Help me find a structured jacket!
August 25, 2011 3:18 PM   Subscribe

So, I watch TLC's What Not to Wear quite often and they always recommend wearing a structured jacket even with casual wear. I'd like to try it, but it's more difficult than it seems. First, I really don't want to pay more than $100 and a lot of the jackets I see online are more than that. Also, I'm an attorney and I do have a lot of suit jackets, but somehow wearing a suit jacket with jeans seems wrong. Like the suit jacket is too formal for jeans. So any advice about finding a relatively inexpensive casual structured jacket would be appreciated. Or if you successfully wear a suit jacket with casual wear let me know about that too. I am female, mid-thirties, and a size 10 or 12.
posted by bananafish to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (30 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
I've had good luck with shaped non-suit jackets. There are a lot of denim ones but also a lot of ones in other fabrics. I find mine at Thrift Town, generally, though I've had good luck at sales and online.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:22 PM on August 25, 2011

I've had good luck with the "military style" jackets that are still fashionable, too. (I'm thinking this look more than army surplus, though it might not be the best example.)
posted by small_ruminant at 3:26 PM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Gap and Old Navy tend to have some nice velvet and corduroy blazers this time of year, and I think those look great with jeans.
posted by decathecting at 3:28 PM on August 25, 2011 [3 favorites]

I have a jacket like this "twill anorak" that I think is perfect for casual summer wear (in colder climates) - if it's not structured enough, it can be tailored. This knit blazer is another nice one, for fall.

Personally I like to wear work blazers with casual wear, but if you're not into that (and that's OK) I think the salient points for casual jackets are:

(1) shorter rather than longer - casual jackets tend to hit high- to mid- hip - this is generally called a blazer, but NOT a boyfriend blazer (that would be unstructured).
(2) non-suit, non-cheap-looking fabrics - this generally means cotton (twill, corduroy, denim, etc)
(3) You can be a little more playful - zippers, pockets, big buttons.
posted by muddgirl at 3:32 PM on August 25, 2011

I have this suede jacket for just such occasions. It's a little more than $100, but this similar jacket is right at $100. It looks perfect with blue jeans, pulls an outfit together, and is nicely structured (yokes and vertical seaming).
posted by katemonster at 3:36 PM on August 25, 2011

I have found mine in dept stores and even places like Old Navy, so they don't have to be pricey. Don't have an image of a suit jacket in your mind when you look around, because that's not quite the look they are talking about. Also, I think the time of year matters - you might not see a lot of jackets on the racks during the summer (even ones made of lighter fabrics), but when fall clothes start to get rolled out you will see a lot more.

On preview...the one muddgirl posted is a pretty common style that you can find inexpensively.

I love structured jackets, they can do a lot for an otherwise plain outfit. One thing I will advise is to not get discouraged if you try on a couple and they don't fit quite right....I find it takes a few tries to find one that is structured in a way that fits you well.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 3:39 PM on August 25, 2011

This isn't a recommendation in jacket wear, per se, but I've found that it's best to roll or push up the sleeves for that casual jeans look.

(But not if you're wearing a long-sleeved shirt underneath. Then it's just lumpy and weird.)
posted by functionequalsform at 3:44 PM on August 25, 2011

You have to have really nice, well fitted jeans to pull off the look.
posted by yarly at 3:47 PM on August 25, 2011

Anthropologie has lots of blazers, and their aesthetic is very weekend-dressy. I find their prices too high for the quality, but it might be a good source of inspiration.

I once found a really pretty jacket at Old Navy, so nthing there. H&M is likely to have casual jackets, too. Filene's Basement and Nordstrom Rack might, too.
posted by Metroid Baby at 3:50 PM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

J Crew used to make really nice 'casual' structured jackets which I loved, but I still found them a bit awkward to wear. My casual trumps their casual definition I guess. But I think they cost $200. But they last...
posted by bquarters at 3:53 PM on August 25, 2011

It seems to me that places like Nordstrom Rack and Filene's Basement have a lot of short jackets at ridiculously marked down prices. I'm talking jackets (long sleeved) that end right at your rib cage than at your hip to meet your pants. (I assume this is why there are so many available.) However, I wear a lot of A-line cut dresses, which mesh perfectly with this shape of jacket. My favorite one is a navy blue and military style with cool buttons and pockets--it cost $9. (I KNOW!)

It seems like you're asking specifically about jackets to wear with jeans, but if you do wear a lot of dresses with this kind of cut, you might luck out on finding really awesome short jackets at a steal.

Check out places like Nordstrom Rack, Filene's Basement, TJ Maxx, Ross, and Marshalls.
posted by phunniemee at 3:54 PM on August 25, 2011

In the past, I've noticed that Coldwater Creek has a ton of really cute non-suit jackets. They would all be perfect with jeans.
posted by angab at 3:54 PM on August 25, 2011

Here's the link. Two adorable jackets, right on the front page!
posted by angab at 3:56 PM on August 25, 2011

I like to wear blazers that are tailored like suit jackets but are made out of more casual fabrics. Specifically kind of jersey cottony type stuff. If you have a Zara, H&M and/or Uniqlo* in your area they all tend to have good blazers like this.

*If you have a Uniqlo I am the jealous!.
posted by grapesaresour at 3:58 PM on August 25, 2011

This is like J Crew's stock in trade. Check out their schoolboy and novelty jackets in particular for shapes and how to style them with casual clothes.

They're all expensive, of course (and totally overpriced, IMO), so once you have an idea of silhouettes you like, hie thee down to the local thrift/vintage shop or go onto ebay. Lapels, length, and shoulders can date a jacket pretty seriously, but you should be able to find some that work, especially online where you'll find last year's jackets at a pretty serious discount. Jackets are a good choice for buying used; people get rid of them when they look dated or outgrown, but they're worn infrequently enough to generally be in good condition.

General tips:

- Make sure a jacket *really* fits you well; otherwise you'll just look rumpled once it's paired with casual clothes. Take a cheap jacket to a tailor, even, to fine-tune the fit of the shoulders. It will make all the difference. Always opt for real good fit over a jacket that relies on stretch to cover up poor fit.

- Go for shorter (high hip) rather than longer in casual jackets.

- Choose classic natural fibers: Cotton corduroy, suede, and wool in the fall/winter; linen, silk, and cotton in the spring/summer. Synthetics never look good with the serious structure jackets need to have to look right.

- Make sure the proportions work between your jacket and your bottoms. A jacket is a lotta top; even when they're fitted, go for simple bottoms without too much happening. Narrow legs on pants, pencil rather than A-line skirts, etc.

- Don't get too earnest, make sure the rest of your outfit is kind of fun—stripes, mixes of knits and wovens, fun prints, some soft texture in your top underneath, fun jewelry. It takes a lot of brio to pull of something really plain like a jacket, jeans, and like a plain button-up—and if you don't have that, you'll just end up looking like you didn't quite know what to wear to your first casual Friday. Play it safe and be deliberately softer instead.
posted by peachfuzz at 4:01 PM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah, J Crew is your friend. I have two of their blazers, and they've lasted and looked great for years -- a navy blazer isn't a bad thing to invest in. I wear mine ALL. THE. TIME. Casual-ize it by pushing the sleeves up.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 4:04 PM on August 25, 2011

Oh also!

Definitely don't overlook 3/4 sleeves on casual jackets, even for fall/winter. And make sure you wear a shoe that has some edge to it—unless you can do the completely deconstructed thing, like jacket, jeans, and chucks (and I generally find that you can't if you're over the age of 19), wear shoes with a little heel, or a pointy toe, a funky strap, or some other feature that makes it not a completely blah shoe. It will be one more thing to pull the outfit together.
posted by peachfuzz at 4:08 PM on August 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

I've had a ton of luck with hitting the clearance rack at Ann Taylor for those kind of jackets -- occasionally getting a seamstress to dart in the sides to make it sleeker and better fitting.

Make sure the shirt and jeans underneath aren't bulky and the shirt neckline isn't higher than the lapels.

I throw on good shoes and nice earrings or a necklace to make sure it doesn't look like I was gardening and just threw on a suit jacket. Except of course that I keep a nice jacket in my car in case of business emergencies, so there have been times when I have pulled off the sweaty casual clothes with a nice jacket.
posted by Gucky at 4:16 PM on August 25, 2011

Nthing J Crew. They always have lots of structured jackets, especially in the fall and winter seasons. I recommend cruising the clearance section of their website every so often to see what might have moved into your price range (I snapped up a velvet jacket from the clearance section a couple years ago for about $60, and I love it).

I wouldn't wear a suit jacket with casual clothes. It's not quite the right look, and you risk ruining your suit if you spill something on the jacket.

Finally, I have to throw in a recommendation for ShopStyle. MetaFilter introduced me to it, and now I bring it into every clothes-shopping thread I comment on. Here's a search for women's blazers in the $50 - $100 range.
posted by Orinda at 4:20 PM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Bean's chino jacket, Galway wool jacket, corduroy cargo jacket. The only one that breaks 100$ is the Galway and it is worth it.
posted by oflinkey at 4:23 PM on August 25, 2011

Zara is on a blazer kick this season, with some beauties right around $100. Although I will grab a suit jacket and throw it over a tank and jeans, I think Clinton and Stacy overdo the jacket advice a bit ... you can change it up with cardies or tunics or boyfriend sweaters for different looks. Just play around until you hit on a look you like!
posted by thinkpiece at 6:14 PM on August 25, 2011

Another point for casual blazers: unless they're the cropped type that phunniemee was talking about, go for two-button styles if they suit your body type. They create a more modern shape than some of the three-button blazers. This doesn't necessarily apply if you're looking at more cargo-inspired jackets or jackets without lapels.
posted by thisjax at 7:32 PM on August 25, 2011

Mrs. mmascolino recommends Ann Taylor and Ann Taylor LOFT.
posted by mmascolino at 8:00 PM on August 25, 2011

I basically do this all the time b/c it lets me wear jeans and t-shirts and sneakers and still look somewhat put together. I think of it as the mullet of outfits, all business on the top and party on the bottom.
I have a black almost suiting, mid length wool blazer from club monaco (tex manhattan blazer) that i can roll up the sleeves then have dark fitted simple jeans. Then I can wear a colourful t-shirt/blouse and maybe some colour in my shoes.

So yeah I think its a pretty standard look. I saw 5 people on the subway the other day with slightly dressier variations on the theme.
posted by captaincrouton at 8:13 PM on August 25, 2011

Talbot's has some nice casual jackets that are affordable during sales.
I'm not sure that I would try to wear an "obviously a part of a suit" kind of jacket with casual wear.
But the fun thing about shopping for jackets is that you can always find your size--I find it much easier than pants or dress shopping.
posted by calgirl at 8:25 PM on August 25, 2011

J Crew's quality has really gone down, I say this as someone who's bought quite a few jackets there. I don't go for the structured jacket with jeans look (I really don't understand those rules, I'll stuck to my unstructured styles!).. but if you do, I think it's best with dark denim jeans that are slightly boot cut, and they have to be fairly nice jeans. The J Crew stylists are good and the way they do this, with tweeds and wool flannels and corduroy blazers - it does work. If you're considering a blazer on eBay or on final sale, if you Google the style name, there is a little world of shopping blogs which review a lot of items found in the Crew/Banana Republic/Anthropologie/etc type of store - you can often find useful information on fit and see how it looks on a real person before buying. You might find a good casual blazer from the Land's End Canvas line in your price range.
posted by citron at 8:39 PM on August 25, 2011

Boden has some great blazers.
posted by k8t at 9:08 PM on August 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

My favourite black blazer is from H&M and although I can't remember how much I paid for it, there's no chance it was anywhere near $100. The reason I think it works well for casual wear (wore it with ripped jeans just yesterday) is that it's meant to be worn with the sleeves rolled up a few times with a stripey pattern in the sleave lining that shows up. Casual blazers great with jeans and flats. I like to toughen the look up with pointy flats that have little metal stud details on them.
posted by like_neon at 1:52 AM on August 26, 2011

I have a small black jacket that looks just like the blue one in angab's link and it spiffs up pretty much any outfit I add it to. The trick is that it fits me pefectly, so it's very slimming. Both jackets at that link have something great that you shoud keep an eye out for when buying a jacket -see that seam that runs vertically halfway between the front opening anad the side seam? That runs up the bustline, and means that there is a smooth addition of fabric right where it is needed, at the bust and at the hips. Clothing with a seam there will often fit wonderfully, and be very flattering.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:54 AM on August 26, 2011

I'm a huge fan of Asos for this sort of thing - just check out the variety of styles and colours at the link, and that's just when you filter by 'blazers'. I also love that they have short runway videos so you can see how the fabric moves, which is crucial when picking out a jacket I think.

Personally, I go for shorter jackets with cropped sleeves (or sleeves that are easily rolled up) for a more casual look. I also tend more towards tees and tank tops underneath rather than collared shirts, to avoid too much of a muchness around my neck. A structured jacket is a great way to tone down the sexiness of a slinky, low-cut top, so is a great day to night item. Jeez, I sound like a catalogue, so I'll stop now.
posted by guessthis at 8:33 AM on August 26, 2011

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