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.

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

Originally posted 2014-11-26 06:16:36.

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9 Responses to “Reader Request: How to Fit a Blazer”

  1. what not

    I know it sounds nit-picky, but what’s the story with armholes? I feel like sometimes they’re too small or too large and that’s affecting the way the garment sits on me, but I’m not really sure.

    • Sally McGraw

      Not nit-picky! I haven’t had a lot of arm hole trouble myself or with clients, but if the arm holes are too small or large for your own proportions that will definitely affect overall fit. Too large will add volume to your perceived silhouette where there is none, too small will restrict your motion and probably give an impression of overall tightness. Arm holes are tough to tailor, so it’s best to try to find blazers that fit in the shoulders/pits off the rack. Unlined options may have a little more give. Hope that helps!

      • what not

        I could’ve sworn I responded to this. Anyway, I never thought about how much less restrictive an unlined blazer might be. Thanks!

  2. Lisa Wong

    Very thorough breakdown, Sal!

    I find as long as a blazer fits through the shoulders and bust, I’m golden. I also tend to buy blazers in petite sizing so the arms don’t have to be shortened: if there are finished buttonholes at the cuff, the arms will have to be shortened by detaching the sleeve at the shoulder and taking it in there, which is either very expensive or something that a run-of-the-mill alterations place won’t do.

  3. Rebekah Jaunty

    Wait: I know and accept that skirts will nearly always look better with shorter shirts/sweaters/blazers, and that pants look better with longer tops… but WHY is that true?

  4. Hazel Stone

    I have great Jaegar trouser suit for ultra formal work events, but the jacket doesn’t work with the dresses I mostly wear to work as the line is too long – it’s almost a Tux cut.

    So I went to a good department store on a quiet day (I actually took time off work to do this) and asked the staff in the ladieswear department to help me. I wore one of my work dresses, and the boots I normally wear. Since it was *really* quiet the staff were bored so they basically grabbed every black jacket in the store and I tried them on one-by-one while they conferred.

    We ended up with a Planet (great brand) jacket, nipped in at the waist, plus-size (I’m a UK size 18) but from their petites line. That last bit was a total shocker as I’m 5 ft 7! I would never have thought to look there But it’s actually the best fit I’ve ever had in a jacket – it turns out my height is all in my legs.

    So, to summarise. Try lots, get educated opinions.

  5. Sonja

    Great comprehensive post! If you read German (or don’t mind Google translator) I also recommend Die Modeflüsterin, who has lately published several posts about choosing the right blazer: http://blog.modefluesterin.de/