Style + Ask The Edit

Ask Belle: Blazer and Jacket Alternatives

Hi Belle,

What can I wear in a business profession environment over dresses that isn’t too casual. I have a terrible time finding suit jackets and blazers that fit me well (broad shoulders/bigger arms with a small waist). I typically default to cardigans but sometimes that feels a little under dressed or sloppy. Maybe I’m not finding the right type. Do you have any ideas for ways to look put together without a jacket?

Thanks! KZ

Jackets are required in some offices, but if you can wear something more casual, there are a few options that I would suggest.  I put together a few outfits to give you some idea how to style them.


Left, River Island Glittery Hoop ($12) // DvF Ballerina Sweater ($268) // Cate Black Printed Dress ($260) // Saks Emma T-straps ($149)

Ballet Sweaters are an interesting alternative to the crewneck cardigan.  They give the waist a bit more definition and look more pulled together.  This softer, feminine version is a great piece.  For something more affordable, BR Factory has a nice option.

If you’d like something with more structure, a chunky, belted cardigan is a nice option.  I own the M.M. LaFleur Morandi cardi, and I wear it instead of a blazer quite often.  I also love this BCBG sweater, and this chunky Vince Camuto sweater. Plus-size?  This Knox Rose cardigan is a nice option.

Here, I layered it over a v-neck dress (love the complimentary necklines) with a flirty skirt.  You could also wear it over a simple v-neck sheath.  And how great is the mix of textures on these t-strap pumps?  I more them.  For something less expensive, try these affordable Dolce Mojo pumps.

Middle, Factory Waterfall Cardigan ($39) // Joseph Silk Blouse ($495) // J.Crew Preston Pants ($60) // Julie Thavenot Gradient Necklace ($104) // Nine West Jackpot Pump ($79)

Sleeveless Sweaters are a newer trend.  At first, I wasn’t feeling them.  What good is a sweater without sleeves?  But then I saw how one of my favorite bloggers, Kat Tanita, was styling them and it changed my thinking.

For this outfit, I paired an inexpensive sweater with a blouse and trousers to create a look that is pulled together, but still relaxed.  I like the BR sweater in the set because it’s got a cool shape.  I also found this Ecote drop shoulder vest in two-tone knit.  This Rafaella patterned vest also caught my eye.  Plus-size?  Try this Calvin Klein navy vest.

I wish these pants were still available.  Occasionally, I miss what could be a great J.Crew item because I barely visit their site anymore, and it makes me sad.  But when their wares fall apart and are poorly sized, you can’t love the rough to get to the rare diamond.

I found these olive cotton bootcut pants, which I like. I also found these tall Vero Moda pants, and these brighter green Trina Turk pants.

The gray top streamlines the look.  And the long necklace pulls it together by mixing in a bit of metal, but also the foundation color of the tops.

Right, Theory Knit Dress ($465) // Kenneth Jay Lane Pearl Hoops ($42) // Metallic Boyfriend Cardi ($118) // Mila Tortoiseshell Pump ($128)

Boyfriend Cardigans seem too casual for work on first glance.  However, if you pair them with structured, professional pieces, they bring something new to the party.  I own a very chunky grey cardigan that I wear over tailored dresses to give them a more relaxed feel.

This BR Factory cardigan is a nice option.  I prefer cardis without buttons, so this Billabong Tripped Up Cardi and this navy Chaus open cardigan are my preference.  If you like button- cardigans, this Daisy Cable cardigan has a cool look to it.  Plus-size?  This ASOS Curve oversized cardi is chic.

I wanted an ivory dress here to keep it in a similar color family.  The oatmeal was a little drab, and I wanted to lighten it up.  This Theory dress is gorgeous, but pricey.  This Ralph Lauren cable-knit dress is a good option, as is this Forever21 v-neck shift.

Ivory and white dresses always get pearl earrings in my outfits.  They bring an ethereal quality to your look.  These very cool drop earrings are a must-have.  I also added tortoise pumps because another color might clash, and the tortoise adds some texture.  You could also go with an animal print.



  1. Sarah says:

    May I ask where I can find the dress used in the first option with the ballet sweater? I want the entire ensemble!

    February 18, 2016/Reply
    • Sarah says:

      Nevermind I took a closer read and found it.

      February 18, 2016/Reply
  2. Jennifer D says:

    I like open cardigans which are both polished and comfortable. The J.Crew Collection Cashmere Long Open Cardigan Sweater (A7982) is pricey and the reviews were mixed, but it’s an example of what I’m talking about.

    February 18, 2016/Reply
  3. Jennifer D says:

    To add to Belle’s suggestion, check out the rest of the “Coats and Knits” on the MMLaFleur website which may give you some other ideas. They aren’t cheap, but I’m intrigued by the “jardigans” . . .

    February 18, 2016/Reply
  4. a. nonymous says:

    I have this MM LaFleur “Jardigan” in multiple colors and it is wonderful. More shape than a cardigan, but a bit stretchy for a forgiving fit. Bonus — you can toss it in your bag and it doesn’t wrinkle.

    February 18, 2016/Reply
    • Monica says:

      I’m wearing this exact jardigan today! Can’t recommend it enough. I, too, suffer from what I affectionately call “linebacker” shoulders, and this is a great alternative to a blazer.

      February 19, 2016/Reply
  5. L says:

    I’ve drooled over the Mirandi before and always wondered what the fit/cut was like on an average woman. I love the way it looks on the model, but it also seems like it has the potential to look a bit dowdy and shapeless on anyone with some extra around the middle? Belle, or others, care to weigh in? Thanks!

    February 18, 2016/Reply
  6. Kat says:

    Yes thank you for this post! I have tried and failed numerous times at wearing blazers. They just don’t work on my body. I always opt for cardigans but it’s great to have some alternatives.

    February 19, 2016/Reply
  7. sherry @ save. spend. splurge. says:

    I have the EXACT SAME PROBLEM. I am an inverted triangle and this is what I suffer: broad shoulders, tiny torso/waist..

    My best advice to this reader is if you have a MASSIMO DUTTI, GET THEE TO ONE. I found TWO blazers there that fit perfectly in the shoulder (US 6 and I am a US4 everywhere else) and they stretch without feeling too tight, and fit PERFECTLY in the torso. IT’s their Slim Cut.

    February 20, 2016/Reply
  8. sherry @ save. spend. splurge. says:

    Oh and the alternative to a blazer if you do not have Massimo Dutti, are sleeveless lapel blazers.. the more fluid lapel styles that are very shoulder-forgiving.

    Coincidentally, posted a whole slew of them here: Style Shopper: Minimalist Open Front Blazers

    February 20, 2016/Reply