By Alexandra Delaney
It’s that time of year when you don’t want to admit the cold winter is here, but you can’t deny the chill in the air is making it increasingly difficult to text on your phone or fumble through your purse to find your CTA card. We’d all rather walk blissfully through the orange-and-yellow fall foliage than think about digging through our winter closets. (In my case: a plastic storage bin I shoved all of my sweaters into and hid in an attempt to delay winter’s arrival. Think: if I’m not prepared for it, it just can’t be here yet.)
Instead of fighting an inevitable force of nature–winter will be here; there’s no dodging that in Chicago—there is a fun way to embrace the changing seasons. Cold weather doesn’t have to mean dull. There are new twists on blazers that will have you welcoming cool weather with arms wide open, even if it’s just to put your jacket on.
Fall is the season for layers, and blazers are the perfect addition to any outfit. Varying in weight, color and textures, they can achieve multiple looks for any scene. Chicago stylist and fashion expert Amy Salinger believes blazers are a timeless purchase:
“Blazers are a great buy because they are a foundation piece in your wardrobe. If you buy a simple style, you can make it last for years because it will always be stylish. Don’t be scared to spend more money on great blazers because they are a cost-per-wear item. You wear them a lot making them worth the cost.”
Wardrobe and prop stylist Courtney Rust agrees that the key to blazers is that sometimes it’s worth paying a little more. Rust has styled commercials for Audi, Esquire, Nike and Rolling Stone to name a few, and knows the completeness of professional quality. She cautions that cheap fabric doesn’t hang as well on the body and that a good blazer will never go out of style, making it worth the splurge.
This season, the light jackets are blazing a new trail. While classic styles are still—and will always be—popular, embellishments and prints have been added for flair.
“There is a lot of leather detail on blazers this season,” says Salinger. Leather infused into blazers is trending now. The addition of leather can perfect a polished, elegant look or can roughen up a cute outfit by contributing an edgier attitude. A popular look this fall is mixing delicate, feminine pieces with those that relay an attitude of masculinity. The blazer that best embodies this trend is the boyfriend blazer, which, as described by stylist Laura Z, is a “slouchy menswear-style blazer a bit more formal and schoolboy, slightly shrunken and preppy.” The inspiration behind the boyfriend blazer is Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge.
Big sellers this season are blazers with leather lapels and leather cuffs. Blazers that were once the classic staples of women’s business attire (think Chanel tweed jackets) have been transformed into a trendier, more modern version, such as those with a tweed body and leather sleeves.
“Mixing fabrics has become trendy this season, for example leather sleeves and fur collars” says Z. “Color blocking is also big—a solid color jacket with a big band of contrasting color around the hem is one example.”
Tweed and bouclé are popular fabrics this season, and leather pieces work well for nighttime attire.
Akira (locations in Bucktown and Lincoln Park) has a selection of blazers with leather sewn into the coat. Krista K (3458 North Southport) has a tweed jacket with leather sleeves that can be worn as a blazer. The boutique also offers silk blazers and several colorful options. Apartment Number 9 (1804 North Damen) also carries a wide selection of blazers, ranging from maroon corduroy to warm golden wool to tweed. Scoop NYC, located in Bucktown and the Gold Coast, has wool blazers, a sequin blazer and a blazer with leather paneling and tuxedo-style sleeves with a slit in the back for a contemporary yet dressy feel.
This season, fashion-forward blazers stray from the conservative cut and color. Jewel tones are the colors to be sporting—namely emerald, ruby and sapphire. The bold colors of spring and summer’s vibrant neons are more subdued for autumn. Eggplant and burgundy are trendy and tasteful for blazers. “Black is always a staple color for a classy blazer,” says Z. “Purple and burgundy are hot while color in general is big this season. Browns and greys are always a great classic.”
Colors aren’t limited to the outside of the jacket anymore, either. Cheetah print and striped linings poking out subtly from folded sleeves add a touch of color without overdoing it. Perchance (3510 North Southport) has a jazz-lined linen stretch blazer with a perfect touch of color. Other stores that aren’t specific to Chicago, such as Topshop, Nordstrom, H&M, Express, Macy’s and Zara, offer a wide selection of blazers for fall.
“Interesting linings are a great way to add an unexpected pop if you roll up your sleeve,” Salinger suggests. She recommends blazers by United Kingdom designer Ted Baker (available at Nordstrom).
Draped-front blazers, as opposed to structured ones with buttons, are also big for fall.
“Blazers can come in all types of materials this season,” says Amy Salinger, Chicago fashion expert who has worked with The Today Show, Oprah, MTV and What Not to Wear. “Structured, single-breasted options are still popular, but flowing silk styles are definitely making an appearance.” Krista K. boutique has a silk blazer that makes for a thin jacket as a layer and adds lots of chic style.
Falls in Chicago often translate to a weather forecast that is as up and down as the choppy Lake Michigan waves. One blazer worn two ways is a new trend that tackles the problem of under-, or over-, dressing for the unpredictable fall weather. These blazers are longer and have zippers around the waist that allow the wearers to take off the bottom piece and shorten it.
“Blazers are an easy way to pull things together,” says Rust. Both stylists agree that collarless blouses and sheath dresses look good under blazers. Rust’s key to good style is finding flattering proportions. She suggests pairing a long sheath dress with a short blazer.
“Blazers are great because depending on the fabric and embellishments, they can be worn to work or out on a Friday night,” Rust says. She recommends wool, tweed and cotton blends and darker colors for the office. Z says an office-appropriate blazer is a powerful color, like red, with a simple tank top underneath, skinny black dress pants and a pair of heels. Throw on a long necklace, roll up the sleeves and sling an oversized doctor-style bag for a trendy touch. For an interview, subdued colors are best. Pair a blazer with a pencil skirt to create a professional “suit separates” look. Adding a simple dress to a blazer creates a sophisticated and sleek work outfit. A tip from the stylish Salinger: pair a structured dress with a structured or loose blazer, but add a structured blazer to a loose dress so you maintain a shape and don’t turn into a heap of flowing fabric.
Silk blends with sheen tie together a classy going-out outfit. Jeans, a tank top and blazer are a winning trifecta for a night on the town. Salinger suggests adding statement jewelry to create a spark of personality and transform the blazer from an office outfit to a glamorous getup. Thread Lounge (918 West Armitage) has stylish statement pieces. Z’s idea of a night-out outfit is a slouchy blazer paired with a cocktail dress and clutch for an edgy evening look. For a casual but not careless Sunday outfit, try a blazer with skinny jeans and riding boots. Z recommends skinny jeans, men’s style wingtip shoes and a scarf for a “casual and contemporary” look.
The key to finding the right blazer is making sure it is well-tailored, constructed with quality fabric and often lined. Z advises that slouchy jackets should have fabric that drapes, and formal blazers should be made of starchier, stiffer fabric. “The secret to a great fitting blazer is in the tailoring,” says Z. “The shoulders should fit correctly, the length of the sleeve should be appropriate to the style—for example, a slightly shorter sleeve for the schoolboy style—and the jacket should not pull when it is buttoned up, but it should be fitted enough to show your waistline.
If you have a boxy or straight figure, wrap a belt over your waist for added shape. Z says embellishments should be near features you want to show off. Statement necklaces draw attention to a pretty smile and peplum hemlines emphasize great hips.
Cooler weather doesn’t mean we have to hide under thick, baggy sweaters. Blazers are a flattering layer that pull together a sharp, formal look or add a touch of class to a night-out outfit.
“Blazers have never gone out of style, they carry a sense of timeless class for anyone who wears one,” Z says. “They are easy to dress up or down, versatile in the work place, a night out on the town and at a Saturday afternoon picnic. Putting on a great blazer seems to just lift your mood, improve your posture and make you feel a bit more powerful. There are so many styles and colors available this season to accommodate every personality and budget that no one should be without one in their closet.”