Ask Belle: Tips for Pairing a Blazer and Dress

Nov 27, 2013

Belle,

You mentioned in Tuesday’s post that “wearing a blazer with a dress is always tricky”. So true! Mastering this skill would double my work wardrobe, but I can never put my finger on why a blazer/dress pairing isn’t working. Something in the portions always seem off – can you offer some tips on pulling together this wardrobe combo?

Love the blog! -J

When trying to match a blazer with a dress, you need to be cognizant of three fundamentals: Structure, Fit and Proportion.  Let’s go to the visual aids.

Screen Shot 2013-11-27 at 12.09.39 AM

Left, photo via MyVicariousLyfe. Middle, photo via Veronika’s Blushing. Right, photo via District of Chic.

Outfit One.  The gray blazer fits too loosely to define her waist, and the voluminous dress only exacerbates the problem.  Thus, a lack of structure creates a fit problem, which when paired with the dress, creates a proportion issue that leaves the lady looking wider than she is.  Which is a shame because the accessories and color palette are incredibly stylish.

How to fix it?  I would add a belt, maybe a dark brown double wrap, and alter the jacket to taper at the waist.  Then, you get to enjoy the voluminous dress and the phenomenal accessories without losing the wearer under a pile of shapeless fabric.

Outfit Two.  The green dress she chose naturally defines her waist, while the jacket nips in to complement it.  The bottom of the blazer cuts across the widest part of her, bisecting the dress and the body in just the right place.  As a result, a dress, which is a bit too poofy for my taste, becomes sleeker and trimmer by adding a jacket.

How to improve it?  Add a skinny belt to break up the emerald green, and tug down on the sleeve so that it doesn’t bunch at the shoulders.  If you don’t want to wear a belt, I would consider a long pendant necklace that hangs in a v-shape to complement the neckline of the jacket.  Preferably one with a more substantial pendant, like this Stella & Dot Sanibel pendant.  You just need to break up all the green.

Outfit Three. If you’re going to wear a heavier jacket with more masculine details, like a full shoulder pad or large buttons, you need to pair it with a more feminine piece, like this flowy dress.  Mixing these textures creates a different kind of proportion that maintains femininity and keeps the outfit from looking heavy.  As you can also see, the jacket hits perfectly at E’s waist.

How to improve it?  I’m not crazy about the black shoe with this.  I would have gone for a softer grey pump or a colored heel, perhaps a cobalt, instead.  There’s so much lightness on the top, I wouldn’t want to pull the eye down with a dark shoe.

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  1. Ally says:

    Could you do a post on pairing jackets with sheath dresses? I’ve finally figured out that basic sheath dresses actually fit my hourglass-almost-pear shaped body really well, but I can’t bloody figure out jackets and coats that look good with them (none of my blazers look nice with my dresses!). I also just moved from North Carolina to London, so I’m dealing with layer and cold temps for the first time.

  2. I find that shoulder-pad-less blazers work best, like waterfall collar or shawl ones, in a lighter material rather than something structured to put over a dress.

    This is why I kind of only look for blazers without shoulder pads (or minimal ones) and are less structured. The material matters too.. something more jersey or sweatshirt style works best over something very stiff.

    Otherwise, it (as you said) needs to have more volume in the dress underneath to make up for the structure in the blazer.

  3. […] wearing a blazer to keep myself from turning into a big rectangle.  You should also check out Belle’s post, over at Capitol Hill Style, for her tips on pairing blazers and dresses. I tend to choose bigger […]

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