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I may be one of the few people in the world who truly loves Winter. After my annual February beach escape however, I too am ready for Spring! My wardrobe is also making the turn as I prepare (mentally if not in reality) to pack away my heaviest coats and make way for florals, bright colors, and of course, all of the white things — to balance out my usual NYC uniform of black, grey and more black and grey.
Before I make that jump I’m taking a few select pieces of out of my Spring closet and making them work now. In this series I’ll be focusing on ways to style pieces that work in late Winter and early-mid Spring and how to style them now.
Today? This post is all about the denim jacket. Depending on where you live perhaps you’ve been rocking your favorite jean jacket but here in NYC the single-degree temperatures makes for a temporary pause in this jacket’s usability. Now there are days flirting with the 60s and hovering in the 50s, which means the denim jacket is back out baby!
Here are 5 easy ways to layer your denim jacket for ultimate styling success.
1. Tee Shirt + Denim Jacket + Lightweight Cocoon Coat
This formula, and all the formulas in this post, are pretty simple ways to look effortlessly chic and put together. Shown in the photo topping this post as well as the outfit directly above, our first look starts with a long tee shirt, adds a denim jacket over it and finishes with a light cocoon coat. You have lots of freedoms with this look — your base tee shirt can be any color for example. I recommend white, black or grey because these will be the most versatile colors to combine with other items in your wardrobe. But there’s no reason why you can’t do powder blue, lavender, pink, whatever! I also recommend going for a plain tee shirt with no writing on it, because the writing tends to interrupt your overall silhouette. Here we’re going for long and slim; writing will stump your long-ness.
There are a few secrets to making this combination look put together.
- Choose a tee shirt with the ideal neckline for your body type. Got a larger bust? Go for a v-neck tee. Smaller bust? Opt for a crewneck.
- Make sure your tee shirt is either the same length as your denim jacket or less than an inch longer. If your tee shirt is too long it will draw other people’s eyes towards your hips and make you look wider than you are. If you realize your tee shirt is longer than the ideal too late, simply half-tuck it in to your bottoms to save the outfit.
- Pick a denim jacket that hits at your high hip or above. You’ll wait a jacket that hits slightly below the waist, basically.
- Use contrast to your advantage. If your cocoon coat is a darker color, opt for a lighter colored denim jacket to balance out the scheme of your outfit. Vice versa is also true; if your cocoon coat is a lighter color a medium or dark-tone denim will be ideal. Note that in both photo examples the tone of the tee shirt base mirrors the cocoon coat, so if the cocoon coat is a darker tone so is the tee shirt and vice versa.
- Select a cocoon coat that isn’t too thick or made from chunky material. Though this outfit has three layers, the reason why it works is because all the layers are sleek. There’s no heft to the cocoon coat — it’s lightweight and cut slim.
- Your cocoon coat should hit somewhere between high thigh and mid-calf. You have lots of freedom here in the length you choose! Both of my photo examples just so happen to have cocoon coats that hit upper to mid-thigh, but here’s an example of a longer duster coat working equally well.
Want some more photo inspiration for this idea? I’ve got plenty on my Street Style and Work Outfits Pinterest boards. Both of the inspiration photos feature this combination with a leather mini skirt, but you can easily put this over crops, leggings, or jeans. I’d do black crops with cute red flats, moto leggings with sneakers or straight jeans in a uniform dark wash with low pumps!
2. Henley + Denim Jacket + Blazer
Ideal for casual offices and great for days that start off chilly and end up warmer (or, as sometimes happens in Winter, the reverse), this outfit is another simple 1-2-3 punch of effortless style! Again, for retail purposes stores almost always choose a very neutral palette, but there’s no reason why you can’t inject some color here with a pink blazer or a purple henley. I personally like a ribbed henley to add some additional texture — if you have a flat tee shirt and a flat blazer together this look could very quickly go from visually interesting to dowdy. Note that the blazer in the photo inspiration has some tweedy texture to it.
Here are a few more tips to making this outfit work.
- Equal lengths = visual perfection. Look for a henley, denim jacket, and blazer that are all about the same length. Don’t go for a blazer that’s too long, and no cropped blazers either. You’ll also want flat pockets; no angled pockets on the blazer.
- Go for a denim jacket that has yellow, mustard or gold stitching around the button holes. This gives a jewelry-like quality to the torso area.
- One or two-button blazers only. Avoid blazers with three or more buttons.
- Look for a thin, modern lapel. Don’t go for a blazer with too wide of a lapel — it will widen you! So no tuxedo blazers. Note how in the photo example, the lapel is so thin it almost isn’t there. Also note how that particular lapel ends at the waist which is great for creating curves and the illusion of an hourglass shape!
- A scoopneck henley is your best bet. Most all henleys come in either crewnecks (which sit closer to your neck or scoopnecks, which scoop down a little further and show off some collarbone. The latter is what we want here.
Pair this combination with a sleek pair of faded black jeans or indigo flares for a flawlessly executed outfit.
blazer || denim jacket || henley
3. Striped Shirt + Denim Jacket + Moto Jacket
This formula takes things to the next level of layering! It can easily become too chunky if either your denim jacket or moto are too heavy or thick. With lightweight layers and a streamlined moto, you’ll excel at this look!
We’re getting a little more complicated as we go down this list. Follow the tips below to make sure you pull off this formula to its best effect.
- Make sure your striped shirt has thin stripes. No rugby stripes or mixed stripes or thicker stripes here; to make this combination work you’ll need thin stripes. Any other type is going to compete visually with other elements and will end up making you look short and stumpy.
- Denim jacket length. Make sure your denim jacket is either the same length or no more than a 1/2″ longer than your moto jacket top layer. A bit of denim peeking out is fine but too much will split your body visually, which leads to looking dumpy.
- The closer your jackets hit to your waist, the better. These elements are a bit heavier, especially if you go for a black moto jacket, so we want to draw attention to your waist here. You can help this by partially tucking your striped shirt into your pants as seen in the photo above, and picking jackets that hit right your waist will also visually lighten the load to keep you from looking frumpy.
- Keep your denim a lighter color, and make your moto textured or visually interesting. Look for a denim jacket in a lighter shade of blue, and a moto with pebbling or stark silver zippers will make increase its depth which results in you looking tall and streamlined!
- You may want a short-sleeved stripe shirt. As you’re doing a thick top layer, you may want to go for a short-sleeve shirt for a lightweight bottom layer on warmer days or when the heat is blasting.
This formula will look great with a denim skirt (especially a long one!), dark jeans or coated jeans, or leggings. Finish the look with cute flats, booties or sneakers. Ready for the next level? A baseball cap or small fedora elevates this look to jaw-dropping. You can try a knit or suede moto jacket here too, no requirement that it’s leather! Look for smooth knits and suede motos in colors like forest green or rich camel.
4. Jeans + Chambray Shirt + Denim Duster
Yes that’s right, in this option we have denim on denim on denim! The denim duster is a very trendy piece for Spring that’s likely to have at least a couple of years of staying power: I saw tons walking down the Fall 2018 runway at NYFW. So make the investment now and let it pay off for seasons to come. Wondering if you can pull this outfit off? The answer is yes, and it’s easier than you think!
Worried about looking like an off-duty cowboy? Here’s how to make this outfit look fashionable.
- Think darker tons on the bottom; lighter tones on top. Aim for a medium blue to dark blue pair of jeans, a lighter shade of denim or chambray top, and a lighter or medium denim duster or denim trench coat. Believe it or not, three different tones will work best here!
- Add tones of gold or silver to balance the look out. Jewelry, shoes, bracelets, watch, whatever, add in some color to balance out all this blue! Mint or lavender also work great.
- When in doubt, add in some white. Denim comes in white too! So when you doubt your abilities to combine three tones of blue, go for either a white tee as seen here, or all white below the denim trench as seen here. (And get plenty more styling inspiration by following my Street Style and Work Outfits Pinterest boards!)
- The denim duster must hit near or at your knees. Too long and you’ll look like you’re heading to the rodeo; too short and you’ll want to switch from jeans to a denim mini skirt to keep the overall look in proportion.
- NO booties! Booties will immediately make this outfit look too western. Instead, go for pumps, wedges or cute flats to keep it modern and effortlessly fashionable.
That denim duster will look great over dresses too! It’s a versatile piece that will be a key wardrobe item from now through mid-Spring, and then again once Fall comes around.
5. Destroyed Jeans + Cami + Denim Jacket
We’ll end this post with a simple yet wearable combination that’s easy to throw on for the weekends. Your favorite pair of destroyed jeans; a camisole in white, light grey, taupe or oatmeal, and your favorite denim jacket. Doesn’t get much simpler than that! For some reason, this outfit also looks great with leopard sneakers as seen above and a crescent moon necklace (photo evidence here).
Want some tips for putting together this formula? Here we go.
- Lighter colors make this outfit more Spring-ready. Don’t be afraid of lighter jean washes here! A boyfriend cut is ideal here, but straight or skinny also work.
- Look for shoes with bright white laces and soles. Visually, this makes you look taller and more put-together.
- V-Neck camisoles are the way to go. The more decolletage you’re willing to show here, the better.
- Go for a waist-length or shorter denim jacket. This allows a bit of your cami/tank top to show, which shouts Spring!!
From short to long, lightweight to heavy, and tones of all kinds, below are my picks for denim jackets. Who makes your favorite denim jacket? How do you style yours?
I think wearing a denim jacket under a blazer or moto jacket is totally impractical. Those two items are usually fairly fitted and I have no idea how you fit a denim jacket underneath unless the top two layers are oversized.
I do like the cocoon coat idea though.
Same Kate – I cringed at #2 and #3, looked so uncomfortable. Not sold on #4 either, looks too much.
Man you ladies are rough! I'd say — don't knock it til you try it! ?
Roxie – thanks for the post — interesting ideas. Do you have any idea on how the YesStyle coat fits??? I love the look of it and especially love the price. thanks
The Denim Duster? In general YesStyle runs pretty small — I usually take a large there. I agree the price is great on that one!
I think the denim under a blazer would really only work if it were a vest. I love layered looks but rarely find that I have room in the sleeves for so much extra fabric. I wind up looking like the Michelin Man, or that pic that went around of the guy in the airport that tried to avoid a baggage fee by wearing everything he would have otherwise packed lol
LOL @ that guy who didn't want to check anything. My AG Robyn jacket is really thin and I wear it under cardis all the time, I'd bet it'd fit under a blazer great too. A vest is another great idea!