Easy wardrobe upgrade - The jacket

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When you're thinking about how to upgrade your wardrobe without spending a fortune (and who isn't these days?) consider a jacket.  A really great fitted jacket can take you from work to weekend, and from day to night without any effort at all. 

When you're shopping for a jacket, there are a few universal rules.  You MUST be able to button the jacket up, even if you will NEVER wear it that way; if you can't button it, it doesn't fit properly.  This is especially important if you have a curvier chest, because a jacket that fits in the shoulders but not across the torso will make you look bigger than you are.  You can always have the shoulders taken up or the waist taken in, but make sure the jacket fits across your chest.  Please.

Choose a jacket that works with your shape, rather than just settling for whatever is on sale (digression: a deal is ONLY a deal if you're actually going to WEAR IT; otherwise, it's just a waste of money and closet space).  Trying to define your waist?  Look for a jacket that has a defined waist.  Trying to accommodate your curves?  Look for a jacket with pronounced seaming.  Trying to draw attention away from your hips and thighs?  Look for a  jacket that hits at the high hip.

Once you know what basic fit you're looking for, start thinking about details.  Choose fabrics that are flexible -- three-season wools, for example, or corduroy for a more casual look.  Tweed can be dressed up or down, and can be made a little funkier by combining it with an animal print (think tweed jacket and leopard bag).  A simple, structured jacket works equally well with a pencil skirt or jeans, which means you can wear it to work and on the weekend. (Old Navy button front wool blend coat, currently $59.50.)

What about sleeve length? The most versatile length is a long sleeve, one that hits at the wrist (ideally, right at the wrist bone, when your arm is hanging at your side).  But a three-quarter or bracelet sleeve is fine, too, as long as you are thoughtful about it.  Three-quarter length sleeves (which can fall anywhere from just below the elbow to just above the wrist) are the jacket equivalent of cropped pants -- done right, they are elegant and chic, but done wrong, they will make you look like your jacket is too small.

What's the right way to wear a cropped sleeve?  Think about proportion -- when you are standing with your arms at your side, the end of the sleeve should fall at or just below the slimmest part of your waist, because this is where the eye is drawn when you're wearing the jacket.  A jacket with a cropped sleeve should also have a distinct waistline, for the same reason.  

Finally, keep in mind that while a tweed jacket with a cropped sleeve is perfectly appropriate for day, a silk jacket with a cropped sleeve is probably not; that shorter sleeve combined with the dressier fabric makes the silk jacket a special occasion piece.  Same goes for bows or big crystal buttons -- save them for after five.  Keep your daytime silhouette simple and clean, and add embellishments -- a patent belt or big pin -- as needed.

Katierose at Sparkle Shelf has more tips for rocking a cropped jacket, while  Londyn at BlogFashion is dressing her cropped jacket up and down (and showing us what she's wearing, which you know I love).  And Runway Daily shows you how to make short sleeves and long gloves work together this winter.

Susan Wagner writes about style at ParentDish and about everything else at Friday Playdate.  Shoot her your pressing style questions at fridaystyle.susan@gmail.com.

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