Elevated Basics: A Few Good Jackets

Emmanuelle Alt adds polish to her casual pieces with longer jackets and great shoes

Even though I’m no longer working in an office, I find that some of my jackets are still getting a lot of wear. Nothing puts the “polished” in Polished Casual like the right jacket. (Above: one of my style muses, Emmanuelle Alt, is also a fan of jackets.) For me the “right” jacket is one that isn’t too corporate, bulky, stiff, shrunken, or tailored to within an inch of its life. I like my jackets a little longer, and softly structured. In our climate, unlined tends to work best for most of the year.

The past few years have seen jacket styles leaning toward the boxy, short and shrunken, and I’ve often been frustrated trying to find options that feel right for my shape and style. But lately the Jacket Gods have been smiling; I recently found a longer bouclé tweed jacket, something that’s been on my wish list for years. And in the last few days I’ve run across a few more with serious Wardrobe Potential. Most of these are what I’d call Elevated Basics: simple and classic enough to have lots of versatility and longevity, yet with an interesting detail or two that makes them stand out.

long denim jacket

Let’s start with the most casual one, above. Denim jackets can be a versatile option, but if the traditional western style jackets aren’t your thing, here’s one with a Parisian vibe. It’s from the French brand Sézane, which I first became aware of when they did a collaboration with Madewell. It reminds me a little of the classic blue French “workman’s” jackets. I love the length and easy silhouette, as well as those pockets and stitching detail on the back. I’d wear it with my ponte knit pants, or even with mis-matched denim as shown above and a tee or silky popover shirt. And I’ll bet it would look great with white jeans too…

basketweave knit jacket

This basketweave knit jacket is SO much better in person than it looks online. That texture keeps it from looking like a wall of black. It’s cut generously, so I recommend sizing down. The fabric is really, really nice, softer than you’d think, and it’s washable. This could be a travel-friendly option for mild climates or shoulder seasons. Wool-free fabric. I’d wear this jacket and the rest below with my jeans or black ponte knit pants, and a tee or sweater. If you wear skirts more often, these would look great over simple sheath dresses or pencil skirts. IMO, longer jackets work best with a narrower bottom half, so if you’re a Long Over Lean gal, they’ll slot nicely into your wardrobe.

soft tweed jacket

Tweed without fuss. Love the longer length and the raw edge detail on the sleeves. Plus-size option HERE. Wool-free fabric.

cotton-tencel topper

Yes, it’s another black jacket, but this one’s also worth a second look. Sharp and modern lines, wonderfully textured, drapey knit fabric (wool-free and washable) and pockets too. Travel-friendly! Petite and Plus options available. (Online: use code NEWYEAR for $50 off until 1/13/17.)

knit tweed one button jacket

I’d wear this tweed jacket open, but that one button closure does create a nice nipped-in shape. It’s available in Misses, Petites, Women’s and Women’s Petite, and is on sale now. There’s a little bit of wool in the blend.

What’s your favorite style of jacket? Do you wear your jackets with casual outfits?

Emmanuelle Alt images via Pinterest, sources: here and here.

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22 Comments

  1. Nancy
    January 11, 2017 / 3:44 am

    Good Morning-Love the longer black jackets…any options in the range of $175,00 and under? I have no doubt the EF jackets are worth the cost but I just cannot spend that much on one piece of clothing.

    • Susan B
      January 11, 2017 / 6:44 am

      Hi Nancy, I’ll keep an eye out. Here’s one, a seamed riding jacket http://bit.ly/2jvhJxn Haven’t tried it on, but does seem to have nice lines and shape.

    • Shreddie
      January 12, 2017 / 6:54 pm

      Watch for sales. Almost every EF piece I have I got on sale. The stuff wears like iron.

  2. Ellen
    January 11, 2017 / 5:05 am

    I have one jacket, purchased 7 years ago.Classic tweedy boucle, slightly Chanel looking. I wear it, at the most, twice a year. Although we go locally to nice restaurants, theatre, opera, and orchestra, travel to other cities, etc., there rarely seems to be an occasion that demands a jacket and very few of them flatter my over-endowed upper half.

  3. Susan W H
    January 11, 2017 / 5:16 am

    I love watching your fashion evolution. Although I’m a different body type, I’ve followed your fashion journey this last year or so and I watch and learn. Speaking of watches, thanks for your posts on that subject!

    Here in the SF Bay area good jackets are a must all year round. After several years of looking for a red or other bright colored jacket, it dawned on me that my most frequently worn jacket are black, navy or gray. And it can’t be too stiff, too structured, or too unstructured. My favorites are tailored knit jackets. Thanks for this analysis. You’ve hit the bullseye.

  4. January 11, 2017 / 6:04 am

    I feel incomplete with out a “completer piece” as Stacey and Clinton used to say. But they have to be pretty structured. I love the Canadian brand Smythe and have an old boyfriend jacket from them that I wear a lot in the spring and fall. Love those flow-ey ones on you but not on me:) Also love that first tweed one you’ve featured with the raw-edged sleeve. So it’s just love, love love, when it comes to me and jackets, I guess.

  5. January 11, 2017 / 6:49 am

    The last one is my favorite. As a pear, I like a jacket with a fitted waist and not too long.
    Did you see the New York Times’ T Magazine piece on boxy suits? Blech!

  6. January 11, 2017 / 7:12 am

    I like jackets/blazers (and like Susan Burpee, really like my two Smythe jackets, both over 4 years old now, but still look current). The problem I have with them is that there’s so much of the year when they don’t make sense in my present lifestyle — i.e. they were fine when I could throw a coat over them to get to work, then hang the coat in my office, letting the jacket continue lending polish to my outfit. But now it can be as polished as can be under my coat as I walk the city streets and no one will see it anyway. Most jackets will not keep me as warm or as dry as I want to be, from November through April, so while I’ll always want to have a couple on hands for the bridge months and the cooler summer days, I’ve decided to be very careful about adding more. Despite their undeniable polish.
    Anyone else?

    • January 11, 2017 / 7:15 am

      Meant to add/acknowledge how much I enjoyed wearing my camel J Crew Regent’s blazer while traveling in Europe last fall where it was perfect for polish and warmth (with a scarf)

  7. January 11, 2017 / 7:30 am

    I tend to go with a long, lean sweater look rather than a jacket. I find jackets too confining..and yes, the recent boxy look left me cold.Anything long and lean looks great with leggings.

  8. January 11, 2017 / 7:32 am

    I like structured blazers on me, but never wear in LA….only for traveling. Love EA’s jacket on the left.

  9. January 11, 2017 / 8:15 am

    I love the polish a jacket lends to an outfit. Like you, the shortened or shrunken are not my fav. They just don’t fit my weight, and I’m not large. I prefer tightly woven knits with some give to them. Your tweed one is fabulous!

  10. Sookee
    January 11, 2017 / 9:04 am

    Today’s post made me smile! I have been addressing my closet these last few blustery, icy cold days here in SE Wisconsin and I had made the decision that while I no longer wear any of my ‘business attire’ and opt for my daily uniform of leggings, sweaters, boots…that on occasions such as dinner out during the week or brunch on the weekends or movie night, etc. I will now incorporate some of my former business buddies into the mix. I created or shall I say curated a couple of new outfits using my Channel-esque boucle jacket with a cashmere turtle neck with my boyfriend jeans. I will add my all time favorite EF booties and this great Brighton belt for one outfit. Another outfit ready to go is my camel colored cashmere double breasted that I bought for a ridiculous amount when I finished my master’s (circa 1990) that I’ve paired with a denim midi, knee high Steve Madden Freebird boots, and fitted silk poets blouse and three strings of pearls. I cannot wait to wear this one out with friends for dinner this weekend. As always, you inspire me and now I’ll head back into the abyss of my closet and pull together some additional curations! Thank you.

  11. Shreddie
    January 11, 2017 / 11:57 am

    Thanks so much for the “wool free”! That is my biggest problem with jacket shopping. I love that denim jacket, but European sizing and I never agree. 🙂

  12. Joanna
    January 11, 2017 / 1:13 pm

    I love the last tweed jacket. I require a little shape to my jackets or I get lost in them. The very short or shrunken styles don’t suit my height so they are out.
    A jean jacket with a little style is a go to in the spring – fall for that casual look. I bought the cutest one two years ago with rounded corners on the collar and front placket, among other details. But, I lost weight and it is a size too big so I’m on the lookout for another one with a feminine touch. Not easy to find.
    I have several leather jackets and they seem to look good with everything in my closet from dress pants, jeans, skirts to dresses. I sometimes build my wardrobe on the jacket color of the day.

  13. plutrell
    January 12, 2017 / 3:54 am

    I wear my jackets just as much outside of work as I do for work. I love a great jacket with denim. That longer tweed is so tempting!

  14. Duchesse
    January 12, 2017 / 6:44 am

    I lik sharp tailoring (like the J. Crew Regent) but not too mannish, that’s my sweet spot. Was thrilled to find a black cotton velvet blazer in a thrift, in unworn condition, for $15. Because I rarely wear jackets indoors, I thought, why not try? Don’t have a lot invested if it does not work. The Talbot’s tweed is acrylic and poly so I would worry about how it will hold up, though I do like the style and fabric.

    • Susan B
      January 12, 2017 / 7:28 am

      Duchesse, I like the Regent too. Found the fabric on past season’s versions a bit stiff and heavy, but noticed the wool fabric this season seems to be lighter and a little more fluid. May give this style another try.

  15. Ann
    January 12, 2017 / 5:25 pm

    Boy, am I a sucker for jackets. Until I retired a year ago I was a lifelong pantsuit, Hermes scarves “classic style” kind of girl. Since then I’ve discovered the high-low, no-matchy-matchy way of asembling separates that flatter my figure, which is potentially more interesting. But I fear I’m getting in a rut.

    Since retirement (when we’re not traveling) my typical day includes housework, cooking, yoga, the pool, the walking trail, shopping, lunches with hubby or girlfriends at more casual restaurants, movie theatres, and occasional visits to art museums — with more emphasis on grocery shopping than art museums. I don’t want to wind up living in yoga pants and motorcycle jackets with my hair in a ponytail.

    In fact, a few days ago for a teeth-cleaning appointment at my dentist’s I wound up *dressing up* — in a Missoni black dress, a Worth boucle jacket, ankle boots, black tights and a structured purse just because I felt desperate to get out of jeans into grown-up clothes.

    How do y’all balance your needs for grown-up needs and cool-kid clothes after retirement? Do I just need to schedule more trips to art museums?

    (This is a serious question.)

    • Ann
      January 12, 2017 / 5:28 pm

      Whoops! I meant to say: How do y’all balance your needs for grown-up clothes and cool-kid clothes after retirement?

  16. January 13, 2017 / 3:10 pm

    I love that French worker’s type jacket as well. I find that black or coloured jean jackets look a little more dressy than denim ones in the classic cut.

    I do NOT like Ms Alt’s torn jeans, though.

  17. Bea
    January 14, 2017 / 6:44 pm

    I thought this was a nice jacket

    I really like your use of jackets to pull look together

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