Reader Erin e-mailed me this request:
Every style blogger makes blazers look great, but I find them hard to style. They seem so versatile on the rack, but then seem frumpy (I’m 24), too dressy/formal, or occasionally too equestrian when I try to create an outfit with them. I’ve asked some stylish friends and several of them have run into the same issues. Do you have any tips or suggestions for styling blazers well?
It took me a while to feel like I could make blazers work within the context of my style, so I can relate to Erin’s frustrations. Blazers get a lot of play in fashion mags and advice columns, but they CAN feel a bit challenging. Especially if you’re still exploring your own personal style while trying to embrace the flattering and eschew the formal.
Here are a few tips to help make your blazer-based looks fun and interesting:
Find a blazer style that works for YOUR figure
I have thrifted the vast majority of my blazers because full-priced versions can be extremely expensive. But this means that about 80% of the blazers I find on the thrift racks get dismissed out of hand. Although I do experiment with a few longer styles, generally speaking I prefer a fairly short, almost cropped style of blazer with a well-defined waist. I also prefer single button closures, which accentuate my waist even further.
Thankfully, blazers are available in several shapes and a multitude of sizes. Do you like yours long and loose? Cropped and fitted? Contoured? Boxy? Do wide lapels suit you? How many buttons look best? Do strong shoulder lines help or hinder? Try on a variety of styles – again, I recommend the thrift stores for this – and make note of which blazer features work best with your body.
Experiment with dresses
Erin is specifically looking for ways to keep her blazer looks young and fresh, and I think the easiest way to strip a blazer of its potential stodginess is to pair it with a dress. Blazer-dress combinations are also easy to assemble and generally flattering. The dress creates a column of color or pattern along your torso, which is a great way to keep continuity within the outfit. If you’re struggling to find separates-based ensembles that look great with your blazers, try swapping in a dress.
Watch your proportions
Blazers have a tendency to become the dominant piece in any outfit because they are virtually always the top layer. They can also monkey with your proportions, so make sure to strike a balance. If you’re going for a boxy blazer, consider a fitted bottom. If you’re doing a snug fit, see how it looks with a flared or pleated skirt. Pay special attention to your shoulders, waist, and hips which are most likely to be enhanced or obscured by a blazer, depending on your figure and the blazer’s fit.
Another way to make blazers seem younger and hipper is to track down colorful versions. Neutrals are marvelously versatile, but bold brights are fun and funky. Taking a classic piece like a blazer and doing it in bright yellow, warm red, or lush purple is a fabulous way to punch up your style. Bright blazers look great in smart-casual looks, but can also add sass to workwear ensembles.
Since blazers themselves read a bit conservative, splash on a few accessories to loosen them up. Brooches may seem like a strange choice to funkify an outfit, but the right pin can really jazz things up. Layered necklaces or one big statement piece can look fabulous, and even if such showy jewelry generally intimidates you remember that it’ll just be peeking out from between your lapels. Scarves can also play well with blazers, and often introduce pattern and movement to what may otherwise be a pretty rigid look.
One final note: Most blazers are still crafted from traditional materials like wool or twill, but more manufacturers are beginning to experiment with softer, suppler fabrics. Jersey knit blazers can be tough to track down, but they’re a great alternative to more structured, lined versions.