Clothes that don’t date are the backbone of your wardrobe. Here’s what to look for in jackets.
What exactly constitutes a jacket is rather a moot point, with a short coat meeting a jacket somewhere around thigh level, but there are certain styles that recur again and again. Most are derived from menswear.
As with coats, whatever style of jacket you choose it will date less if you avoid extremes such as big floppy collars, unusual sleeves and wide shoulders. Jackets that come to exactly your shoulderline can be worn for years, while the sleeve should be one or two piece, with or without a separate cuff.
Jeans jacket (far left) – in denim or chino fabric. The classic jeans jacket has a collar, heavy studs or a zip, two high breast pockets with flaps, wrist-length sleeves with a one-button cuff and comes to about hip length. An extremely versatile jacket for casual wear, you can dress this up by a simple change of fabric, such as black leather, red vinyl etc. If you’re busty, look for ones with vertical seaming and don’t make the mistake of buying too large.
Bomber jacket (left) – in black, brown or tan leather. Modelled on the Second World War flying jacket, the classic bomber jacket fits to the shoulder and has epaulettes, and snug knit cuffs and knit bottom band, worn at hip level. It should have a collar and may close with either a zip or heavy studs. A good leather will last virtually a lifetime, while a cheeky satin number is handy for a bit of zip for evening. If you like the bomber jacket style, get it in a range of colours and fabrics – it’s a great, youthful, windproof option.
Baseball jacket (right) – in any colour of main body, and often white or cream detailing. A baseball jacket has roomy raglan sleeves and usually a matching knit cuffs and waistband. It has a small, round collar and closes with a front zip and traditionally has large numbers and logos both front and back. The classic American baseball jacket is a heavy garment with leather sleeves, but fashion versions come in lightweight cottons and synthetics. A useful, fun style for casual wear.
Biker jacket – in black or dark brown leather. A motorcycle jacket is close-fitting (for wind resistance), with raglan or set-in sleeves and usually a very short stand collar. It closes with either a central front zip or an asymmetric zip running from hip to shoulder, and often has two inline vertical pockets (ie: set into the front seams). The real thing comes in a range of vinyls, leathers and rain-repellent finishes and the garment is often sectioned off into different colours along the seamlines, while the high-fashion version may have other bells and whistles such as epaulettes, a more conventional collar, or a more feminine cut to the side seams. The biker jacket is a very slimming garment and well worth a look if you’ve never considered one, especially in a quality leather.
Hacking jacket – in a plain wool or tweed. The hacking style of jacket – the most basic shape used for women’s suits- looks good on virtually every woman, with its classic collar and open revers, single-breasted construction, slight nip at the waist, 1-3 buttons and wrist-length sleeves. It may also have a velvet collar, and the pockets may be horizontal, patch or inline. Modelled on Victorian riding clothes, this is the classic jacket for business wear but also, in a casual fabric, smartens up casual trousers such as jeans. The crucial thing to watch out for with this style of jacket is the height of the ‘stance’, which is where the two front edges meet. If you’re petite, keep this quite high, preferably around bust level, and opt for three buttons – if you’re taller it can be lower and you can get away with 1 or 2 buttons. Modern versions come in almost any fabric but are more wearable if there’s a degree of stretch.
Paletot (far left). The paletot rotates in and out of fashion. Big in the late 50s and early 60s, it’s been seen again comparatively recently with the trend towards volume. ‘Paletot’ basically denotes any jacket that is short and roomy. It usually has three-quarter sleeves, falls at the high hip and may be collarless or have a round collar band. Paletots are best worn by women with small breasts – on a larger woman they are very unflattering. They also look better on short women than tall women, who can look Olive Oyl-like in the three-quarter sleeves.
Bolero. A bolero is a very short jacket that may come as low as the waist or be as short as a pair of shoulderpads, when it’s usually referred to as a shrug. Boleros are a great cover for small-breasted women but are very unflattering to everyone else as they hang to the bustline and then sail straight out from there. They also leave the waist fully exposed. If a dress style comes with a sleeveless top and matching bolero, pass on this if you have heavy arms or a large bust – opt for a wrap evening cardigan instead.