8/29/2022 | By Annie Tobey

Two fashion trends – the coastal grandma style and shopping at thrift and vintage clothing stores – work as well for senior women as their younger counterparts.

Dig into your closet! Those clothes you’ve been hanging on to just might be ready for living their second life in high style!

My sister accompanied with her teenage granddaughter for back-to-school shopping. Rather than visiting hip new clothing and accessories stores, Abby was hunting for old clothes at vintage shops. Turns out, there are two important reasons for this choice. First, reusing clothes fits well with young people’s emphasis on sustainability to combat climate change. Second, “coastal grandma” style is seriously trending!

The thrifting trend

While shopping at thrift stores was once associated with a need to save money, it’s now hip. Around 2016, “buying and wearing used clothing … became an edgy, countercultural thing to do,” reported NPR. The youth who bought into the thrifting trend discovered what their elders already knew: the thrill of the hunt and the satisfaction of finding clothing that you won’t see someone else also wearing.

Today’s youth are very conscious of climate change, too. After all, climate disasters seem to be accelerating at an ever-faster pace and, whereas older adults may be concerned about the next couple of decades, youth are counting on many decades ahead.

Related: Thrift store shopping tips for seniors

Coastal grandma

An Anne Hathaway image from Instagram modeling the coastal grandma look. Two fashion trends – coastal grandma style and shopping at vintage and thrift stores – work as well for senior women as younger women.
Anne Hathaway on Instagram

This popular trend was identified in spring 2022 by a young fashion social media influencer, Lex Nicoleta. It goes by several names: coastal grandma, coastal granny, and coastal grandmother (CGs, for short) as well as granny-chic fashion.

The “coastal” moniker indicates a style associated with chic coastal towns, like Charleston, South Carolina, Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, or Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. Think comfortable, flowy clothing in light neutral colors, with gentle splashes of pale pink or blue. Two Nancy Meyers movie characters are often cited as inspirations for the style: Erica Barry (played by Diane Keaton) in “Something’s Gotta Give” (2003) and Jane Adler (played by Meryl Streep) in “It’s Complicated” (2009). The term also embodies a relaxed coastal lifestyle, like shopping at organic farmer markets or throwing candlelit dinner parties.

While this style has been embraced by the younger generations, beauty and style website Byrdie notes that they are “suited for any size, age, and budget.” You don’t have to live on the coast, either.

Celebrities displaying the look on social media – from screen to foodie fame – include Ina Garten, Anne Hathaway, Martha Stewart, and Selena Gomez. In modeling the look on Instagram, Hathaway said, “I have been ready for #coastalgrandmother chic since before TikTok was born. May this moment never end.”

The Guardian interviewed several British women of grandmother age and coastal grandmother style.

A 76-year old from Bedford told The Guardian, “I like to keep up with trends without overdoing it. When you get to my age you have to be sensible. … Meryl Streep and Diane Keaton are my type of people, they look casual but smart. I chose to wear stripes today as I’m visiting my granddaughter, who lives by the seaside.”

An 80-year-old from Hove said, “I’ve had most of my clothes for a long time. They don’t tend to go out of fashion. I have two daughters in their forties who would tell me if I’m looking old-fashioned. … Your style does slightly change as you age, but I don’t feel like I dress old.”

Fashion writer Erika Veurink reached out to some “IRL” coastal grandmas (IRL for “in real life”). Says, Veurink, real-life grandmother Anne Devereux-Mills describes the feeling as “‘having reached the age where we define style rather than it defining us. … This phase is about breaking old rules and making new ones based on self-confidence and self-acceptance.’”

The finer points of the coastal grandma look

“The coastal grandmother aesthetic is rooted in classic ocean-side minimalism but isn’t overly preppy,” notes fashion writer Olivia Marcus. She describes the look at laid back, fresh from the garden. Coastal grandmas often emphasize appropriate fresh smell as well, using lots of scents and scented detergents.

As you’re browsing your closet or local thrift store for coastal grandma clothing and accessories, look for:

  • The overall look: Loose, comfortable, minimalist clothing
  • Materials: Linen and linen blends; cotton
  • Colors: Neutral shades with whites, creams, beige and muted colors such as pale greens, blues, and pinks
  • Occasional variations: Nautical flair and stripes


  • Linen and linen-blend shirts, blouses, caftans, and pants
  • Big cozy sweaters and cardigans
  • White turtlenecks
  • High-waisted jeans
  • White denim pants, including straight-leg and bootcut
  • Button-down shirts (boyfriend shirts, we used to call them)
  • Canvas and woven bags and market baskets
  • Print maxi-length dresses
  • Crocheted dresses and tops
  • Woven, straw hats
  • Birkenstocks and loafers
  • Striped knit sweaters

A variation on the theme

If you appreciate the concept but the term “minimalism” doesn’t fit your style, consider Fancy Grandma. This variation starts with the coastal style and adds brighter colors and flair such as fun tchotchkes, big earrings, metallic and shiny material, scarves, and matching sets.

Though the younger generations may be embracing it, they aren’t really stealing it. As senior women, it’s still ours to wear proudly – whether we find it hanging in our closets, on a thrift store rack, or new from stores and online.

Feature image of Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton from “Something’s Gotta Give” (2003), Warner Brothers.

Annie Tobey

Annie Tobey has been a professional writer and editor for more than 30 years. As editor of BOOMER magazine, she explored a diversity of topics of particular interest to adult children of seniors. When she’s not writing, she can be found running the trails or enjoying a beer with friends.

Annie Tobey