Posts Categorized: proportion

Reader Request: Styling a Denim Jacket

how to style a denim jacket

Reader Laurel sent this request to me via e-mail:

I was wondering if you would be willing to do a post about how to style jean jackets. With Spring finally starting to thaw, the season of lightweight jackets is upon us, and with ’90s fashion being a big trend right now, I’ve been looking at my jean jacket again, but really don’t know what to do with it. Mine is your kind of typical jean jacket – medium wash, hits at the waist, a little boxy – definitely not high fashion. Any suggestions?

I remember including a denim jacket on my own personal wardrobe must-have list a couple of years ago and having several readers laugh at me. But I’ve stuck to my denim-y guns! My jean jacket doesn’t get loads of wear, but I’ve had the same one for several years and I end up reaching for it at least a couple of times per season. Here are my tips for making a denim jacket look chic and contemporary.

Make sure it fits

So Laurel may curse me for saying this, but that standard-issue 90s denim jacket in all it’s glorious boxiness? It’ll be harder to style than an updated version. Denim is stiff and thick, so few jackets will truly hug your figure, but the ones on the racks now will be a bit more fitted than many vintage styles. Boxy jackets are big for spring, of course, and there are ways to make them work … but if your jean jacket really swamps your figure or totally masks your curves and you’d rather show your body’s form a bit more, springing for an updated one might help. Even thrifting a jacket that was made in the past two to three years may help.

Consider proportion

Since even denim jackets with spandex and princess seams will fit a little loose and boxy on most folks, heeding the proportions of your outfit is key. In most cases, this means making sure your bottom half is relatively well defined, either by a slim pair of pants or a skirt that shows a little leg. Depending on how it fits and how you’re built, your jacket may work beautifully with flowy bottoms, too, like maxi skirts and wide-legged pants. But if you find that you look a little square and curve-free up top, consider balancing the boxy with a figure-highlighting bottom.

Play with juxtaposition

Denim jackets are quintessentially rugged and casual, which means they work wonderfully paired with items that are a bit dressy, frilly, or otherwise not-rugged and casual. Try your denim jacket with a floaty sundress or a sequined tee and miniskirt. Do a fluid blouse and tuxedo pants or a diaphanous tiered maxi dress. Anything that’s traditionally feminine or sparkly or the antithesis of utilitarian Americana.

Go West

Since warm weather is on its way, my inner cowgirl is clawing to get out and I do love seeing denim jackets in Western mixes. Think Sundance Catalog, with long necklaces, dusty boots, and piles of bracelets. Or go for a weathered graphic tee, chino skirt, and fun sandals. Anything that draws in a little bit of rugged ranch life and a little bit of sleek urban chic.

Embrace the unexpected

Looking back over some of my own outfits, I found that I’ve tended to pair my denim jacket with my weird pants. Case in point: The outfit above. I love those pants, but they are definitely cargo sweats with a REALLY tall ankle cuff. Denim jackets are classic and ever so American, so they can work really well with arty, funky, sculptural pieces. So long as the proportions work, that is.

Would love your input, too, of course! How do you style your denim jacket? Is this a classic piece in your opinion, or one you can live without? Other tips for making jean jackets look contemporary?

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Making the Most of Your Wardrobe with a Changing Body

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Since high school, my body has gone from a size 16 and 200 pound body to a size 10/12 and 150 pound body, and bounced up to a size 20 and 235 pound body.  Currently, I’m hovering around a size 18 and about my high school weight.  I’ve been on the path to developing a healthy and fit body, whatever that size may be. (Above: the same two dresses, two size different sizes… and not a whole lot of difference.)

This means that over the last 10 years, my closet has gone through some dramatic overhauls– ones that I’d like to prevent happening in my future.  It’s hard for me to practice what I preach of buying quality, beautiful garments I’ll keep forever when I can’t fit into them 4 years later.

I’m not sure if this bouncing is drastic for most women, but I imagine when you consider aging and pregnancy, that it’s not unusual for women to go through some dramatic weight shifts over the course of their lives.  And like most women, I’m on a budget: I don’t have the time or money to replace my wardrobe entirely each time my body goes up or down a size.

Knits:

Knits are lovely. They’re easy to care for and are generally more forgiving fit wise than non-stretch fabrics can be.  In my experience, you can also get more size range out of a knit piece than a rayon or silk one.  My size Large Gap t-shirt may fitted at a size 16, become relaxed at a size 14, and loose on a size 12 body.  The stretch and ease makes it easier to accommodate subtle shifts in your body, without making you feel self-conscious. There are many wonderful knits that can dress up or down (like linen knits or ponte knits).  This helps keep your wardrobe look more polished while your body changes.

Shop: Trashy Diva Jenny Dress; eShakti knit tops; City Chic Ponte Knit pieces

Elastic Waists:

Not just for ya gramma!  It took me a while to accept elastic waists, and occasionally I still feel a bit dumpy or insecure in them.  WHICH IS RIDICULOUS. Overall, a bit of elastic can go a long ways for helping with fit.  I love a dress with a little slip of elastic in the waist, or a skirt with a back panel of elastic.  It creates ease and comfort when sitting, especially in more structured or stiff fabrics. It also makes it easier for skirts to transition between sizes– an elastic waistband with a fuller skirt can help you transition between sizes easily.

Shop: ASOS Curve Shirt Dress

Shape & Silhouette:

As much as I love a 1940s shape, it’s very fitted and defined.  If it’s too big or too small, it’s not quite as forgiving as a shirt dress, swing dress, or wrap dress.  A playful circle skirt can be worn at your natural waist and then shift to your hips (or vice versa) with a loss or gain in weight.

In general, I’m haven’t been a fan of wearing oversized pieces– it reminds me of high school Ashley who wore XL and XXL t-shirts to hide her body.  That being said, I’ve begun to love a loose button-up blouse because it has a little bit of Katherine Hepburn-esque ease and class, while giving me flexibility to create a better silhouette.

Shop: ASOS Curve Swing Dress; Modcloth Grand Tour Top

Belts & Layers:

If the weather permits, layers can be a great way to disguise a piece during a transitional period. A cardigan over a button-up top can hide a button that keeps popping open or that a shirt has become baggy and shows your bra (because face it: these things happen to ALL of us).  A pretty camisole can make a button-up blouse or dress wearable in a pinch when your bust outgrows the shirt.

Similarly, a belt, simple as it may be, can help hold up the skirt that has gotten a little too loose, or add definition to a swing dress.  It can pull together two voluminous pieces (like a circle skirt & blouse).

Shop: ASOS Belts;

These are the ways that I’ve been maneuvering through my weight loss while keeping my wardrobe feeling fresh and “put together.”  When I’ve picked up new pieces, I’ve purchased them with transition in mind: how can this be styled to fit a shrinking body (or if I slip up and gain a few pounds).

Whether you’ve gone through bodily changes due to pregnancy, illness, weight gain or loss, I’d love to hear how you’ve made your wardrobe work through the changes!

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Call her Ash, Ashe, or Ashley– she doesn’t mind! Already Pretty contributor Ashley began blogging in 2007 about fashion and style to fill a void in her life while living in the wintery tundra of Indiana. Her blog Dramatis Personae focuses on food, life & style.  As a plus-sized woman, she loves promoting fashion for all women and shops that want to make all ladies feel beautiful.

**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for Dramatis Personae. See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details.

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Reader Request: Internal Style Conflicts

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Reader Sarah e-mailed this request to me:

I’m short and small-boned and hourglass-shaped, and I can find lots of advice for dressing that body type (full skirts, v-necks, nipped waists, tailored pants, etc.). However, I feel like there’s a clash between my body type and other elements: my face (apple-cheeked, not conventionally pretty), my hair (very short), and my personality (tomboyish, casual). When I wear skirts and dresses, which I do think suit my body, I feel very self-conscious, like I don’t match what I’m wearing. Clothes that I feel more like myself in (bootcut jeans, casual graphic tees) do not make me look my best. I wonder if other women struggle with this type of conflict, and how they deal with it.

In my opinion, this is a very important question. And I’m sure it’s one that many of you grapple with, if not constantly then occasionally. The world is brimming with rules and opinions about what “works best” for your figure type, and in exploring those recommendations you may find that they DO make you look traditionally stylish … but that some of them feel wrong, costume-y, or just plain uncomfortable. There’s no one right way to resolve this conflict, of course, but here’s what I told Sarah:

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The “looking your best” you’re focusing on has to do with maxims of traditional figure flattery. As a petite, hourglass-shaped woman those maxims will definitely push you toward v-necks, belted waists, knee-length or above skirts, and lots of traditionally “feminine” silhouettes and garments that will define your figure and balance your proportions. And although those styles probably make you look great by magazine-approved beauty standards, you just don’t feel like yourself in them. And in my opinon? THAT is a far more important consideration.

Looking good can impact how you feel, leading you toward more self-care-focused activities or bolstering flagging confidence. This is why I write about that look good-feel good connection: Because for many women, dressing in ways that make them look amazing can help them unlock positive feelings about themselves overall. But since the socially-sanctioned “looking good” in your situation clashes so strongly with your internal self concepts and makes you feel disconnected from your physical self and appearance, this idea needs some tweaking. That connection works both ways: Feeling “off” or badly about how you’re dressed can really impact how you feel about your body and self. Negatively.

Dressing to conform to traditional style and figure-flattery rules is never, EVER required. By anyone. If anyone ever tells you that there is one right way to dress for your body type, please send them directly to me and I will slap them in the face with a large fish. It is your body, so you get to make the decisions about how to clothe and present it. End of story. OK, not end of story, but Very Important Bit of Story. You have experimented with the looks recommended to you by style experts and seen how those looks affect your figure. But if you feel more like yourself in casual, tomboyish attire – bootcuts, graphic tees – then that is your sartorial home base. And there is nothing wrong with that. As the very wise Erin said so eloquently back in the day, you don’t have to be “pretty.” In my opinion, it is far more valuable and important to be happy, fulfilled, engaged … pretty can help, but it’s very seldom the endgame.

It might be possible to merge the recommended and internal styles a bit. Since you’ve played around with skirts and belts and suchlike, you probably know which of those items really made you feel great about your body and your looks. Can any of those work their way into your home base style? Could you try a graphic tee tucked into one of those full skirts, maybe with a fun belt? Do a fitted v-neck with your bootcuts and a cool pair of oxfords? Maybe there is a sartorial middle-ground to be had.

But there might not be. And that’s completely fine. If dressing in those recommended clothes makes you feel like you’re pretending to be someone you’re not, that just won’t work. Not in the long run. You’ve got to wear clothing that makes you feel like yourself.

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How many of you deal with internal style conflicts? Do expert recommendations make you look good, but feel … like someone other than yourself? What do you do when this problem arises?

Image courtesy Refinery Shop

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