Is “quiet luxury” this year’s “coastal grandmother?”

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“Quiet luxury” is the un-trend that’s poised to be one of the biggest style directions of 2023. Like last year’s Coastal Grandmother trend, it’s an understated look that leans toward quality basics in timeless styles. While CG was predominantly casual, this look leans a bit more sophisticated, and can range from casual to corporate to cocktail dressy.

If you peruse fashion publications or the style section of your newspaper, you may have seen an article or three about quiet luxury in recent weeks. Also described as the “stealth wealth” look, in concept it often centers on if-you-know-you-know pieces from high-end designers. The status signaling is delivered via quality fabrics and details rather than logos. Some have described it as “minimalism for the very rich.”

Styles from designers like Bruno Cucinelli, Loro Piana, Max Mara, Khaite, and The Row are often referenced as examples of this aesthetic. But I think the look stands on its even absent the status-signaling aspect. And you don’t have to be part of the (private) jet set to enjoy the perks of this un-trendy trend. Keep reading for some examples at the end of this post…

I don’t even think “trend” is necessarily the right word for this fashion direction. Like Preppy or Bohemian, I think it’s more of a style genre that may be “having a moment” but isn’t going to vanish in a year or five. But as with most fashion moments, the look is already filtering down from the high end, and you’ll have more options available. (And if it finally breaks the dam of ruffles and twee that’s been clogging up the fashion stream for the last few years… well hoo-freakin-ray!)

Why now?

Economic uncertainty is often mentioned as a driver when fashion takes a turn toward the classic or understated. That’s probably part of it. But I think this direction, like last year’s Coastal Grandmother trend, evokes a kind of simplicity and calm that appeals to many of us.

The world is a noisy and complicated place, and that includes visually. We’ve been bombarded the last few years with logos and prints and outsized design details (as well as the attention-seeking celebrities who wear them). While a boardwalk carnival is fun and energizing, after a while it’s natural to want to leave the midway behind and take a quiet walk on the beach to regroup.

A broader awareness of the destructive environmental impact of fashion is also a factor. Sustainability is factoring into our buying decisions. We’re looking for clothing that lasts, and building our wardrobes around “fewer but better” pieces.

And I think the pandemic years have changed our relationship with clothes. Many of us began prioritizing comfort and ease during that time and aren’t willing to go back.

What I like about the quiet luxury trend (as translated for the rest of us…)

While I realize that this aesthetic won’t appeal to everyone, I’ve been leaning into my own version of it. Here are a few reasons why…

It’s simple and wearable. Like last year’s Coastal Grandmother look, it’s based on simple, functional clothes that can be worn multiple ways and in multiple combinations. Neutral basics are key, whether your style is tailored or more relaxed. While the look is often coordinated, it’s not fussy or constrained.

“Luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it’s not luxury.”

–Coco Chanel

Greater longevity & sustainability. Simple and timeless styles with fewer of-the-moment details will have a longer lifespan in our wardrobes. That doesn’t mean everything has to be plain or generic, but be sparing with details that will “date stamp” a garment.

It’s versatile and adaptable. Understated, neutral pieces are easier to dress up or down, and you can use accessories to add personal touches or shift the formality of an outfit.

How to adapt the quiet luxury trend for your budget

As I noted above, this look or genre lends itself well to the concept of “fewer, but better” pieces in your wardrobe. I’ll always encourage you to buy the best quality you can afford. But I get that most of us don’t have high-end designer budgets. (And buying “designer” isn’t always a guarantee of the best quality…you’re also paying for marketing and prestige.)

You’ll want to pay attention to and be discriminating about fabrics. While so many pieces are blends these days, I’d advise going with natural fibers (or a higher percentage of them) as much as possible. Avoid anything that looks of feels “dishraggy.” (I know that fabric quality across the board has taken a hit in recent years. But all we can do is demand better from brands by not purchasing crap fabrics.)

There’s no single silhouette you need to adhere to. You can go more relaxed or tailored, fitted or oversized, depending on your preferences. Overall though, I think this look works best with a certain restraint and neatness. Think “casual elegance.”

And fit is key. Sometimes a small tweak (nipping in a waist, adjusting hem length, adding or removing shoulder pads, narrowing a sleeve) can make all the difference. If you’re not able to do alterations yourself, find a good tailor and ask them what they suggest.

I’ve focused here on casual to smart casual styles. But many of the brands shown also have dressier or more corporate options if you are looking for those.

Styles & inspiration…

Banana Republic seems to have understood the assignment. I think they’ve really stepped up their game in the last couple of years. If you’re looking for unfussy, classically elegant, wearable clothes, they’re worth a look. They also offer a wide range of styles in Petite and Tall sizes. (No Plus range, but Misses XL corresponds to 16-18, and some styles are offered in size 20.)

Many of you have been asking for trousers that are full-length. These straight-leg wool trousers are lightweight enough for warm weather wear, and available in 3 neutrals. Available in Misses (33″ inseam), Petite (31″ inseam) and Tall (36″ inseam).

This silk shirt has a straight hem, so you can wear tucked or untucked. Also in black, in Regular, Tall & Petite sizes.

A classic striped shirtdress, but that little contrast stripe gusset at the shoulder is a nice detail. Swap out the self-belt for one in canvas, raffia or leather to take it up a notch. In Misses, Petite & Tall sizes.

Wear it with…

This equestrian-inspired linen-cotton blend jacket has some interesting seaming details, and a timeless look. In Regular, Petite & Tall sizes.

I purchased these slim utility pants last year, and have worn them often, especially during warmer months. They’re a good denim alternative when you want something more polished than jeans but not as classic as a trouser. They’re available in a few neutral colors, in Regular, Tall & Petite sizes.

The Reset is another brand that I think really nails a casual version of the quiet luxury vibe, but without eye-searing prices. I have these trousers on order to try. Will report back. They’re a linen-cotton-Tencel blend, available in 4 colors, sizes XS-XL.

The details on this merino wool sweater (directional stitching, shoulder pleats) make it look like a much more expensive piece. It’s available in several colors, sizes XS-XL. (I find many tops from this brand run large, so suggest sizing down.)

If you like a bit of Scandi in your style, COS has some good pieces at the moment. This silk-blend jacquard shirt reminds me of the Bruno Cucinelli one in the “mood board” at the top of the post (upper right hand image). Also available in Navy, sizes 2-14.

At the intersection of cozy and elegant, this silk-cotton cardigan is one of those pieces that’s much better in person than in the online image. Also available in black, in sizes XXS-3X.

Many of you have recommended Quince linen pieces for their affordable quality. This blazer is available in four colors, sizes XS-XL. Hint: don’t worry too much about the wrinkles. Quiet luxury isn’t about looking pristine, and it’s OK for your clothing to look lived in.

For strolling through the San Tropez market, wear with an oversized shirt or pair with the blazer for a coordinated look. 3 colors, sizes XS-XL. And if you prefer no drawstring, try these.

This 100% cotton crochet knit jacket is a lightweight and casually elegant topper that can work with dresses or jeans, or anything in between. It’s available in 4 colors, sizes XS-XL.

Accessories that make the look…

I love the look of woven leather, which adds texture and interest without logos or fussy design details. This one is a fraction of the price of the high-end designer version. (Also available in brown.)

If you prefer a non-leather bag, this one is made from handwoven neoprene and comes with a matching pouch. Several colors available.

I love my raffia shoes in warmer seasons (raffia looks great with linen!), and appreciate the understated look of this pair.

I purchased these sandals last year, and think they really “punch above their weight” appearance-wise. They’re also quite comfortable and easy to walk in.

A leather upper and knot detail add an elegant touch to these espadrilles. Also available in black and red.

And of course, shopping vintage and second-hand is another way to get the look for less. Check out sites like Eileen Fisher Renew, thredUp, The Real Real, or Fashionphile to find quality pieces.

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What do you think of the quiet luxury look? Is it something you’d wear?

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