There are few closet staples that will get you as far as the perfect denim jacket. It literally goes with everything. From dressy dresses to a pair of shorts, a jean jacket is the topper that always works. It’s seasonless. It’s old faithful. The trick is finding just the right one for your wardrobe, shape, and personal style, which can be a tall order quite frankly. I have had so many different versions over the years. From white to light to medium blue to dark blue, tailored to deconstructed, over-sized to snug, the works! I’ve been in love with this Levi’s version ever since I picked it up at Urban Outfitters back in 2013. It fits like a glove and has been on heavy rotation ever since.
Here’s my beloved Levi’s jean jacket from the post Anchors Away from back in September 2013.
5 Tips for Finding Your Match Made in Denim Heaven
1. Find your color. Like any other fabric, denim comes in a wide range of colors. From traditional, worn-in blue to dye-heavy navy, acid-wash or white, you need to figure out what will suit your wardrobe best. If you’re shopping for a staple, I’d go with traditional blue, like my favorite Levi’s denim jacket shown above. Over the years I’ve also had deep navy and white among other colors. Truth be told, I’ve always wanted a black jean jacket, but haven’t found the right one yet. Remember when selecting darker pigments like deep navy and black, the dye can rub off on other fabrics, even leather. This problem has caused the demise of many beautiful handbags! Don’t sacrifice your handbag just because you can’t wait to wear that new jacket. Remember to launder your jacket prior to the first wear, and pair it with darker leathers and tops at first to make sure the dye won’t transfer. Want to keep your dark denim dark? Wash it inside out, in cold water, with a bit of white vinegar in addition to your regular laundry detergent. Remember to wash it with only dark items since excess dye may transfer in the washing machine.
2. Find your style. As with the wide color range of jean jackets out there, you can also find your signature denim in a variety of cuts and styles. If this is your first jean jacket, or you’re simply looking for a style basic, find one that fits like a glove. One thing I love about my classic Levi’s jacket is that it hits me right at the hip. It maintains the waistline of my dresses and looks great layered over a longer top. If I had chosen a longer style, it wouldn’t have felt as feminine and figure-flattering with my wardrobe. If you already have a classic denim jacket in your closet, go for a unique color or style outside your comfort zone. Early nineties styles with cinched waists and roomy sleeves are back in a big way. Cropped styles have also hit the runway for fall and look amazing with dresses and crop tops. These fashion forward styles may be limiting over the long term, but can add some spice to an otherwise classic wardrobe. As with any clothing purchase, if you love it enough, you’ll find new ways to wear it. Go with your gut and don’t be afraid to try something new!
3. Square the shoulders. I’m a huge stickler for fit in clothing and have been known to put back items I love if the fit isn’t just right. Denim is especially annoying to tailor, because the holes from seams are hard to press out when removed. Your best bet is to find the right style off the rack. The first thing I look for is the the fit in the shoulder. Generally speaking, with any fitted shirt or jacket, the seam at the shoulders should hit square on the corner of your shoulder. Too far north of that (closer to your neck) means it’s a bit too small and you should try a size up. Too far south of that (down your arm) means it’s a bit too big and you might want to go down a size. If you’re looking for a more oversized fit, great! But honestly, if it’s too small you’ll always feel uncomfortable in it and it will look too small. Remember it is a jacket after all and you’ll probably be wearing things under it so plan for that in your fit tests. As much as I love a snug jean jacket, I have also found they are fun to layer over a sweater in the fall if you find one with just enough room in the shoulders and sleeves.
4. Hit the wrists. Ideally, the wrists of your jean jacket should hit right the bone at the base of your hand under your thumb when you’re standing with your arms at your sides. That way, when you reach, the sleeves won’t feel too short. This can be a challenge for girls with longer arms or petite girls with shorter arms than accommodated in standard sizing. Although sleeves can be rolled up, a truly perfect fit can be found with a little searching or tailoring. Most retailers offer “tall” and “petite” sizes either in store or online. When shopping online, have a friend help you measure the length of your arm from the corner of your shoulder to the bone at the base of your hand. Use this measurement to decipher whether or not online extended sizing options are right for you. Worst case scenario, you could have a tailor shorten the sleeve by moving the cuff. Although it’s a little added cost to the price of your denim, a good tailor will hide the work and your jacket will feel like it was made for you.
5. Do the driving test. After working in retail for ten years (prior to my teaching career) I found a few patented tricks to get customers into just the right jacket size. My best one? The driving test. Put on the jacket and stretch your arms out in front of you as if you’re driving a car with your hands at the 10 and 2 positions. If you’re still comfortable, it’s a good fit. If you’re uncomfortable or even just annoyed, it’s just not the right jacket for you. Remember a even a small annoyance at try-on time makes for incredible discomfort down the road, which means your wasted money will just sit in the closet. It might be the size or the overall cut of the jacket, but at least you know you need to move in another direction. The same goes for buttoning up all the buttons. Your denim jacket should be comfortable and should close in case you need a little warmth, something my mama taught me long ago. If you’re having a lot of trouble with these little fit tests, opt for a style with a bit of stretch for an easy solution.
For more denim jacket inspiration, check out all of my posts featuring the many denim jackets I’ve lived in and loved over the years. I also picked out a bunch of great denim jackets on sale now for fall! Do you have a hot tip on great denim? Share it in the comments below. Happy shopping!