What a difference a name makes. I’ve written before about the difference between “old brands” and, well, “not old” brands. The brands on this list are, for the most part, are the “not old” brands. I say for the most part because some of these brands do have hard-to-wear styles mixed in with the beautiful, flattering, on-point pieces. Hence, the disclaimer. More on the “can’t-miss” brands vs. the “hit-or-mss” brands below.
13 Can’t-Miss Brands
No, this doesn’t mean that you can close your eyes, pick any item, and know that it’s going to be perfect. I’m not that good. What it does mean is that, fit and color and other details aside, you won’t find frumpy, dated, or otherwise aging styles at these brands or retailers.
Polished, preppy-ish, and colorful, J. Crew consistently turns out wearable styles and pieces that are current, but never trendy. I also love the wide range of sizes, petite and tall options in lengths, and even bathing suits sized for long torsos. Finally, they do affordable shoes and accessories better than almost anyone.
Club Monaco is more urban in style, and more expensive, than J. Crew, but they also share some similarities, with elevated basics that are wearable and chic. I love the fact that even their simplest pieces have a little extra detail that makes them special and memorable, and the quality is exceptional.
Michael Kors is an iconic American sportswear brand, and the company produces, luxurious, classic, wearable pieces year after year. This brand is probably most known for its accessories, though, with great bags, shoes, jewelry, and watches.
Affordable, sustainable, with transparent sourcing and pricing practices, Everlane has dominated this niche market with its combination of lower cost, higher quality pieces, and minimal aesthetic. This is a great place to get well-priced staples like tees, tanks, silk shirts, etc. One caveat: Some of the boxier pieces work best on the tall and slim, so stick with the classics.)
This is like J. Crew with a British accent. I love the colorful, wearable, practical styles. The brand is clearly designed to appeal to moms in their 30s and 40s, but many pieces are suitable for women in their 50s, 60s, and beyond. (My own mom, at 72, is a big fan). This is the place to go for a pretty, comfortable knit dress in a striking print, as well as chic, comfortable flats and kitten heels.
This luxury lifestyle brand is definitely higher end than some of the others, but the quality is impeccable and nobody does better prints. If you’re a Tory novice, snag a blouse in one of her signature prints on sale and wear it with everything you already own. It’s a wardrobe game-changer. The pants and knit dresses are also amazing. Skip the overhyped (and uncomfortable) Reva flats and go for the ridiculous chic pumps and wedges if your lifestyle supports them. They’re comfortable and ridiculously chic.
Wit & Wisdom
Although I can’t find documentation of this, I’m pretty certain that Wit & Wisdom is a Nordstrom brand because it’s the only store that seems to seel the full line. This denim-focused brand offers a wide variety of styles and sizes (petite, plus, etc.) with ingenious Ab-solution technology built in. These mesh panels comfortably control and smooth the tummy area, and Wit & Wisdom has added them to their pants and shorts as well as jeans. The brand also offers casual tops and jackets, and everything is reasonably priced. (Jeans range from $68-88, but you can find sometimes find them for less at Nordstrom Rack).
You can expect classic Italian luxury (and prices) from this high-end line, but if it’s in your budget, the incredible knits, tailored suits, and timeless bags, shoes and scarves are unmistakable. If you have the height to pull it off, the Icon coat is a stylish investment that’s heirloom-worthy.
Stella Carakasi is a designer who creates clothes for real women, like herself. Aimed at over -4o women, and designed to be super flattering, easy to care for, and consistent in its sizing, this is a brand designed for real bodies and everyday life. It is eco-friendly, sustainable, and affordable (she sells directly to the consumer). I love the fact that she uses primarily natural materials and cool architectural details.
This colorful, optimistic, resort-inspired line is known for its bold prints and comfortable, jersey fabrics. Trina Turk’s bathing suits and cover-ups are super chic and flattering, and so are her jersey dresses and jumpsuits. I love that it’s comfortable, cheerful, and collectible.
While this brand has always been a go-to for professional women looking for well-made corporate clothes, little has been said about the brand’s more casual offerings, and its accessories, which are always incredible. There is something for everyone here, from flowy floral dresses to preppy stripes to animal prints, as well as casual jackets in vegan (and real) leather, denim, and knits.
Like Banana Republic, Ann Taylor has long catered to women looking for chic, classic workwear, but their flattering styles, fabrics, and prints work for women of all ages. Their cuts are classic but not boxy and unflattering, and their fresh prints and colors keep it current.
Nic & Zoe
I absolutely love this brand for almost everyone over 40. Great quality, cuts, and construction, and pieces that are designed to work together season after season. If you’re new to the brand, check out the Foundations pieces, particularly the famous Wonderstretch pants.
Yes, But… 5 Brands to Consider (with Reservations)
I love every one of these brands, but I can only recommend them after I’ve given you the whole scoop. They are all great sources of flattering, wearable pieces and classic staples, but they may also feature trends that are hard to wear, boxy, oversized silhouettes that only flatter the very tall and slim, or details that read old/frumpy. Read on for the scoop.
Fashiony people love this brand, where you’ll find trend-focused pieces at very reasonable prices.
Look for: Well-made, affordable shoes, bags, and jackets
Watch out for: Unwearable trends; boxy styles that are only flattering on the very tall and slim
This line is designed specifically for women over 40, with tops that are modest and flattering, as well as completer pieces, leggings and dresses.
Look for: Flattering, modal jersey tops designed to be modest, slimming and stylish
Watch out for: Some frumpy prints, the leisure suit, which should be reserved for bed
I used to be very anti-Eileen Fisher, lumping it with lines like Chico’s and J. Jill which almost always read old. But their commitment to quality, luxurious fabrics, and, more recently, new flattering silhouettes have won me over. (Note: Nic & Zoe is comparable in some ways, but more affordable and the silhouettes are easier to wear).
Look for: The System, a collection of essentials (choose the pants that suit your body type), beautiful wraps, tees and tanks
Watch out for: Slouchy separates worn together (only work if you’re very tall and slim), boxy layering pieces
& Other Stories
H&M’s sister site, this brand is a couple of steps up, pricewise, but features trendy updates at reasonable prices. It’s a fashion insider fave, and very buzzy right now, so it’s definitely worth checking out.
Look for: Well-priced basics like sweaters, jackets, and pants; accessories
Watch out for: Hard to wear trends, boxy shapes
This Canadian designer has really become known for his pants, but he also offers tops, dresses, and jackets in bold prints and colors.
Look for: Slims collection pants in a shape that suits your body type,
Watch out for: Prints! Most of the tops are too busy, with too many details and aging prints; embellished pants and tops
These are the go-to brands that I turn to when shopping for myself and my clients. I hope these have inspired you to explore some new lines and find some new favorites. To see all of my go-to brands, check out my Brands Catalog.