve been reading PMT for a bit, skip this paragraph because what I’m about to say will be old news.  If you’re a newer reader, these are the reasons I LOVE my utility jacket.  1) It gives an outfit more character than a plain cardigan, so it’s a fun way to change up your looks.  2) It dresses down outfits and makes them casual but since the jacket has structure you don’t look sloppy.  3) It’s durable, which is especially fantastic for moms with kids who do who knows what to your clothes–wiping crap on you, pulling at you, kicking their little feet on you when you carry them.  4) It has large pockets which is also great for mom life, but good for really anyone.  5) They’re really versatile, as I’m about to show you!

Tee and Sneakers with Distressed Denim
This is typically my travel outfit or one of my outfits for errands or the park, though footwear will vary between sandals, TOMS, or my white sneakers.  It’s casual and easygoing.  Since all of these pieces are basics, I like to wear distressed denim to make the outfit more interesting.

Shop for the Look:
Top: JCPenney
Jacket: c/o Conversation Pieces (similar, similar)
Jeans: Old Navy
Shoes: TOMS (exact)
Bag: c/o Lily Jade

Sporty: Neutrals + Graphic Print + Sneakers
This is the same basic outfit as above, jeans + tee + sneakers, but I went the black and grey color scheme makes it a little sportier.  Basically, pair this utility jacket with any t-shirt and jeans.  If it’s looking plain, add accessories.  That’s why I added earrings and a watch to this look–it needed a little something extra!

Shop for the Look:
Top: c/o Hello Grace (exact)
Jacket: c/o Conversation Pieces (similarsimilar)
Jeans: Nordstrom (exact)
Shoes: Zappos (exact–I’m normally 8.5-9 and got 8.5)
Bag: Nordstrom (exact)
Earrings: c/o Nickel & Suede (exact)

Tee + Jeans + Scarf
You can switch up the jeans + tee look by adding a scarf.  The basis of this outfit is white jeans and a plain grey t-shirt, but a patterned scarf keeps them from feeling like boring basics.  If you want to take it up even more, add some colored pumps!  Colored flats would be fine too, of course.  The shoes do two things: 1) The bold color puts a fun twist on the outfit.  Use a color that’s in your scarf and keep the other pieces neutral.  2) Heels or pointy toed flats take the outfit up a notch in dressiness.  It’s still casual, but the outfit feels a lot different than if I’d worn white sneakers or TOMS instead.

Shop for the Look:
Tee: Everlane (exact)
Jacket: c/o Conversation Pieces (similarsimilar)
Jeans: Old Navy (very similar)
Scarf: Target
Shoes: Old Navy (similar)

Floral Top + Jeans
I love pairing my utility jacket with feminine pieces to toughen them up.  This top is a really soft peach with florals, so it’s fun to throw on the utility jacket.  I guess I really like doing it because I did it twice with the same top without realizing it!

Shop for Look #2:
Top: c/o White Plum (similar)
Jacket: c/o Conversation Pieces (similarsimilar)
Jeans: Nordstrom (exact)
Shoes: Amazon (exact)
Necklace: c/o Dear Mushka (exact)
Bag: Sole Society (exact)

Lace is an element I often feel is too soft and feminine for me by itself, so typically I wear something to ground it more, like a leather jacket or leather accessories, distressed denim, a statement necklace with metal, or this utility jacket.  Don’t be afraid to mix feminine elements with tougher elements!

Shop for the Look:

Top: J.Crew Factory (similar)
Jacket: c/o Conversation Pieces (similarsimilar)
Jeans: Nordstrom (similar)
Shoes: Nordstrom (exact)
Necklace: c/o That’s Mine Boutique (exact)

Lastly, let’s step away from the jeans for a minute and wear this jacket with a dress.  Try it with as many dresses as you can to see if the shape will work!  Don’t be afraid to wear it with dressier dresses or “girlier” dresses either, like ones with lace or ruffles.  It’ll have the same effect as what we talked about earlier, mixing tough and soft.

Shop for the Look:
Dress: Old Navy
Jacket: c/o Conversation Pieces (similarsimilar)
Bag: Nordstrom (exact)
Shoes: Zappos (updated exact verison)
Necklace: c/o Dear Mushka (exact)

Tips for Finding a Utility Jacket
If you’re looking for one of these, here are some things I’d recommend keeping in mind while shopping:

  • How long do you want it to be?  Some are longer, like almost to the bottom of your hip (like mine), while others come to mid up.  Some even go past your rear.  Be mindful of how the length changes how the jacket looks depending on your body shape, particularly with your ability to wear it with dresses.  
  • Defined waist?  Some jackets have drawstrings at the waist so that you can define your waist a little more.  Others naturally have seaming at the waist to provide structure.  Some are oversized and baggy.  None of these is better than the other, rather it just depends on your shape and what look you’re going for.
  • Hood or no hood?  The sort of more oversized ones tend to also have hoods, which look even more casual and tend to look more like a jacket.  Again, not bad or good, just keep it in mind!
  • Roll up sleeves?  If you never roll up your sleeves, then disregard this part.  I almost always roll up sleeves at some point, so for me it’s important to either have the elastic wrists or enough room in the sleeves to fold up the sleeves.
  • Structure and thickness of material.  I note this because sometimes I rely on this piece not as outerwear, but as part of my outfit all day, like a sweater would be.  People have asked me in the past if I can actually wear this all day, assuming it’s uncomfortable and bulky like a jacket.  It really, really depends on the material.  Some are very soft  and easy to move in (like mine) and some are made of sturdier and thicker material and feel stiff.  I often wear mine all day as if I were wearing a cardigan.  However, if I had one that was a thicker material I don’t know that I’d be able to do that.  Regardless of how thick the material is, make sure you can move around in it comfortably for long periods, if you want to be able to do that. 
And some great options for you!  Many of these have elements that are similar to mine.  All are from Old Navy, Kohl’s, H&M, ModCloth, or Nordstrom.  Most are under $40 with current sales, except for the middle row.
Links to Shop:
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