New York Style – Classy Casual


New York - Classy Casual

Scott and I have not long returned from our very first visit to the United States, where we spent two weeks in New York.

We had an absolutely wonderful time. We did all the things you are supposed to do when exploring a new city. You know, things like walking for miles, eating more than our fair share of yummy food, investigating cocktail menus and checking out every single tourist attraction (while attempting to avoid the queues).

We also spent a fair whack of time just watching the world go by. People watching is one of my favourite things to do in France, and it turns out that it was as equally entertaining in New York. I get so much style inspiration from checking out people in restaurants, on public transport, in stores and on the streets.

Aside from what others were wearing, I was also keen to check out what was on offer in both the famous New York department stores and in the smaller boutiques.

Overall, the style I discovered in New York was pretty much as I expected. It was perhaps a little less dressy than I’d imagined. If I was going to describe the overall vibe of the style I saw both in the stores and on the streets in two words I’d probably go with ‘classy casual’.

New York Style – Classy Casual

In The Stores

Window shopping opportunities were a  hampered by stunning Christmas displays and we were so busy that we did very little shopping while we were in New York. That said, when we did stick our noses into stores there were a few stand-out themes.

The first was velvet. The lush fabric is everywhere at the moment and NYC was no exception. We saw it in many shades – black, of course, as well as navy and deep jewel tones. Velvet jackets were very common – as they so often are. But we also saw many styles of pants, tops and accessories on our travels. I was initially drawn to velvet pants but after trying on numerous pairs, I came to the conclusion that they weren’t for me. I did however pick up a simple black velvet top that I know I will get a lot of wear out of.

Speaking of black, it was the second key theme I noticed in stores. Black is renowned for being something of a uniform for New Yorkers (as it is for Parisians and those of us living in Melbourne) and the stores didn’t shy away from offering it plentifully. From coats, through jeans to boots, everything was available in black.

The final theme that really stood out to me was embellished sweaters. It may have been that our visit coincided with the start of the holiday season but I was struck by the number of tops that were adorned with delicate sparkles, pearls and lace. Feminine and pretty were the two words that kept springing to mind. If it wasn’t for the fact that our own holiday climate is seriously warm, I could easily have been tempted.

On The Streets

We love travelling in winter. The cold weather is great for exploring – whether that be new or familiar territory. And our visit to New York was no exception. My only issue with travelling during the cooler months is that it limits the amount of style on show. But I can’t complain because there was still lots to look at.

Given the season, coats were the unsurprising stars of the New York show. While there were a smattering of peacoats and belted wool coats, packable down parkas in – wait for it – black, were the easily the most popular option. At first I thought that fact may have been driven by tourist dominated destinations we were spending time in. However, once I started paying attention on the subway and on weekday mornings, I realised that this style of coat was extremely popular on visitors and locals alike, To my mind, the most stylish came with some built in shape to counteract the potential ‘Michelin Man’ effect.

When it came to footwear, it is safe to say that I’ve never seen so many sneakers in my life. They were literally everywhere (including a high end restaurant we visited) and on everyone, regardless of age or gender. As with any item of clothing, sometimes they were worn sensationally and other times they didn’t look quite so good. The ones that looked best tended to be quite low key and in neutral colours.

On the colder days, I noticed that the locals seemed to opt for boots – particularly, pointed toe Chelsea boots. I was very taken by a navy pair that I saw while I waited for a train. While they wouldn’t work with my wardrobe, they looked especially cool on the woman who’d teamed them with jeans and a navy peacoat.

Finally – What I Packed For New York

Some of you have asked about what I chose to pack for our trip, and given this is likely to be my only New York style related post I thought I’d share the items that worked the best (as well as giving you an insight into the one item I should have left at home).

Because I’m now really comfortable with my own personal style, I didn’t vary things too much from my standard travelling wardrobe. Jeans, either dressed up or down, covered most of my requirements, although I did pack a dress for Thanksgiving.

My ridiculously well worn light leather jacket was again on high rotation. I love that I can wear it on its own or under other coats – although I have to share that this time it was supplemented by a black wool waterfall cardigan that worked well on the plane and for tours, museums and the like. Mine is quite long and it is great for travelling as it can be worn a couple of different ways. You can also belt it, which adds another touch of variety.

A charcoal grey funnel neck merino wool jumper was the surprise piece of the trip. I’d picked it up while shopping with a girlfriend not long before we left and I packed it as a spare. But it turned out that it was light enough to layer and dressy enough for evenings, especially when teamed with the right accessories.

When it came to my feet – I swapped between sneakers and boots for most of the trip. I did pack a pair of heeled booties but they were a real miss. Even on dressier evenings, I found myself opting for the boots and I only wore the heels once.

Have you visited New York recently? Did you spot any particular style themes? And do you have any must pack items? If so, I’d love for you to share your insights in the comments section below.

And until next time – au revoir.


About Janelle

I believe that every woman can bring French style and joie de vivre to her life, no matter where she happens to live in the world. She only needs to know a secret or two to be on her way. When you join the Distant Francophile community, you’ll learn the style and grooming secrets that will help you to dress with the confidence so many French women seem to have.


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One thought on “New York Style – Classy Casual

  • Taste of France

    The New York Times has an article about the history and now demise of heels, that sneakers are acceptable nearly everywhere and that women are wearing them for their health (backs, feet) and for their safety (to be able to run from danger). Back when I lived in NYC, there was a backlash against the “Working Girl” look of sneakers with suits, but women still wore sensible shoes for their daily commutes even if not sneakers, which were at the time the sure mark of a tourist. The heels would be kept in a drawer in one’s desk.
    I must say that with age I am very grateful for the end of the tyranny of heels. We are accustomed to thinking that one isn’t dressy without them, but tastes are learned and can change. Personally I opt for right-up-to-the-knee flat-heeled boots when I want to look dressy in winter. They don’t work with everything, but enough for me. And did you see the photo of Nikki Haley in a vivid blue suit and knee-high suede boots? Not of fan of her but I was glad she wasn’t wearing silly stilettos.