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9 Ways to Be a Real ‘Coastal Grandmother’

This TikTok trend has a beachy, casual vibe that can be embraced by all

(Left to right) Meryl Streep in "It's Complicated," Diane Keaton in "Something's Gotta Give," and Diane Lane in "Nights in Rodanthe."
Left to right: Meryl Streep in "It's Complicated," Diane Keaton in "Something's Gotta Give" and Diane Lane in "Nights in Rodanthe."
Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal/Courtesy Everett Collection; TCD/Prod.DB/Alamy Stock Photo (2)

My Grandma Rose used to wear a flowing print “housedress” and a cozy cashmere cardigan around the house. Who knew a very similar look would be a 2022 fashion trend that I would adopt as a postmenopausal grandma? Though it gained traction on TikTok, “Coastal Grandmother” (a.k.a. CG) is not really new. It’s an elevated combination of preppy Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard and laid-back seaside Malibu-Santa Barbara style. But you don’t need a cedar-shingled house or even grandkids to make this breezy, summery aesthetic your own, wherever you live, all year round. Here’s how to get it, live it and love it at age 50-plus.

1. Lighten your color scheme

(Left to right) Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda and Geena Davis
Left to right: Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda and Geena Davis
Ali Goldstein/Netflix; Todd Owyoung/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images; Justin Ford/Getty Images for Bentonville Film Festival

Coastal grandmas such as the characters played by Diane Keaton in Something’s Gotta Give, Meryl Streep in It’s Complicated, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin in Grace and Frankie, Diane Lane in Under the Tuscan Sun, and Martha Stewart or Ina Garten on any given day, live and dress in a soothing palette of colors. It’s one of the key ingredients in nailing the coastal look. If swapping your current color plan for a muted mix of white, cream, beige and beachy washed blues and greens sounds too pricey, start with a few changes and build your new look gradually. Even a fresh coat of paint on the walls, hydrangeas in every room and a few crisp white shirts can smooth the way to more.

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2. Check your closet

Clockwise from left: Madewell wide-leg crop jean ($128, madewell.com); LilyCoco long-sleeve stripe tee ($16, amazon.com); J.Crew chambray shirt ($55, jcrew.com); Timex Easy Reader watch ($60, timex.com); Superga 2750 Cotu classic sneaker ($35, amazon.com)
Clockwise from left: Madewell wide-leg crop jean ($128, madewell.com); LilyCoco long-sleeve stripe tee ($16, amazon.com); J.Crew chambray shirt ($55, jcrew.com); Timex Easy Reader watch ($60, timex.com); Superga 2750 Cotu classic sneaker ($35, amazon.com)
Madewell; Amazon; J.Crew; Timex; Amazon

You probably already have some coastal-granny items in your wardrobe; use them to build a fresh core look. Pull out nautical-inspired, blue-and-white-striped boatneck tops, roomy white jeans and pants, cotton or linen button-downs, chambray shirts and classic white lace-up sneakers. This is also the ideal time to ditch your smartwatch and slip on your old wristwatch — one with a metal or leather band — and easy-to-read numbers. It’s cool again!

3. Reboot your love of classic clothes

Clockwise from left: Old Navy striped boyfriend shirt; Amazon classic-fit long-sleeve shirt; Appleseed’s Spindrift cardigan sweater & short-sleeve sweater shell; H&M high-waist twill pants; Artisure classic penny loafers; L. L.Bean Double L cable sweater
Clockwise from left: Old Navy striped boyfriend shirt; Amazon classic-fit long-sleeve shirt; Appleseed’s Spindrift cardigan sweater & short-sleeve sweater shell; H&M high-waist twill pants; Artisure classic penny loafers; L. L.Bean Double L cable sweater
Old Navy; Amazon; Appleseed's; H&M; Amazon; L.L.Bean

Remember when twinsets, cabled sweaters, high-waist pants and penny loafers (no lug soles) were super-fashionable? Truth is, they never were exactly out, just not getting enough attention in the hurly-burly world of fast fashion. Although coastal grandmother is anything but traditional, stiff and stuffy, she still has a thing for striped button-downs, big boyfriend shirts, matching cardigans and shells, and sweaters with cables — reminiscent of the ones from college days. Nowadays the look is updated a bit with relaxed silhouettes, elastic and drawstring waistbands, rubber soles … and sandy, seaside hues, of course.

4. Stay comfy but elegant

Clockwise from left: Alex Mill Kelsey linen skirt in French Blue ($135, alexmill.com); Madewell plus embroidered puff-sleeve midi dress in cottage garden, in Terrace Blue ($138, madewell.com); Cofouen women’s cotton-linen button-down long-sleeve shirt in Gray Blue ($30, amazon.com); Everlane Easy Pant in Canvas ($78, everlane.com); Anthropologie fisherman sport sandals in Brown ($125, anthropologie.com)
Clockwise from left: Alex Mill Kelsey skirt ($135, alexmill.com); Madewell puff-sleeve midi dress ($138, madewell.com); Cofouen button-down shirt ($30, amazon.com); Everlane Easy Pant ($78, everlane.com); Anthropologie sandals ($125, anthropologie.com)
Alex Mill; Madewell; Amazon; Everlane; Anthropologie

If you’re a CG wannabe, you can ditch the leggings, skinny jeans, blazers and anything that requires shape wear, an industrial-strength bra or heels. You can also skip athleisure wear and the sexy body-flaunting category of body-con knits and cropped midriffs. Instead, stock up on loose-leg pants with high waists, midi skirts and dresses, airy button-downs, woven leather sandals and mules. The aesthetic here is sophisticated and pulled together, even when wearing a pair of elastic-waist pull-on pants and a simple shirt. Be sure to wear leather sandals — not flip-flops, please!

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5. Keep CG going all fall and winter

Left to right: Quince baby alpaca-wool turtleneck in Ivory; Hoyayo wool-shawl pashmina wrap in 05-Cyan; Yibock women’s long-sleeve open-front chunky-knit cardigan in Cablekhaki; INC International Concepts smock puff-sleeve dress in Dutch Canal; Gap loose khaki with Washwell in Moonstone Beige
Left to right: Quince baby alpaca-wool turtleneck in Ivory; Hoyayo wool-shawl pashmina wrap in 05-Cyan; Yibock long-sleeve open-front chunky-knit cardigan; INC International Concepts smock puff-sleeve dress in Dutch Canal; Gap loose khaki with Washwell
Quince; Amazon (2); Macy's; Gap

Seasonal coastal-grandmother signatures such as straw bags, breezy midi sundresses, leather sandals and cotton bucket hats are great from May through August, but how do you extend that style once a chill sets in? The trick is to mix beachy favorites with fireside-ready ones. Keep the color theme and relaxed look by pairing pants like the Gap loose khaki with Washwell in Moonstone Beige ($80; gap.com) with an ivory turtleneck such as the Quince baby alpaca-wool turtleneck in Ivory ($70; onequince.com). Or throw a chunky cardigan like the Yibock women’s long-sleeve open-front chunky-knit cardigan in Cablekhaki ($38; amazon.com) over a midi dress such as the INC International Concepts smock puff-sleeve dress in Dutch Canal ($100; macys.com), and wrap a soft flexible scarf like the Hoyayo wool-shawl pashmina wrap in 05-Cyan or Beige ($32; amazon.com) around your shoulders or neck.

6. Stick with practical, quietly posh accessories

Clockwise from left: Mabrouc large woven-straw tote; Dalix heavy-duty-cotton canvas tote bag with zipper; J.Jill woven-straw bucket bag; Nadri small circle-pendant necklace; Privé Revaux Dean sunglasses; Scala women’s comfy wide-brim cotton bucket hat
Clockwise from left: Mabrouc large woven-straw tote; Dalix heavy-duty-cotton canvas tote bag with zipper; J.Jill woven-straw bucket bag; Nadri small circle-pendant necklace; Privé Revaux Dean sunglasses; Scala women’s comfy wide-brim cotton bucket hats
Amazon (2); J.Jill; Bloomingdale's; Privé Revaux; Macy's

It’s the extras that make CG life seem like a nonstop vacation. Four very specific items create a coastal-casual but refined vibe. Choose a canvas tote and/or straw shoulder bag (soft tan or camel leather hobos or bucket bags for winter or work). Trade black glasses frames and aviators for warmer brown tortoise options. Swap baseball caps for bucket hats (look for cold-weather buckets in fleece, corduroy and leather), and leave bold statement jewelry in the drawer and wear a delicate “personal” necklace and studs.

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7. Keep your beauty style radiant, fresh and low-key

Left to right: Skylar Salt Air eau de parfum; Neutrogena radiant tinted moisturizer SPF 30; Essie nail polish in Lighten the Mood; Honest Beauty tinted lip balm with avocado oil in Lychee Fruit
Left to right: Skylar Salt Air eau de parfum; Neutrogena radiant tinted moisturizer SPF 30; Essie nail polish in Lighten the Mood; Honest Beauty tinted lip balm with avocado oil in Lychee Fruit
Sephora; Target (3)

Coastal grandmas don’t load up on makeup or head-turning floral perfumes. Neither do they spend time fussing with their hair or get statement manicures. Instead, they choose fresh outdoorsy scents like Skylar Salt Air eau de parfum ($85; sephora.com), tinted moisturizers and color-control (CC) creams with sun protection such as Neutrogena radiant tinted moisturizer SPF 30 ($14; target.com), seashell light nail colors like Essie nail polish in Lighten the Mood ($10; target.com) and subtle tinted lip balms in the nude-pink range, such as Honest Beauty tinted lip balm with avocado oil in Lychee Fruit or Summer Melon ($9; target.com).

8. Make it a lifestyle thing

Clockwise from left: FY Fiber House checkered square pillow cover in Cream ($30, wayfair.com); Gracie Oaks fireplace wicker/rattan basket set ($186, wayfair.com); Threshold cable-knit chenille throw blanket in Neutral ($25, target.com); Martha Stewart Collection enameled cast-iron round 6-quart Dutch oven in Sky Blue ($88, macys.com)
Clockwise from left: FY Fiber House pillow cover ($30, wayfair.com); Gracie Oaks fireplace wicker/rattan basket set ($186, wayfair.com); Threshold chenille throw blanket ($25, target.com); Martha Stewart Collection cast-iron Dutch oven ($88, macys.com)
Wayfair (2); Target; Macy's

You may not be growing heirloom tomatoes or taking long walks at the shore every day, but your home can take on the coastal-lifestyle look. Coastal decor (sometimes referred to as beach-house decor) is now an actual separate category for furnishings, bedding and housewares. You can add hints to your home whether your current style is traditional, contemporary or country and whether you live in Cincinnati, Seattle or Phoenix. The following changes do the trick: new throw pillows or pillow covers, and throw blankets for sofas and chairs, in coastal hues; fresh slipcovers in white or beige cotton; rattan and wicker baskets in the kitchen and for open display of everything from firewood to board games and books; rattan or wicker counter stools and chairs; rugs and runners in natural fibers such as sisal or woven cotton; long, soft ivory linen curtains; and blue or white enamel cookware in view at all times.

9. Help him be a coastal grandfather

Clockwise from top middle: Hope & Henry men’s shawl-collar sweater in White Cable Knit Shawl; Wrangler men’s relaxed-fit jeans in Light Blue; Go Tour men’s driving shoes in Khaki; JMIERR men’s cotton-linen long-sleeve button-down shirt in 01 Sky Blue
Clockwise from top middle: Hope & Henry men’s shawl-collar sweater in White Cable Knit Shawl; Wrangler men’s relaxed-fit jeans in Light Blue; Go Tour men’s driving shoes in Khaki; JMIERR men’s cotton-linen long-sleeve button-down shirt in 01 Sky Blue
Target (2); Amazon (2)

Everybody can jump on this trend, even guys. Once again, it’s the right mix of basics and updated classics that provide the look. A cardigan like the Hope & Henry men’s shawl-collar sweater in White Cable Knit Shawl ($50; target.com), a linen button-down such as the JMIERR men’s cotton-linen long-sleeve button-down shirt in 01 Sky Blue ($30; amazon.com), light-wash relaxed jeans like the Wrangler men’s relaxed-fit jeans in Light Blue ($20; target.com) and shoe options such as the Go Tour men’s driving shoes in Khaki, Brown or Dark Blue ($50; amazon.com) are just a few examples of CG. Check his closet for more items like your chambray and linen shirts, time-washed khakis and ribbed crewnecks too.