Fashion & Beauty

Dress Like a Coastal Grandmother

May 24, 2022

Coastal grannie essentials. Clockwise from left to right, Alex Mill’s white linen shirt, Mango jumbo jute bag, Rothy’s washable loafer and Solbari’s beach hat. 

By Janet Kelly

YOU DON’T have to own a spectacular beach house on the East or West coast to wear this trend. No doubt you’ve heard about the Coastal Grandmother (CG) look, inspired by the wardrobe of the characters of Diane Keaton and Meryl Streep in Nancy Meyer movies (vintage early 2000s). Surprisingly coined by a 26-year-old on Tik Tok this past January, the term Coastal Grandmother has garnered an enthusiastic following. Before you get the idea that this is anything new, it’s not. But if you’re already wearing linen shirts and pants in pale colors, you’re right in style.

Whether or not you’ve got unlimited means like Oprah, the essential embodiment of the look, or are even a grandmother, it’s forgiving and flattering for grown-up girls and particularly well suited to summer when lightweight, breathable fabrics are us.

Below, some CG suggestions:

LEFT: Don’t shell out big bucks for white jeans. They take—and show—a lot of abuse and rarely last more than a season or two. I’m game to try these not-so-precious all-cotton Straight High-Rise Denim Jeans, which look sturdy and slimming. They’re $49.90 from Uniqlo.

RIGHT: When you’re going for a look that’s crisp but laidback, pull on these wide-leg linen pants ($198, Ralph Lauren) with elasticized waist and belt that ties into a tidy bow. Pair them with a denim shirt and sandals, and you’ll nail the coastal grandmother vibe.

LEFT: What’s more classic and perfect for summer than a linen button-down? The sleeves and cuffs are a tad long on this Wyatt Shirt ($135, Alex Mill), so you can easily fold them up back for more casual situations. If you stress over wrinkles and rumples, opt for J. Crew’s gauzy cotton-blend blouse as an alternative—a less expensive one—to linen.

RIGHT: Inspired by its menswear chinos, Alex Mill’s womenswear version— the Boyish Chino in vintage khaki—is made for a relaxed fit. But if you prefer more tailored, the adjustable waist tabs let you have it your way. Fun detail: Striped pocket lining. They sell for $145.

LEFT: Spend less on linen with Everlane’s relaxed take on summer’s quintessential shirt ($80). In addition to this lovely pale blue, it also comes in white, black, coppery brown, leek green, blue pinstripe and a coffee check.

RIGHT: If you’re game to channel Diane Keaton in the 2003 film Something’s Gotta Give, put this  currently sold-out creamy rib-knit turtleneck (a wool-cashmere blend) on your wish list and hope that it comes back in stock in time for a chilly night at the beach—or wherever you are or your travels may take you.

ABOVE LEFT: You’re wearing sunscreen with at least a 30 SPF? Good. But beef up your protection with Solibari’s Wide Brim Beach Hat ($50). A generous 3.7-inch brim shades your face and neck and a detachable chin strap ensures it stays on your head when the breeze blows. The UPF 50+ means it blocks 98 percent of the sun’s UVA and UB+VB rays, significantly reducing your exposure risk. It’s also reversible—two color options—and packable.

BELOW LEFT: If you’ve seen the ads, you know the great Helen Mirren favors Cariuma sneakers. Presumably she likes the style and the low environmental impact of the brand. I already own a white pair but if I were to need another one, I think the soles on these ($79) are so darn cute.

RIGHT: Rothy’s claim to fame is that it diverts plastic bottles from landfills and transforms them into its special thread, which is then knit into cushy, machine-washable shoes with nubby outsoles for grip and durability.  The Driver slip-on loafer comes in classic colors like this beige, but also in seasonal ones like lime green, orchid and a pale blue. It sells for $185.

LEFT: You know when you just need a light layer over your shoulders, nothing too bulky or warm? That’s when you’ll wish you had this yummy cashmere poncho in oatmeal with a light pink stripe trim. Furthermore, it’s reduced from $298 to $189.90 at J. McLaughlin.

RIGHT: Summertime and straw go together like … .  This jumbo jute basket bag ($59.99, Mango) with cotton lining and adjustable closure can accommodate everything you need for your expedition of choice, be it a picnic in the park, a day at the beach or a shopping trip to Costco. It’s a generous 24 inches wide and 12.2 inches deep.

LEFT: I may be remembering it wrong, but I thought Diane Keaton wore white silk pajamas in one of the scenes from Something’s Gotta Give. Anyway, what else would you wear in your Architectural Digest-worthy Hamptons house with a dry cleaner on speed-dial and live-in laundress? La Perla’s pajama set is a splurge-y $440 at Neiman Marcus.

RIGHT: Nowhere near as luxe—nor spendy—J. Crew’s cotton long-sleeve pajamas is the right choice for those of us who think matching pjs will make us sleep better. And you can look somewhat presentable when you fall out of bed. With a relaxed fit, it’s comfy without being schlumpy. It’s priced at $98, but use code SUMMER for 30% off the full price. Note to self: good incentive to replace your old set.

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6 thoughts on “Dress Like a Coastal Grandmother

  1. Nancy G says:

    You’re always in white jeans and loafers in the summer! I happen to love Uniglo jeans, and their leggings pants (currently on sale). And I have an ancient jute tote bag I just pulled off the top shelf in my closet. Right in style.

    1. Janet Kelly says:

      You’re always in style!

  2. I love this look! I also associate it with Martha Stewart—sort of…?

    1. Janet Kelly says:

      Yes, I think so. I’ve noticed Martha wears a lot of white shirts.

  3. Carol says:

    Love linen, always have, always will! It’s cool both literally and figuratively. I so try to not iron my linen stuff but I have an aversion to wrinkles.

    1. Janet Kelly says:

      I hear you. Sometimes I use a steamer when the wrinkles are too much for me.

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