Finally, it’s back to basics for autumn’s fashion uniform

Unlike a lot of fashion-y looks, there’s no age or size barrier to the blazer-jeans-tee formula – it’s universally flattering
Unlike a lot of fashion-y looks, there’s no age or size barrier to the blazer-jeans-tee formula – it’s universally flattering

For many of us, the cusp of a new season starts the same way: standing in front of the wardrobe, gazing at its contents, asking, “What am I going to wear?”

In September the anticipation that comes with a new school year (do we ever grow out of this?) only adds to the pressure. Shifting from drawstring linen trousers and billowy dresses to more structured fits and tailoring can feel frighteningly abrupt.

There is a seasonal middle ground, though, and if you haven’t already embraced it, it’s worth giving a whirl – if only to get out of the front door with minimum faff. The recipe is simple: one T-shirt, one blazer, one pair of jeans. Not exactly groundbreaking, but it’s one of those instances in which keeping things simple exudes far more elegance and confidence than a more elaborate outfit.

It’s versatile too; the blazer, jeans and tee (BJT) formula can work for myriad occasions – you just need to focus on the footwear that best suits the demands of your day: add trainers for school drop-off; loafers, and you’re ready for work; switch to heels and you’re all set for happy hour. Need to smarten up a notch? Trade your blue jeans for a black, beige or cream pair.

The BJT is the ultimate smart-casual uniform; a go-to for the monied Belgravia woman (an aesthetic borrowed from divorce-era Princess Di). As office dress codes have relaxed in recent years, it’s become a favourite with stylish types who want to look chic but not like they’re trying too hard.

No wonder, then, that we’ve also been seeing it on a smattering of celebrities lately: Julianne Moore arriving at the Venice Film Festival; Jennifer Garner on the set of her latest project; Katie Holmes speaking on a panel in New York; Eva Longoria heading out to dinner in LA. Blazer? Check. Tee? Check. Jeans? Check.

It’s been adopted by royals too. Despite having very different lives on different continents, Diana’s daughters in law, the Duchesses of Cambridge and Sussex, have followed her lead with blazer-jeans-tee ensembles of their own (although those towering court shoes are entirely optional).

Unlike a lot of fashion-y looks, there’s no age or size barrier to the BJT formula – it’s universally flattering. The vertical lines of the blazer have a lengthening effect, while high-waisted jeans draw the eye to the narrowest point of your torso. A just-loose-enough tee, tucked into your jeans, conceals any muffin top.

Of course, as any good chef will attest, you’re only as good as the quality of your ingredients, so choose them wisely. The blazer is the most important element: whether it takes its name from the “blazer” red sports jackets worn by Cambridge rowers in the 1820s (the preppy label Rowing Blazers pays homage to this heritage), or the uniforms worn by the crew of HMS Blazer around a decade later (navy, double-breasted with gold buttons), one thing that’s not in dispute is that it was a garment originally designed for men – so there is an element of borrowing from the boys with this look.

And while many women look fantastic in boxy, double-breasted styles with strong shoulders, which have proliferated across the high street, they tend to overwhelm petite frames. Massimo Dutti is a reliable source for more classic silhouettes, while M&S, Boden and Reiss cater well to petites. I’m 5ft 4in and find that turning up the sleeves on an oversized blazer makes it look more in proportion.

Seek out single-breasted blazers if you want to look leaner; wearing a T-shirt that’s a similar colour to your jeans will also help elongate the body. If you like this look, but find the structure of a blazer uncomfortable, consider a knitted or stretch jersey version like the Boden one here.

The next key element is your favourite jeans. If you’re in the market for a new pair, consider a straight-leg style instead of skinnies for a subtle update, as all of the celebrities pictured here have done. Flares are also making a comeback this autumn and look wonderful with heels.

Lastly, you’ll want a T-shirt – a grown-up one that doesn’t cling too much, skims nicely over your body and isn’t too sheer. Sunspel is good at this, although Boden’s supersoft cotton tops are my current favourites (from £22, boden.co.uk). As the weather cools, you might want to add a light knit under your blazer as well.

Get these ingredients right and you won’t just have a fashion-editor-approved look for September – you’ll have a sharp, chic uniform that you’ll want to wear for the rest of the school year.

The collegiate look

Julianne Moore is seen ahead of the 79th Venice International Film Festival on August 30, 2022 in Venice, Italy - Pascal Le Segretain
Julianne Moore is seen ahead of the 79th Venice International Film Festival on August 30, 2022 in Venice, Italy - Pascal Le Segretain

Julianne Moore’s double-breasted blazer and Gucci loafers are the modern way to do preppy.

The forever summer look

Margot Robbie
Margot Robbie

Margot Robbie proves you don’t have to part with your sandals just yet - just keep it all coordinated.

The Alpha Sloane look

Diana, Princess Of Wales - Pool/Tim Graham Picture Library
Diana, Princess Of Wales - Pool/Tim Graham Picture Library

For Diana, a power blazer with an otherwise understated look kept the focus on her humanitarian work.

The downtown cool look

Katie Holmes
Katie Holmes

Katie Holmes keeps it low key by pushing back the sleeves of her blazer, straight-leg jeans and Chloe trainers.

The evening glam look

Eva Longoria
Eva Longoria

Eva Longoria’s soft neutral palette, high heels and gold jewellery elevate her ripped denim.

The sporty look

Duchess of Cambridge
Duchess of Cambridge

The ribbed cuffs of the Duchess of Cambridge’s Chloe blazer lend a sporty twist to her look.

Get the look

Merch for blazers
Merch for blazers

Clockwise from left: Puppytooth boyfriend, £295, ME+EM (meandem.com); Wool blend double breasted with gold buttons, £189, Massimo Dutti (massimodutti.com); Stretch jersey, £110, Boden (boden.co.uk); Linen blazer, £225, Jigsaw (jigsaw-online.com); Tweed relaxed fit, £69, Marks & Spencer (marksandspencer.com)

What's your go-to autumn fashion uniform? Tell us in the comments section below