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Make a Jacket Part of Your Signature Look

Make a Jacket Part of Your Signature Look

Dear Reader, welcome to Gloriously Vintage today. In the UK we are enjoying a great September, with the summery temperatures continuing into the month from August.  There is an autumnal nip in the early morning air and the evenings are cooler. We are moving into the time of year where a cool morning can give way to a warm afternoon.

 

Twice a year I do my Big Seasonal Changeover. I am not quite ready to do it as autumn officially starts on 22nd September.  It feels like an Indian Summer this year, which is lovely.  Once August is over I have a self imposed curfew on white shoes and handbags. I will still wear cream shoes and accessories but the adored white shoes of high summer are the first to be put away.  They are still in my wardrobe but very soon the largest white handbag will be exchanged for a large black patent one in the wardrobe space.  The shoes will have to wait now until next spring to be worn again.

 

Do you have a favourite garment you love to wear? Are you a dress or separates lover?

 

Well dear Reader, I love separates and suits.  Do chat in the comments about your best jackets!

It all stems from childhood as my “best outfits” when not in school uniform were suits.  My mother dressed me in matching skirt and jacket sets from about 5 -13 years old.  I had party dresses too, but the love of separates was rooted early on!

 

If pressed to choose I must say it is the jacket that is my all time favourite garment.

 

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In this photograph I am wearing my Gina Jacket.  It is a terracotta colour and was about £6 from Oxfam on line in the sale, about 3 years ago.  My dressmaker shortened the sleeves for me.  Here I am wearing it with a black pencil skirt, a lovely splashy bright scarf and pearls.

 

Why? Oh, dear Reader, jackets are versatile, can add texture and interest, work hard in the wardrobe and can take you from day to night with a change of accessories and jewellery.

 

You will see from my summer styling posts that it is not wearing a coat or a jacket that marks out the summer for me.  So once we hit September there is that glorious “in between seasons” time roughly mid September to mid October when the jacket comes into its own.

As cooler temperatures advance a Winter Coat can cover a jacket making snug layers. However when the suit or separates can be worn in all their glory – on view and accessorised perfectly – that is a golden point in the year.

 

If you really know your body shape, you can know the jacket style that works for you. Couple that with an awareness of cut and fit for different eras and you have an almost magic formula for elegance.

Why is a jacket so important? What makes it stand out?  How to wear it? How do you know when you have found the right one?  I will try you answer these questions using my personal style as an example.

 

Why is a jacket so important?

Here are some thoughts in answer to this question in no particular order or priority!

  • It can make or break an outfit
  • It must fit well and do what you want it to do
  • It will take a skirt/top combination up a number of gears
  • It will be a backdrop to display wonderful jewellery and scarves
  • Fur collars can change a jacket in A/W as no other accessory can.
  • If you can make it work as hard – match 3 or 4 skirts at least. I choose not to wear trousers for a dressed up look so I expect each jacket to match a minimum of 2 skirts and more if the choice has been expertly made!

What makes a jacket stand out?

To answer this question I have identified some key points to bear in mind when choosing one.

Cut and Fit

How long should the jacket be to suit your body shape? Does it nip in at the waist?  How long are the sleeves? For me, dear Reader, shorter lengths work well – about 24″ nape to hem.  I can wear 26″ and 22.5″ but; longer that 26″ is not so good on me.  Length makes all the difference to the outfit because of the proportion.

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This is a new purchase from Oxfam on line.  It is a Hobbs tailored jacket .  It is 68% wool and 32% Acrylic.  I loved the cut  immediately and the hounds tooth fabric.  It can be dressed up with different collars for the A/W – I am looing forward to making this jacket work hard in my wardrobe!

 

 

 

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The nipped in waist looks good with a straight skirt, but will also go with a pleated or fuller one.

 

The shoulder fit is vital.

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The shoulder looks good on this jacket.

Brush your hand down the opposite upper arm from the edge of the shoulder.  The shoulder of the jacket should be in line with your shoulder.  If it is too short then your shoulder fit is all wrong.  Equally, if the shoulder comes out too far past your natural body line the fit is not good.

 

Length

If I find a wonderful jacket in a great fabric that is too big I look and see if it can be refitted and shortened by my dressmaker. It is worth it as the finished jacket with be unique and of great quality. New jackets that are expertly tailored are beyond my budget.  I also hate to see other people in “my” jacket as can easily happen with new clothes.  So 23″ -24″ is a good length for me.

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This Eastex jacket was inherited from my mother in law.  My dressmaker took 4 inches off the length to remodel the jacket and give it a new lease of life!

 

 

When you are shopping for vintage it is so important to know your measurements and to be sure about the length that looks best on you.

 

Colour and Fabric

I love wool mixtures for in between seasons. Man made fabrics like polyester are great too but will have no warmth in them when the wind blows!  My man made jackets go away in early autumn.  The one or two I keep out for evenings are the first ones to go under a winter coat as the season progresses.  Colour and texture are the key to the success of the jacket.  Can you match tweed to jewellery?  Does the colour/texture compliment many of your scarves?  How does it sit with the skirt of your choice?  I love plain jacket/ patterned skirt combinations.  Plain jacket/skirt combinations take jewellery so well and complimentary patterns can work too.

 

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This is one of my “in between seasons” jackets.  I love the texture and colours in it.  In this photograph I am wearing it with a S/S look.  In the coming weeks I will be wearing it with a navy blue pencil skirt and navy court shoes and handbag.

 

If you look critically at the colour and texture of the fabric you can see the possibilities of the jacket working hard with pieces that are already in your wardrobe.

 

Collar

If you know the length that suits you, chances are you are very sure about the best style of collar. I love shawl collars.  They are soft and feminine and take scarves well.  Notched or revered collars are so smart.  It is very important to really understand whether one or two buttons and a deep V or a higher buttoning jacket suits you.  This depends on the fullness of the bust.  I am aiming at an hour glass figure and suit one or two buttons.  I have found some higher buttoning jackets to work too.

 

Buttons

Does the jacket have great buttons?

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This is another new purchase from Oxfam on line.  I have been watching this jacket on line for some time before buying it!   It is polyester, so now belongs in my S/S wardrobe.  I wanted a cream jacket to compliment most of my Summer skirts on cooler days.  The buttons are mother of pearl and have a slightly greenish tone in certain light.  The skirt in the photograph above looks great with this jacket because of the buttons.

 

It is possible to build up a collection of vintage buttons.  This is something I am doing now.   I try and buy some vintage buttons so can change then on jackets quite often to upgrade a look or to give faithful jacket a new look.  Buttons can be very tying.  A suit I bought in a charity shop had cream buttons on it.  I had them changed to a smoky grey and immediately the suit went with a lot of other tops and shoe /handbag combinations.

I buy jackets in charity shops for the buttons. The jacket will probably be too big or too long for me but will sport great buttons.  It can be cheaper to acquire buttons this way.  New buttons are expensive now and the quality does not compare to vintage buttons.

 

How to wear it?

Dear Reader the three ways I like to wear jacket are:

  1. Buttoned up
  2. Open
  3. Slung around the shoulders, like a cape.

Buttoned Up

Buttoned up is always more formal and smart.

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This jacket has an unusual style.  It almost has a peplum – you can see the split on the hip.  I like the way it adds interest to the side view, showing the skirt through the split.

If you make the jacket and skirt appear as “one” and treat it like a “dress” you can use accessories to powerful effect.  I love to wear at least one brooch or a group of smaller ones.  If I am going to a meeting and want to feel confident I choose a jacket that fits well on the shoulder and I wear it buttoned up.  The vital “first impression “is of elegance and power and can be very useful in some contexts.

I attend many meetings to do with the planning and organisation of Care for my elderly mother. It is always my objective to have the sartorial advantage, which silently reinforces the message that I mean business and will not settle for poor service or standards!

Open

An open jacket is more relaxed and can show off a lovely top underneath. It can work beautifully with brooches and scarves too.  Always try on the jacket open and look at the back view.  Some jackets look too baggy open.  Do think of this when you try on your outfit.  My grandmother always used to say to me that the back view was just as important as the front!

 

Around the Shoulders

Around the shoulders works well as long as it does not fall off! I use this way of wearing a jacket if I expect to take it off.  So going down to breakfast at an hotel, or going to the theatre for example.  Last A/W this was a popular way to wear coats and jackets loved by Victoria Beckham particularly.

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I am wearing this jacket round my shoulders, over my scarf and top.  A good fit on the shoulder helps the jacket to stay in place!

 

It is not so warm and is great for in between seasons. In winter I drape my winter coat around the shoulders if I have a light wool jacket and am getting into the car, for example.  It is fun to experiment and do some styling or trying on at home in front of a full length mirror.  Always check the back view.

Dear Reader, I use my landing as a dressing room at home with a full length mirror and hooks to prepare outfits I am going to wear and to air outfits before they are returned to the wardrobe.

 

How do you know when you have found the right one?

The answer to this question is dear Reader, the feeling of absolute delight when you put on a jacket that fits well on the shoulder, is the best length and just looks amazing on!

 

It is that moment when you say to yourself “Yes!  This works”! 

 

I plan my outfits for the whole of the Christmas period about 12 or more outfits – this involves going for as many “YES” moments as I possibly can.

 

 

The jacket that works hard in your wardrobe can be a powerful part of your signature look. Dear Reader, for me a plain black skirt can come into its own with a contrasting jacket and look different each time because of the accessories!  I think it is an easy way to extend the scope of the pieces in my wardrobe and I just adore adding fur collars or scarves, brooches of varying sizes and seeing the effect with various shoes and handbags.

 

Sometimes I have a styling session that is one skirt and jacket to see how adding different accessorises can push the outfit in many directions and find looks for different occasions! A styling session like this can confirm the jacket as part of your signature look.

 

Thank you to Glenn for taking the photographs of me in this post.

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About Gloriously Vintage

My name is Elizabeth. I am so thrilled to be learning how to write a blog about my adventures collecting vintage treasures. This new adventure is to mark my 60th Birthday this February in 2016 and to start this decade with something new. I have been collecting Powder compacts, 1950's costume jewellery, vintage handbags, silk scarves, vintage umbrellas and hats for over five years now. I try to wear and use as much of my collections as possible. This has added great enjoyment to my life! As a child my "best game " was always dressing up. I kept all my dressing up clothes in a large wooden banded trunk in the spare bedroom -the third bedroom. Creating outfits and characters, wearing jewellery always with a handbag and a powder compact I would play on my own for hours. Most of my treasures then came from jumble sales and bric a brac shops browsed with my parents on holiday. Life has a way of coming round full circle. In my fifties I found increasing joy in being able to just be myself and adopt the hairstyle I wanted and the vintage look that suited me. I source all my "top clothes" from Oxfam on line and charity shops Mixing new tops, shoes and sometimes handbags with my vintage accessories has given me a signature style that is unique. I have always tried to be an individual and not follow the crowd. I find most of my collections at vintage fairs, charity shops and going to Antiques for Everyone at the NEC has been a marvellous time for hunting out treasures and learning more about the things that have sparked real passion for me.

13 responses »

  1. Pingback: The Last of the Summer Colour | Gloriously Vintage

  2. Hi Elizabeth,

    I know it’s a little bit late for writting in your post, but better late than never writting, (I was on holidays and I didn’t look into the Internet at all).

    You’re so right when you talk about fitting. I still remember the “oversize jackets with enormous shoulder pads” that were the trend during the 1980’s. I dislaked them because they were too big but I loved one of my grandmother’s jacked, (navy colour). All of them so well tailored. At that time I also loved Coco Channel’s suits and jackets.

    As you can imagine I use jackets, they are perfect for “in between seasons” as you perfectly point out. I like tweeds for casual outfits and, depending on the fabric, other can go from the traditional office look to a more “going out” look. I also have few for special occassions like Christmas and events, (weddings for example).

    But the jackets I always loved are the ones used for ridding horses, the fit is so perfect!

    Thanks very much for this wonderful post.

    Wishing you a beautiful autumn,

    Eva

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    • Dear Eva, thank you so much for your interesting comment. It is never too late to comment on any post!
      I agree about the 1980’s shoulders – however those jacket shapes could make the waist look smaller! The Chanel suit jacket is iconic. I understand she based it on a cardigan.
      The jacket earns a special place in the wardrobe as is can work very hard for you. Once you find a great jacket shape that suits you – you will always look smart and feel confident, especially at work.
      I do hope you are having a good Autumn., ours is getting better with each week that passes!
      Best wishes, Elizabeth xx

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  3. I need to add at least one nice, formal or semi-casual jacket to my wardrobe! Unfortunately, they’re one of those garments I have such a hard time finding a perfect fit with, I have tiny little shoulders but a large bust and wide hips, so clothes often either pull too tightly across the front or hang off of my shoulders.

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    • Dear Carrie-Anne, Thank you for your comment. I do think you would find a jacket would work hard for you – particularly one for the A/W. However the difficulties you have with the fit are going to make it hard to find one that is going to do what you want it to do. If you are planning to have one useful jacket have you considered having one made for you by a reliable dressmaker or tailor? That way you would achieve a great fit. choose the fabric to suit a number of outfits in your wardrobe and have a garment that would be an investment piece that if classically styled would last for years. It is also an interesting process choosing fabric , lining and buttons from scratch. I wish you well I your quest to find a great jacket! Best wishes, Elizabeth xx

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  4. Dear Elizabeth, I really enjoyed this post too. 🙂 What a lovely surprise to see you writing about jackets and suits! I often wear a blazer, jacket or cardigan. Sometimes I will wear my cardigan over my shoulder with a vintage sweater clip. Seeing how lovely you look with your jacket like that I want to try that too.

    I never thought of jackets as being my signature look but perhaps it is. I have been wearing them at least 15 years now and when my husband met me, he thought I was a lawyer. I guess it is part of my signature look 😉

    I cannot wear longer jackets over 26” either or double breasted. I like 3/4 sleeves too and more buttons (at least 3). Isn’t it a great feeling when one finds a skirt suit that fits well or can be tailored?!

    It is a shame that today suits are not worn by pre-teens and teenagers. Of course, I wish more women would wear suits for every day wear. It is a great wardrobe basic when it is a neutral colour like black, navy or grey. One can wear the skirt and jacket together. Or a blouse with the skirt sans the jacket. Or the jacket with a different skirt, etc. People years ago had a lot less clothes but looked so elegant.

    I also like fur with suits. I recently found a grey faux fur pillbox hat that is a close match to my grey fur collar. I am looking forward to wearing that on different jackets.

    Best wishes,
    Dee

    P.S. Have a wonderful Autumn!!

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    • Dear Dee, thank you for your comment on this post. I love the vintage sweater clip you wear with a cardigan. Do you think it would work with a jacket made in a lightweight fabric?
      It does sound as though the jacket is part of your signature look too! I agree with you about 3/4 sleeves. They show off bracelets very well and also look great with long gloves. There is nothing quite like the delight when you find that skirt suit that does everything you need it to do!
      When you can split a skirt suit and wear it with different separates it is working doubly hard in your wardrobe and really is earning its place there.
      You were very lucky to find such a great faux fur hat in grey that will go with a collar you already have. That “set” will be marvellous to wear this A/W. I am getting ready this weekend to start my Big Seasonal Changeover and am also looing forward to wearing warmer clothes. It is starting to get cooler here in the UK as the end of September is now in sight.
      Best wishes, Elizabeth xx
      P.S I wish you a wonderful Autumn too!

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  5. Really lovely post, dear Elizabeth. I share your adoration of jackets/blazers and reach for them often myself, too – especially when the mercury starts to dip once again around this time of the year. Much like suits as a whole, blazers aren’t always the easiest thing for me to find examples of that fit me well, but when I do, it’s almost like a chorus of celestial angels start singing – and then I’ll wear and treasure said jacket for many years to come. I’ve been hunting for a great vintage or vintage appropriate dark (pine, forest, Hunter, etc) green one, as well as a mustard yellow version, for ages now, but haven’t hit upon winners (size + budget) for either yet. Perhaps this F/W will be the year that finally brings one or both of these may way (fingers crossed :)).

    Big hugs & joyful start of autumn wishes,
    ♥ Jessica

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    • Dear Jessica, Thank you for your comment – it is lovely to know you enjoy jackets too! I agree that when you find a jacket that fits well and ticks all the boxes it is wonderful. When you keep your clothes it is interesting how a different accessory can make a treasured jacket feel fresh and ready to work hard for you. I am getting geared up to changeover my wardrobe to A/W this weekend. It will be like welcoming “old friends” when the jackets come out! I wish you every success in your quest to find the two jackets you are looking for this season. When you find one you will know straight away if it is the one you need to fit into your lovely wardrobe! Big hugs from the UK and yes it is a joyful start to autumn xx

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  6. I dont have many jackets but you wear yours very well. I particularly like the last photo

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    • Dar Kate, Thank you so much for your comment on this post. This coming weekend will be the start of my Big Seasonal Changeover for the Autumn. The jacket in the last photo is a real favourite and will be coming out then. I have missed it over the S/S! It was from Oxfam and made a useful outfit with the black and white check skirt. Best wishes, Elizabeth xx

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  7. That Hobbs jacket is a lovely find! Your tips on choosing a jacket have got me thinking about what I should look for… Thanks! X

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    • Dear Samantha, thank you for your comment. I am thrilled with the Hobbs jacket and relieved it fits me! It is great that you enjoyed this post. When a good choice is made , the jacket can be a wardrobe staple for many seasons. Best wishes, Elizabeth xx

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