Ask Allie: Denim Jacket Alternatives

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I have a question for you regarding denim jean jackets. I have a sleeveless dress that I would like to pair it with a denim jean jacket on top. As far as fit, do I buy a one that cannot be buttoned? Or do I size up and get the bigger size? I am petite on the top, bigger on the bottom.

When I worked for Express in the late ‘90s and beginning of the naughts, those of us in management and visual merchandising were strongly encouraged to wear at least three pieces of Express apparel. This meant a top, skirt or pants, and some sort of jacket. I didn’t have the income for lots of suiting, so I bought denim jackets. A few years ago when clearing out my attic, I found six different Express denim jackets in different washes, cuts, and a few with embellishments. I tried them on, and they looked utterly ridiculous on my softer, larger, post-baby body. Last fall, I ordered a denim jacket from Old Navy that received rave reviews from fellow curvy fashion bloggers. I kept trying it on, but after a week I took it back to the store. I have large soft upper arms, broad shoulders, a DDD chest, and petite. Put all of that under a denim jacket and I look like a linebacker. Size down and while it fits better across the back, it’s quite obvious I wouldn’t be able to button it.

I don’t believe in buying jackets you can’t button. If there’s a zipper or snaps, or buttons, I want it to be able to be closed. One water-retaining period and next thing you know you’re wearing a denim shrug, and that looks good on no one.

You could get a jacket altered. You could roll up the sleeves and buy larger and make the oversized look purposeful, or you could find an alternative to the denim jacket. I don’t believe in spending precious time forcing a trend to work, so I am a big fan of alternatives. Here’s some great alternatives to a classic denim jacket:

denim biker jackets
Pictured: Zara, Gap, H&M, Topshop, ASOS

The Denim Biker Jacket
Yes, they DO exist and they are extremely popular for fall.  Available in most any pricepoint and size, biker-inspired jackets are great for those with curves because they have an angled cut that works nicely with a wider lower half.  Biker jackets aren't expected to be zipped up, but be sure to choose a style that actually could close if you so desire.  Biker jackets are sometimes also described as moto jackets, and are stylish when worn shrunken, to fit, or even oversized.

Don't worry about a “Texas Tuxedo,” denim on denim is now a stylish look.  So you don't look as though you're donning a leisure suit, pair with a different color of denim.  Such a jacket can look great with a maxi dress or skirt, as well as skinny jeans or even a babydoll or fit and flare dress.  I love mixing the toughness of a biker jacket with something softer like florals, lace, or chiffon.

womens leather biker jackets

The Leather (or Faux!) Biker Jacket
Not as good for the warmer months, but quite chic this fall and winter (and I believe to be a perennial classic), the leather biker jacket is as versatile and flattering as the denim version.  Keep in mind, many “true” biker jackets are a very stiff and heavyweight leather and may not be as figure-flattering.  You'll either have to take the time to mold it to your figure, or you may wish to consider a style made of lambskin, faux leather, or a softer and thinner material which will nicely form to your figure.  No need to stick to basic black; sometimes colors can be just as or more versatile. 

As with handbags and shoes, choose a color that is your signature and will flatter colors currently in your wardrobe.

utility army safari jackets

The Utility Jacket
Utility jackets are also known as army jackets, safari jackets, and sometimes even anoraks.  They are cotton or twill, in a neutral shade, often have military- and safari-inspired touches like cargo pockets and epaulets, and often nip in at the waist or have a drawstring for a custom fit.  I have a utility jacket and wear it with everything from jeans and tees to over a flirty sundress.

For your shape, consider a shorter style of utility jacket that will end between waist and hip.  You'll likely have a better fit, and it won't add volume to your lower half.  A lighter-weight fabric will also reduce bulk, and be more wearable year-round.  Come the colder months, consider layering the utility jacket with a fleece, puffer, or denim vest for on-trend warmth.

peplum jackets for fall 2013

The Peplum Jacket
The peplum trend isn't going away any time soon.  While it may seem a bit overdone for tops, it's surprisingly fresh looking when on a jacket.  Not only that, the peplum is quite figure flattering, highlighting a waist and showcasing curves.  I have a leather peplum jacket that I love because it looks so great with dresses and highlights my shape.

Be it cotton or leather, a peplum jacket can work great over a maxi, but also work on weekends with jeans and sneakers or be dressed up for the office.  With such a detail, fit is important.  Consider going up a size or checking out the petites department to ensure the flare hits at the right place and the back doesn't buckle.  It's far easier to change the sleeve length than deal with a too small or too long back.

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