Utility Chic: A Spring Denim Alternative

You all know how much I love my jeans. I wear them almost every day! But sometimes I want a casual alternative to jeans, and that’s when I pull out a pair of utility pants.

While utility pants (and cargo pants — the terms are pretty much used interchangeably) are more of a rugged military-inspired style, they’ve become quite fashionable in recent years.

The street style version is generally sleeker and more tailored than its utilitarian counterpart, and sometimes they incorporate other trends, such as the jogger pant.

Today I’m styling cargo jogger pants two ways — with a t-shirt and denim jacket for a casual off-duty look, and leveled up with heels and a woven tank for a night out.

I’ve had this pair of cargo joggers for several years, and I love the way they combine the jogger style leg with the utility details. They’re made of a stretchy twill fabric that gives you all-day comfort with enough structure to keep you looking polished.

FIT TIP: I recommend sizing down one in these pants. They should fit snugly when you get them because they will give some with wear.

If you like the look but not the price tag, check out this Wit & Wisdom pair. I actually styled them for a spring cargo pants outfit a couple years ago. And of course, cargo pants don’t have to be green. A black pair is nice to have, and I’ve also seen navy, white, and camo.

Shop cargo pants at Nordstrom: 

Since cargo pants have a lot going on, I like to balance them out by wearing them with unfussy pieces — like a simple t-shirt and denim jacket.

My twist detail t-shirt is soft and comfortable, and the scoop neck is universally flattering. I have my usual size small, but you could size down if you want a closer fit.

I’ve had this denim jacket for years, and it’s still going strong! It’s soft and stretchy and has a good amount of structure. The medium indigo wash is super versatile, and I always cuff the sleeves for a laid-back vibe. It’s true to size; I have it in a small.

I often wear fashion sneakers with my cargo joggers, but I also love how they look with these strappy studded slide sandals.

The cafe color is very close to my skin tone, which elongates the line of the leg, and the shiny studs add some bling to the casual look. I usually size down in slides, but I didn’t need to with these. I’m wearing my usual size 8.

I accessorized with silver filigree hoops and a simple compass pendant, and I’m wearing my favorite cat eye sunnies.

While utility pants typically suggest a casual vibe, it’s modern and fun to dress them up for a chic date night look. Again, I chose unfussy pieces with clean lines to offset the more rugged pants.

This black raw edge tank is another wardrobe staple I’ve had for several years. In fact, I like this tank so much, I have it in ivory as well.

I love how it dips into a V in the back as well as the front, and the raw-edge chiffon trim at the neckline and armholes is a nice feminine detail.

This tank layers easily under a jacket, but it’s also bra-friendly if you want to wear it alone. It runs true to size; I have my usual size small.

I carried a leopard hair calf clutch for a pop of pattern and texture, and I wore black strappy black slide sandals.

A nude shoe would also work, but I like how wearing black on the top and bottom bookends the look, and the minimal design doesn’t visually chop up the leg the way a heavier black shoe might.

Also, the chunky wood grain heel repeats the brown tones in the clutch, helping to tie it all together.

For this look, I leveled up my accessories as well with Kendra Scott teardrop earrings and this Madewell layered coin necklace. These are actually three separate necklaces, which is nice because you don’t have to wear them all together every time.

If you want, you could throw a denim  jacket on top of this look as well. It definitely tones it down some.

A blazer would be another option, or a leather  jacket would also work.

Everything I’m wearing in this post is available at Nordstrom — a one stop shop for all of your spring wardrobe needs!

As always, when you shop at Nordstrom, you get their free shipping and free returns. And don’t forget about their BOPUS (Buy Online Pick Up in Store) and contactless curbside pickup options.

And if you aren’t already a Nordy Club member, be sure to sign up so you can start earning points toward Nordstrom Notes when you shop. You also get to enjoy exclusive perks like members-only access to sales, offers, and events — like the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, which is just around the corner!

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photos: Alison Cornell

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24 Responses

  1. I’ve been eyeing a pair of Vince Camuto leopard heals (pumps, I guess) They’re on super sale……my hesitation is that they’re pointed toe. I am seeing more square toe this year. Will these be outdated sooner than I can wear them????? Any thoughts?????

    1. I think a pointed toe pump is a classic and always appropriate, but yes, a square toe is more modern and of the moment. I think it just dpeends on your personal style and lifestyle and how much wear you think you will get out of them longterm.

  2. I really like both outfits, but the first one is totally in my wheelhouse. Love utility pants, love joggers. I’m actually wearing a pair of black utility joggers today from Banana Republic. I bought them recently when I placed an order for the BR cardigan that you styled awhile back. (love that also, btw & just wore it yesterday!). Anyway, the black joggers are perfect. I’m 5’0, and usually even petite joggers can be too long, but these are not…I love them and am seriously considering ordering another color.

    1. Always hard finding petite joggers. I am going to look at Banana Republic. Old Navy has petite joggers online and I found some cute ones and went back for more but they were sold out. Thanks for sharing

  3. I really like this outfit. In the Spring, I am usually tired of wearing jeans. Last year I bought a pair of sand colored utility joggers at Loft and I like them so much. I wore them yesterday and was so comfortable. I did have the green Caslon utility pant but lost weight and they didn’t fit anymore. I have been tempted to try these Paige joggers. I might have to get them. I have liked every Paige denim I have ever bought and they do work with my body type. I think I am talking myself into it!

  4. I like that you styled the joggers two different ways…showing us versatility. And they both look great on you!

  5. I’ve worn these joggers several times in the last month! When I bought them 2 years ago it seemed crazy to spend the $ and I have worn them so many times. Worth every cent. I also have an amazing pair of utility joggers that I just got from Athleta that are linen and cotton and are a very subtle sand-colored camo. Wearing them today! I’m on the hunt for comfortable pair of the block heel minimalist-style sandals like Steve Madden and they seem to be sold out in my size all the time. I am looking for a neutral color though as I love that almost barefoot look.

    1. I love that look too. Glad you’ve gotten a good cost per wear out of these joggers. I felt the same but yeah, they have more than paid for themselves at this point.

  6. Great looks! I love black with the olive green. Popping on the denim jacket is perfect, I would also try a white denim jacket. Now, I just have to find mine….not quite done with my closet organization!! HAHA!!

  7. This outfit is exactly what I would wear SO I bit the bullet and bought the Paige joggers in navy – but they don’t fit me well. The waist is too big but the rest fit great. Oh well, maybe I’ll use that money on shoes 🥰 Have you ever tired the Vuori pants? Not the joggers, but the other pant styles? Cheers

  8. Love both looks; thanks for helping us style looks in multiple ways. The casual look is more my personal style however it is always great to be nudged outside the box and think of different ways to style items of clothing. Going to the dentist is the pits. There is something about the smell and noises at the dental clinic that is really off putting. Hope your dental appt goes smoothly.

    1. I’m with ya, the casual look is my style too. I like my dentist, so that helps. It went pretty well, all things considered, but I opted to only do the one filling (they are on different sides) so I have to go back. ARGH.

  9. Love both cargo pant outfits, look so comfortable but yet classy. Could you do an outfit with “beach pants” sometimes, don’t see them often. Thanks, love your blog!

  10. Prêt a Pedi pants! I just got a WHBM mailing and that’s what they call them. I really hate wearing leggings for summer pedis and rolling up skinnies doesn’t work. I don’t feel comfortable going into a salon dressed in shorts – just too casual in plus those places are freezing! I bought a pair of cargos last year. They are (I think) in my motorhome closet. I may drag them out for my pedicure next Wed.

  11. Love these outfits and I have the pieces. But what color blazer would you wear with the date night look? Thanks!

  12. Hey Jo-Lynne!

    Any recommendations for similar style but available in petite with zippers at the bottom? I love the look of the Paige ones but they can’t be shortened. Argh!!

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