Posts Categorized: tutorial

Reader Request: How to Fit a Blazer

Reader Jamie left this request in a comment:

Not sure if you’ve covered this in your posts before, but would you do a post on how to determine proper blazer fit? I have an expensive blazer I bought at Filine’s Basement over 10 years ago, but have NEVER worn it. It’s a navy blue wool Ralph Lauren made it Italy blazer, really nice, lined in silk. I’m struggling with the fit, it seems almost too long, almost covers my whole bum, even though the sleeves are the right length. And I have no idea what to wear it with.

SUCH a great question. I adore blazers and jackets, as I feel they can add structure and polish to virtually any outfit … but they can be tricky little beasts. Finding blazers that fit off the rack is challenging for most women, regardless of size or figure shape. I always recommend thrifting for blazers because they can be annoyingly expensive and are durable enough garments that they can typically last through several owners and still hold up. But thrifting for blazers exposes you to an even wider variety of  lengths, styles, and fits from bygone eras, many of which will seem almost perfect. But not quite.

So let’s start with how to determine if a blazer fits YOU.

Shoulders first

Again, very few women can waltz into Ann Taylor, grab a blazer off the rack, and have it fit perfectly in every way. And, in my experience, even women who can fit blazers relatively well often encounter shoulder fit issues. Blazers can be altered, and when you find one that fits almost-perfectly you should definitely consider getting it tailored. But shoulder alterations are complex and costly, so if you can find a style that fits your own shoulders and needs some tweaks elsewhere you’re in good shape.

The shoulder seam of the blazer should hit right about where your own shoulder ends. If it falls closer to your neck, it’s too small. If it juts out over where your shoulder begins to slope downward, it’s too big. Hug yourself while wearing the blazer. If it pulls a little, that’s fine. If it pulls a lot, it might not be your best bet. (Hug gently. You’ll be ever so cranky if you hug yourself and rip a seam. Plus you’ll be mad at me. So, ya know, go easy.)

Although full-on shoulder pads aren’t common now, a little padding or added structure in the shoulders isn’t unheard of. If you are self-conscious about your broad shoulder line, seek unpadded styles. If you wish your shoulders had a wider span, padded blazers can work wonders for ya.

Sleeves next

Sleeve alterations are relatively simple, although they’ll be more expensive if your blazer is lined. Regardless, be sure to consider sleeve fit. 3/4-sleeve styles have considerably more leeway, but full-length sleeve fit is fairly specific. (I’ll admit to letting this one slide myself, but I mostly cover my tracks by cuffing.) A full-length blazer sleeve should hit just a little bit above the top joint of your thumb if you’re standing with your arms at your sides. Your wrist itself should be covered. Simple as that.

Then bust

In most cases, if a blazer doesn’t fit you in the bust you will TOTALLY know it. In my case, there is often excess material that causes extremely amusing sagging. Like someone has tacked wet Ziploc baggies to my chest. For women with larger busts, you may experience pulling. A blazer that fits properly in the bust will cover about half of each breast (measured from vertical outside working in toward the navel) and skim over the covered area without bunching or wrinkling. Ideally, it should fit beautifully both buttoned and unbuttoned. However, a blazer that fits great buttoned but looks wonky unbuttoned won’t be as versatile as its opposite. In my opinion – and Angie’s got my back on this one – a blazer that fits properly in the shoulders, bust and torso but cannot be buttoned all the way without some pulling is just fine. Most of us wear our blazers unbuttoned most of the time anyway, so if it comes close but can’t quite button properly, you’re good.

And, of course, torso

Again, you’ll likely know, here. But generally speaking, you want the blazer to follow the natural curves of your body without pulling or sagging. If you’ve got wrinkles at the sides or across the back, the blazer is too small in the torso. If you’ve got gobs of extra fabric around your midsection, the blazer is too big in the torso.

Other resources on fitting blazers properly:

Now let’s talk blazer styles.

Pants blazer vs. skirt blazer

If you’re wearing a skirt and top, you want your top to be relatively short – between two and three fingers’ width below your navel. If you wearing pants and a top, you want your top to be longer – between two and three fingers’ width above your crotchpoint. This also applies to blazers. Let’s take a look:

Proper blazer lengths for skirts and pants

Although the blazer on the left is being shown with pants, it’s actually more suited to being paired with a skirt or dress. It hits higher on the hip and is shorter overall. The blazer on the right will look slightly off if worn with a skirt, but is a good length for wearing with pants. So, shorter blazers with skirts/dresses, longer blazers with pants. This is NOT a hard and fast rule, of course, just a guideline. Much will depend on your figure and preferences, but in working with my clients I’ve found that most look best pairing short styles with skirts and long styles with pants.

Buttons and stance

“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 jobs. Let’s look:

blazer button stance

The blazer on the left fits beautifully … but that high stance can look a little dated and matronly. The blazer on the right also fits well, and the lower stance seems more modern. NOW. I realize that bust size and stance interact. Busty women may find that low stance, single-button blazer will open up awkwardly at the chest while higher styles sit a bit quieter. Other busty women may find high stance blazers intolerable due to where the bustline falls. It’s all extremely personal. Some three-button, high-stance blazers are gorgeous – I own a few myself! – and if that style works for your figure, then by all means wear it. But if you’ve got blazers in your closet that aren’t getting worn and you can’t figure out why they seem “off,” see if it’s high stance.

Overall length and shape

Length and shape are other factors that may make your thrifted or decades-old blazers seem dated or frumpy. Yes, it’s true, “boyfriend” EVERYTHING means that long, loose styles are everywhere we turn. But today’s long/boxy will look slightly different than 80s long/boxy. Well, most of the time. Let’s look:

blazer fit

I’m flabbergasted to report that the blazer on the left is current. Designer even, and expensive as hell. (Theory, if you’re curious.) To me, that super long, super boxy fit is very vintage, although most 80s styles have more buttons and a higher stance. The blazer on the right is also current and also long – appropriate for pants – but more fitted and contemporary looking. Now, again, you get to have taste. If you love the look of a oversized, loose blazer, embrace that look! But if, as Jamie did, you feel like your butt-covering blazer might date you, opt for shorter, more fitted styles moving forward.

Finishing touches

blazer lapels buttons pockets

Lapel width, button or closure type, and pocket design and placement can all affect how a blazer works with your shape. With lapels, consider scale: Petite women often favor smaller lapels or lapel-free designs which work with their smaller frames. Flap pockets can jut out awkwardly if placed wrong, but can define and complement your curves if placed correctly. And button and closure style and placement will impact the overall look and fit of any blazer.

And even though that post was impressively long, it is far from comprehensive. Definitely check Angie and Kelly’s posts for more details and information. As always, none of my figure flattery advice posts should be considered gospel, including this one, and I fully expect you to read them with a grain of salt. Style “rules” are merely guidelines, no matter who is dispensing them. I trust you to use your judgment. And I trust you to take what applies to you, discard the rest, and assume positive intent.

So! What fit challenges do YOU face when shopping for blazers? Where are you willing to compromise? Anyone out there a stickler for stance? Lapel width? Let’s hear it all in the comments!

First four images courtesy Macy’s, next two courtesy Nordstrom, final two courtesy Macy’s.

This post has been revived from the archive.

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How to Get Rid of Muffin Top

Disqus closed comments randomly again. HURRAH. Here’s a repost with an open thread …

how to get rid of muffin top

Back in the fall, I had a speaking gig at a big financial corporation in St. Paul. Once we dug into the Q&A – my favorite part – the audience members began plying me with fabulous questions. And one I’ve gotten time and again came up: “How do I get rid of muffin top?”

In my opinion, there are two answers to that question: Buy larger pants, or buy differently shaped pants.

In the majority of cases, muffin top is not an inevitability that should be worked around and disguised. It is a sizing or fit issue. For most people, midsection spilling over the waistband is a sign that pants are either too small or in a style/cut that doesn’t suit your frame.

Your pants are too small

Have I mentioned lately that clothing sizing is a load of arbitrary bunk? Because it IS. Head out to a vintage or thrift store sometime and try on your current numeric size of clothing through several decades. Oh, the laughs you’ll have. I have thrifted up everything from size 4 to size 16 in my time, and at this point, I generally ignore the tags and eyeball fit instead. And even if you aren’t a ninja-level shopper who can tell at 20 paces if pants will fit your curves, here’s something you can do: Ignore tags. Ignore sizing. When you try on bottoms, take a size above and a size below your typical size. If the larger size fits better – if it fits to your waist without pinching or subdividing your midsection – that is the size you should buy. If the size number bugs you, cut out the tag. Forget about the number, focus on the fit. Ideally, pants shouldn’t dig into your midsection, and in many cases going up a size or two can alleviate digging. (The next tip may address this in some cases, but if sizing up in the waist makes your pants too big elsewhere remember that they can be tailored.)

Your pants are the wrong shape

I hated pants for SO LONG because around the time I became a fully-formed adult human, the only pants available to me were low-rise. Remember the 90s, people? The variety of styles and cuts we have now did not exist back then. Times have changed, and for the better: Most folks can access low-, mid-, and high-rise pant styles new or used and in the gamut of sizes. There are even styles designed to work with small waists and large hips, and lines that aim to fit a variety of body shapes. In many cases, muffin top is caused by wearing pants that are too low in the rise. Many figure types carry more squish lower on the abdomen and less toward the bra line. So simply switching to a higher rise can make the waistband spillover vanish, in some cases. (Including mine.) The opposite is true on other figures: More softness is found higher on the torso and less toward the pelvis and hips. Trying a lower rise can help in this case. Muffin top occurs when waistbands dig into parts of our bodies that are softer and easily subdivided. Placing your waistband on a part of your torso that is less soft can work wonders. Yet another possibility: Your waist doesn’t curve in where the pant waistband expects it to. If you have a more straight-up-and-down torso shape without a defined waist, consider trying men’s jeans which are designed for a mostly curve-free figure shape. You won’t have as many wash and style choices, but you might just land on a few great pairs that fit without pinching. (Again, if waistband fit is the most challenging, buy pants that fit there and have them tailored elsewhere as needed.)

Also possible? Your underpants are too small

I’m a size 10/12 on the bottom. I generally buy XXL panties. In an ideal world, your underwear shouldn’t dig or subdivide either. This can be harder to make into a reality, I know, but be aware that your panty size and your pant size may not be the same. Again, ignore the numbers. Focus on fit. If you can find a style and size that fit to your curves without digging into your body, buy and wear those.

Are these universal truths with absolutely no exceptions? Of course not. Some bodies are shaped in such a way that waistband spillover will occur no matter the size or shape of the pants. If this is the case for you and if the spillover bugs you, there are other options: Look for bottoms made from softer materials or with softer waistbands that won’t dig as harshly, wear thicker or more structured outer layers with any pants that cause spilling, layer a snug but untucked tank or camisole between your top and pants. Also be aware that dresses and many skirts don’t cause these issues as often or as severely on many frames. (All of these work-arounds will work for most people, but I’d encourage you to try sizing up or changing pant style first if you think it might help.)

And, of course, if you experience muffin top no matter what you try, there is absolutely nothing “wrong” with you or your body. I mean it. Most of the clients I’ve worked with have been able to eliminate or lessen spilling by changing pant size or shape, but not all of them have. This phenomenon gets lots of negative attention because, in many cases, it can be avoided. But not in all cases, and no one ever seems to acknowledge that. If you can and want to experiment with fit and sizing to avoid muffin top, by all means do. If you’ve tried everything and it still happens, think of this advice like a tall woman reading tips for petites: It just doesn’t apply because that’s not how you’re shaped. End of story.

Furthermore, none of my figure flattery advice posts should be considered gospel, including this one, and I fully expect you to read them with a grain of salt. Style “rules” are merely guidelines, no matter who is dispensing them. I trust you to use your judgment. And I trust you to take what applies to you, discard the rest, and assume positive intent.

So. Are you someone who struggles with muffin top? Have you experimented with different sizes and rises? What’s working for you? If you are someone who gets waistband spillage no matter what, do you try to find workarounds? Any others to add?

P.S. Why does all figure-related jargon have to reference food? Eesh.

Images courtesy 6pm.

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