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Passages After 50

The Four Jackets You Need (and Two You Might Want)

This article was written by style and fashion guru, Andrea Pflaumer! She discusses the four jackets you need and the two you might want…enjoy!

The Four Jackets You Need (and Two You Might Want)

Many years ago I complimented a very fashionable friend of mine, a true Southern Belle, on a lovely jacket she was wearing. She replied, “Thank you, you know you can never have too many jackets.” As someone who is always reaching for the nearest hoodie or down vest to ward off the cold, her comment gave me a license to shop for something less utilitarian. I will not tell you how many I own today…

The right jacket can simply make the entire outfit. You can throw on an old pair of jeans with a much-worn tee shirt, but add a terrific blazer, and voila! You are instantly pulled together. In fact, the “high/low” combination of a pair of, for example, Amazon jeans with a tailored blazer is a very hip way to dress. It shows that you enjoy being fashionable but that you don’t take it all too seriously.

So what are the jacket mainstays for just about any closet? We’ll start with the obvious.

A Great Blazer

A perfect blazer is the first item that almost anyone can wear. The most important element is fit. It absolutely must fit perfectly. There must be ample room for your arms to move comfortably. If it is intentionally oversized, as is the current trend, it still has to be in proportion to your own body. If you are heavy-busted make sure that when buttoned, the jacket doesn’t pull or create awkward creases.

The Fit of a Blazer For Your Body Type

Also, your body shape will largely determine the type of blazer that works best for you. If your shoulders are broader than your hips or waist, avoid wide lapels and heavily padded shoulders. For those who carry more weight in their hips and bottoms do the opposite; emphasize the shoulders and lapels to draw the eye upward. You can make a short-waisted torso look elongated with a slightly longer and boxier blazer that isn’t as exactly tailored to your actual waist. If you have an hourglass body, a peplum or belted blazer can be very flattering. That belt can be a self-tie or a wide cinch. And if you have a rectangle-shaped body, you can wear just about any style, as long as the proportions are perfect.

The only person who might never wear a blazer would likely be someone with a very bohemian wardrobe. Adding a tailored blazer over an ankle-length tasseled, fringed, floral embroidered dress worn with long multi-layered necklaces is going to look a tad incongruent. However, a fringed suede jacket might just do the trick!

Denim jacket

Levi Strauss began manufacturing denim jackets around 1880, shortly after he introduced his jeans. Who could have predicted that nearly 140 years later they would still be fashionable? And who might have predicted that they would be ubiquitous and worn by everyone at every economic level worldwide? But here we are. The reason for their longevity is in their utility. They are sturdy, last forever, and they have…pockets! A jean jacket is one of those pieces that can make a floral cotton summer dress look even more feminine by contrast. This is true of a lot of jackets, of course, as historically women just didn’t wear jackets.

Body Shape & Jean Jackets

As with blazers, your body shape will help guide you to the most flattering one: accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative. Because the more typical versions have chest pockets, if you are largely busted, look for a slightly longer version with lower pockets, unless, of course, you just want to flaunt it. In that case, you might wear it on its own, buttoned only slightly above the top of the bust, without a tee or blouse underneath. That’s a masterful way to make menswear look sexy.

A Sherpa-lined jean jacket will add more warmth and more bulk. So keep in mind where you might be bulky when considering this type. You will also find many kinds of denim jackets that have a different silhouette and are in other colors than the typical blue shades. They are just a great way to add some fun and youthfulness to almost any outfit.

Puffer Jacket

On a rainy fishing trip in 1930, Eddie Bauer nearly died from hypothermia as his wool sweater clung to his body and froze. Thus was the birth of the puffer jacket. The first ones he manufactured were quilted and padded and had knit collars. But in short order a newer version emerged, stuffed with down feathers. Today they also are made with synthetic fibers for the stuffing. But the purpose and function remain the same. To keep us warm

To be perfectly honest, they are not particularly chic. They can make almost anyone look like the Michelin man. But when the cooler season arrives they are a godsend. And for that, we all get a style pass for wearing them when the days turn chilly. But if you want to appear less like you are wrapped in your bed comforter, there are a few style elements that can add a little pizzazz. Ribbing at the wrists is both functional and less boxy-looking. An asymmetrical closure or an inner drawstring that creates definition at the waist will add some shape. A shorter, bomber-like version can be kind of playful and stylish. And of course, choosing one in a color other than black can make it a more fun part of your wardrobe and less of a reminder of the gloomy weather.

The great thing about these types of jackets is that most of them can be thrown in the washer and then with a little shaking to move the filler around, tossed in the dryer, and they come out like new. I throw a tennis ball in the dryer with mine. It does the moving and shaking for me. The key is to make sure they are completely dry so the fibers puff back up.

Leather or Suede Jacket

Leather and suede are practical in their durability and longevity. They project a hip and sophisticated vibe, and unless it’s really cold out, they can actually keep you quite warm. They look great with jeans and have a similar effect as does a jeans jacket when worn over a dress. But often, when people think of leather jackets they hear, “moto” (thank you, Marlon Brando.) Moto jackets make a statement. Their cut, hardware, and multiple zippers ensure that. They are kind of badass.

But leather and suede jackets certainly don’t have to be. They can also be quite feminine. It all depends on the construction and the weight of the pelt. The heavier the pelt, the heavier the feeling they convey. The softer the pelt, the more ladylike they appear. That is particularly the case with suede. A lambskin or lamb suede jacket with a self-tie adds a very sophisticated but feminine touch too, for example, a pair of tailored slacks.

Then there is faux leather. For my husband’s 70th birthday we went to Hawaii (my first trip there) with a group of friends. Our host’s wife took me shopping at a local mini-mall where there was a crystal shop and a few island-centric sportswear shops. While other patrons flipped through the racks of playful and skimpy floral swimsuits, my eye honed in on a distressed-looking faux leather bomber jacket. Yes, in Hawaii I bought a leather-looking jacket. (My style mentor, who has done color and style analysis for more than 23,000 people, could not believe it wasn’t leather.)

I wore it almost every day for three years (not kidding) until it started to fall apart. That’s the downside of faux leather. It will not last as long as a pelt. But the upside is that you can wash it…and another animal lives to see another day. I loved and still love it.

And Two You Might Want

Safari Jacket:

If a jean jacket seems a little too “yang” for your “yin” another option is the safari jacket. The textiles used for these toppers aren’t as stiff as denim and the style is a little more, well, stylish. And although it also has multiple pockets, it doesn’t have the same utilitarian vibe as a jeans jacket.

Safari jackets can look very cool with a lot of different pieces: jeans, Bermudas, shorts, or even a long skirt. These days they are often made of tencel, a natural textile derived from wood fiber that has some flow and movement to it. It’s not stiff the way a jeans jacket is. But traditionally these types of garments are made from cotton or a cotton blend. The fact they often have a self-tie or drawstring waist gives them some shape, and that gives you some shape.

Chanel Jacket

And then there is the aspirational acquisition, the Chanel boucle or tweed jacket. In her fabulous and humorous little book, The Gospel According to Coco Chanel, Karen Karbo describes our fascination with Mlle Chanel and her timeless creations. And she describes her own quest to find one on a drastic sale or at a resale shop in Paris. Fat chance. You would be hard-pressed to find the real deal for anything under a few grand, even on resale sites. They stay in closets for a very long time because they are forever pieces. Fortunately, there are a lot of pretty good knock-offs that won’t eat up several years’ shopping budgets.

Perhaps Coco realized that as women (including herself) were entering the workforce they wanted to be taken seriously, but still appear feminine. And that is what one simple, beautifully constructed Chanel jacket will do. They elevate your jeans outfit or your tailored slacks. They are a beautiful way to complete a pencil skirt and blouse outfit. One of the more elegant versions of this type of jacket can be the perfect cover-up for a formal dress. They are the epitome of taste and class.

So, you just can’t go wrong with a few key jackets in your wardrobe. They will be the pieces that demonstrate that you have good taste, and they will make you feel stylish regardless of whatever else you wear them with.

Do you love jackets? Please share your favorite brands in the comments at the bottom of this page. We’d love to hear your choices!

Andrea Pflaumer is the author of two books: the Amazon best-seller Shopping for the Real You: Ten Essential Steps to a Perfect Wardrobe for Every Woman: Fashionistas, Fashion-phobes, and the Over 50 and She’s Got Good Jeans – a guide for how to shop for and where to find the perfect jeans for your body and budget.

She does in-person and online wardrobe and shopping consultations for women worldwide and blogs at Shopping for the Real You. Her free course, Lazy Person’s Guide to a Perfect Wardrobe is available on GoHighbrow. Andrea hosts two video series: Vital, Vivacious, and Visible after 50 and Shopping for the Real You: Expert Edition. She interviews women in the areas of fashion, beauty, and wellness on her Shopping for the Real You YouTube channel. She is a regular contributor to several national and international publications for women over 50 and is presenting an online class this November through the American Institute of Image Consultants.

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June 10, 2021


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