Spring & Summer

How to Command Attention in the Utility Fashion Trend

Utility fashion, half military/half safari, is on the march! We can’t seem to get enough of this classic workwear style that is practical, comfy and expectedly chic!

Key elements of the Utility fashion trend include:

  • Functional purpose-driven designs – clothes that work but are stylish too
  • Plant colored neutrals: Think of dense forest and jungle, colors like mossy greens, tans, warm brown, khaki, sandy beige, army fatigue.
  • Durable Materials that get the job done: poplin, quilted nylon, lightweight cloth, robust canvas, and denim- strong, comfortable, and weather-resistant.
  • Unisex Fits that work for both men and women- structured shapes with a relaxed fit like cargo pants, safari shirts, trencoats and utility jumpsuits.
  • Pockets: practical pockets often oversized to store stuff- patch, flap, zip, velcroed, or buttoned.
  • Travel Accessories that work for the Adventurer lifestyle – sporty watches, backpacks, canvas hats, leather belts, practical suede or leather boots

Here’s how to combine all these elements to create some modern Utility Looks that are practical and cool!

army jacket

1. Build on One Key Piece: The Army Jacket

The easiest way to capture the military vibe is to choose a  key piece and build around it. For most women, that will be an army-style utility jacket. Utility jackets have been around for a while but are still strong because they are a fun way to add casual cool to an outfit. Stripes are a natural complement.

army vest

You’ll find many variations on the army jacket, including the military vest. What they all have in common are details like epaulets, top stitching, zippers, tab sleeves, and brass buttons. To see some different types, look at this street chic post of my readers in their army jackets.

Style Tip: Don’t wear the utility look head-to-toe. An army jacket with skinny jeans and sandals is on trend, but an army jacket with camo pants and heavy combat boots will make you look like you belong in the armed forces. A little is enough.

safari dress

2. Add Feminine Touches – The Safari Dress 

The Utility look can be quite masculine, so you may want to add some feminine touches to soften it up.  Safari-style clothing like this stone linen dress looks pretty in this shapely wrap style.  Wear this dress with strappy wedges, lots of braided leather, rustic gold jewelry, and a chic tan bag give a softer, more refined look.

Other ways to soften the utility look are to wear your skirt a little shorter, or choose a drapey or soft fabric (i.e., soft, fluid cargo pants or a soft suede dress ), or emphasize your waist with a great belt. Banana Republic is famous for its Utility and Safari styles. You can check them out for upscale, feminine versions of this classic adventurer style.

military jacket

3. Add a Pattern to Stand Out

Depending on how you feel about color the utilty color palette can seem a bit dull at times – olive, navy, camel, taupe, black.  But luckily, the trend is to wear the utility palette with a touch of bright color as a solid or in a fun pattern. For example, this blue floral bag with this  classic navy and white military look is fresh.  The bold pattern/color catches you off guard and gives this utilitarian outfit a modern twist. Or you could pop in something like a bright pink purse.

Orange and Yellow are also popular brights combined with the utility fashion palette. To see what I mean, have a look at my Safari-style post.

So what do you think ? Do you salute utility style, or is it too practical and masculine for you? I’d love to know what you think.

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7 thoughts on “How to Command Attention in the Utility Fashion Trend

  1. There is no one look for everybody! I love the military style and think it looks great on me. If one is “Dressing your Truth,” it either works for you or doesn’t. This is why I dress for myself and don’t follow what someone else says is the “in” look now. :-) Sorry, but I also disagree with the statement, “The colors of the utilitarian look can be rather dull on their own – olive, navy, camel,” etc.
    Olive and Camel are my go-to neutrals.I don’t own a stitch of black, which is dull on me.

  2. I love this utilitarian/military look. I am already set to wear a jacket similar to the one shown. The other suggestions are fabulous and will be keeping these in mind this Spring as I pull together my wardrobe.

  3. Ohfergoshsakes. No, this isn’t too dull or masculine. It’s like wearing a ‘tough’ looking leather jacket with a ruffled shirt, a floral scarf, high heels, or a pretty floral belt with jeans. It’s playing one thing off another, which is exciting and engaging.

    How does one carry a bright pink purse while sporting high heels and think it is “too dull or masculine?”

  4. We have seen both before. The safari looks dated to the 90s and still looks the same. The military look was crazy in the 80s, thanks to Michael Jackson and sister Janet, then spawned some hideous camouflage craze we still cannot get rid of. That includes camp print in neon (sort of defeats the purpose of “camo”).
    Anyhow, I like the trend as you show it. Why? It is clean and straightforward I will wear it if I don’t have to enlist.

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