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.
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.
The shoulder fit is vital.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Does the jacket have great 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:
- Buttoned up
- Slung around the shoulders, like a cape.
Buttoned up is always more formal and smart.
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!
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.
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.