I’ve talked in the past about the Power of the Fitted Blazer and how magical they are for adding structure and polish to any outfit. In fact, I wrote this post back in 2014 and not much of the message, if any, has changed. Last year at this time, I also crowned the fitted jacket the MOST POWERFUL of the 10 Wardrobe Essentials. You can check that out here.
And there's no doubt that of all the 3rd pieces I talk about, a fitted jacket or blazer is my top pick. And they are NOT just for you working girls. They finish off a casual outfit beautifully as well.
The problem is, they can be very tricky too.
Very few women — no matter their shape or size — can find an off-the-rack blazer that fits just right. If it’s a very structured blazer, chances are you’ll have to take it to the tailor.
Best to start out with one that fits as well as possible to reduce those alteration fees. Here’s what to look for:
1. Shoulders first
Shoulder alterations are complex and expensive. Find a style that fits your shoulders and you’re already ahead of the game.
The shoulder seam of the blazer should hit right where your own shoulder ends. If it falls closer to your neck, it’s too small. If it goes past the spot where your shoulder starts to slope downward, it’s too big. I see too-big jackets all the time...from blazers to jean jackets. Do yourself a favor and if the shoulders don’t fit...put it back on the rack!
When trying it on, give yourself a hug while wearing the blazer. If it pulls a little, that’s fine. If it pulls a lot, it’s probably too small. Pass on it.
2. Sleeves next
Sleeve alterations are pretty simple, though they can be expensive if the blazer is lined or has details like trim or buttons.
What to look for? First, consider the style. Blazers with three-quarter sleeves offer some handy leeway (and is a cool, on-trend look), whereas the ideal fit for full-length sleeves is very specific. A full-length blazer sleeve should always hit just above the top joint of your thumb when standing with arms at your sides. Your wrist itself should be covered.
3. Then chest
Every woman has a unique set of challenges. Women with larger breasts may experience pulling. A small chested woman may have bunching and rippling. A blazer that fits properly in the bust will cover about half of each breast and skim the covered area without bunching or wrinkling. In a perfect world, the blazer should fit well both buttoned and unbuttoned (but in my opinion, the look it has unbuttoned is the most important, giving it the most versatility).
A blazer that fits properly in the shoulders, bust and torso but cannot be buttoned all the way without some pulling is not a deal-breaker — unless you’re a lawyer or professional suit-wearer and need exquisite fit both buttoned and unbuttoned. But that’s just my opinion. Mary would disagree;)
4. Don’t forget torso
Generally speaking, the blazer should follow the natural curves of your body without pulling or sagging. You don’t want lots of extra fabric around your midsection. The idea is to provide shape and structure to your figure.
Longer lengths are in style this year, especially with the popular “boyfriend blazer”. Shorter cuts work well too, especially with dresses and skirts. A shorter jacket also looks great over a longer top, creating that chic and flattering layered look. The length of your jacket will depend on your figure and your preferences, but a good rule of thumb is to have the jacket hit in the hipbone zone (same goes with the top if you’re wearing a shorter jacket over a longer top, have the top hit around the hipbone zone. Remember the golden rule - don’t put a horizontal line across your widest point. Instead put it just above or below.
“Stance” describes the highest point where the blazer buttons. Blazers with higher stances tend to have more buttons — at least two or three. Lower stances are frequently one-button designs.
To be honest, a high stance can look a little dated and matronly. It’s a style that was all the rage decades ago but now looks out of style. Lower stances with fewer buttons appear more sophisticated and modern.
Bust size, however, can complicate the matter. Busty women may find that low-stance, single-button blazers open awkwardly at the chest. Meanwhile, other busty women find high-stance blazers a problem to button without uncomfortable pulling. This is why an open blazer in a soft, stretchy, knit fabric may be best. If you have a blazer you're unsure about, snap a selfie and post it in our private group to get advice.
Length and shape
Beware: Length and shape are the other factors that can make decades-old blazers appear dated or frumpy. I refer to my hunter green shoulder-padded, double-breasted blazer from my job at AT&T in 1988-90's. This is NOT what they're talking about when they refer to a slouchier, longer blazer.
The current trend of “boyfriend”-blazers is very popular. But today’s long-and-boxy looks are different from the long, boxy numbers from the ’80s. A modern boyfriend or long-line blazer will typically have a hint of waist shaping and a natural shoulder line. These look best with a fitted bottom like slim pants or straight leg or skinny jeans. The blazers we wore back in the 80’s should go, if they haven't already. They aren't coming back.
When in doubt, a tailored, fitted blazer that hits around the hip-bone zone will give you the most bang for your buck.
My personal favorite and go-to blazer is a less structured, more comfortable but still well-fitting and tailored ponte knit blazer. It has stretch, is as comfortable as a sweater, but still has the chic, polished look of a blazer. The beauty of this year-round jacket is that it works as well in the boardroom as it does with jeans and a t-shirt. Versatility, my friends!
Can blazer fit be complicated? Definitely. Worth the effort? YUP. My advice is to focus on buying a style that suits your hardest-to-fit area, enlist a tailor to help with the rest, and you’ll look chic, sleek and polished.
Now, go #justgetdressed.
Fyi, here are my blazers I showed you today "in action". Currently available styles are linked. My white blazer is only still available in size large here.