How do you view the jackets and coats in your entry closet? Are they just there to keep you warm? Or do they actually do something for your outfit?
In Part 4 of the Mom’s Wardrobe Basics series I want to show you the important part those coverups play in your wardrobe. Because in all reality, these pieces of clothing will either complete your outfit or turn your outfit into a complete disaster. And I really try to avoid disasters on my body since my toddler creates enough of them around the house. ;) Let’s look into how completer pieces (jackets, coats, cardigans, blazers, vests) can work to actually enhance your mom uniform.
Completer pieces are obviously especially necessary in the colder months. Yet so many times I’ve gotten dressed and loved what I was wearing until I looked for something warm to go over it. All of a sudden, I was back to looking frumpy just because I didn’t want to freeze my booty off! So frustrating!
Vests and cardigans: For the everyday comfort of warmth
Cardigans and vests are my go-to for just being at home. They are light and comfortable, providing cozy warmth without adding clunky weight. But they especially have the tendency to frumpify (totally made that word up) my whole look! I’m okay with frumpy at night when I'm about ready to collapse after dinner prep, bathtime, and bedtime routine. But when the item that gives me warmth also ruins my chic all day, every day of winter, I’m seriously developing a bad relationship with it!
The important thing to look for in your outfits when wearing vests and cardigans is proportions and color/pattern.
Bulky or loose sweaters such as kimonos, drapey sweaters, and boyfriend sweaters (very popular right now) should only be worn over fitted clothes to balance your figure and avoid making you look...erm....wide. Skinny/tapered pants/pencil skirts. Not with wide leg pants or maxi dresses/skirts.
Long sweaters/vests tend to look best with pants versus skirts or dresses. This is because unless they’re long enough to reach the hem of your skirt/dress, they will create an extra line halfway down and make you look stumpy.
Cropped (short) cardigans usually look best over a dress. They tend to add awkward dimensions to a top/pants outfit.
Colors/patterns should either contrast or blend with what you’re wearing. For that reason I recommend that your first few cardigans be neutral and classic patterns, insuring they will combine well with most of your wardrobe.
Merrick from Merrick’s Art explains these principles beautifully with pictures here.
Patterned vs. solid cardigans... there is a place for both in your wardrobe. Start out with a couple neutral-toned solid cardigan like gray, white or navy blue. Try to find a waist-length or cropped one and another that is more boyfriend style (long and loose). Feel free to then add an accent color cardigan from your color palette (like mustard or pink). From there you can add some fun with polka dotted, striped, floral, or animal print cardigans. Just remember that patterned cardigans will match with fewer of your outfits.
Blazers, jackets and coats: For errands, outings, work outside the home
Blazers, jackets and coats are generally used when leaving the house. You need fewer of these as a couple of basics will combine perfectly with almost anything you're wearing.
The trickiest outfits to match with my coats are my dresses. This is sometimes due to the length of the hemline looking awkward or my coat not being dressy enough. The latter problem only occurs when I'm going to a formal event like a wedding or an extra special date. But here's how I recommend avoiding this problem: one of the coats you own should be both long and formal. A gray or black trench coat for example. Can't picture one? Think inspector gadget. They often have a sash around the waist. I included various examples in the galleries below.
Pea coats are some of the warmest coats available and usually come in wool or another thick knit with double breasted buttons. They usually don't reach lower than the hips or thighs. I recommend owning one of these as they will be your go-to in winter!
Let’s get real
You guys. Wearing completer pieces “correctly” is one of my biggest challenges still. Therefore, writing this post is a challenge too. But it’s a good reminder that although coverups can go wrong so many ways, they also have huge potential to complement, support and complete the look you’re going for. They are an ally. They are an ally. They are an ally. Oh, sorry, got lost in a trance there.
I don’t always think carefully about the proportions happening to my outfit after slipping a sweater or jacket on. So often my hubby’s oversized hoodie is the perfect coverup to warm both my body and soul. (What is it about guy clothes and comfort?) My goal is simply to avoid the day in and day out frumpy look during the fall and winter months. The best way I can do this is by carrying a versatile (though it be small) selection of the right completer pieces. It makes it more likely that I’ll easily find the right length and color to make my outfit complete rather than—you got it—a complete disaster.
On to some examples!
Here are some versatile and cute completer pieces that are also trending right now. But before we jump in to those, I gotta give you some shopping tips based on my experience so far.
SHOPPING TIP #1: I strongly encourage you to look for simple and classic colors/patterns that match most of your existing wardrobe. If, like me, you fall for the extra frilly or the pops of color for your first good cardigans you will find yourself looking amazing in, say, 20% or less of what you wear it over. Cute in that 20%, frustratingly wrong in the rest. Your number of fabulous winter outfits has just shrunk. Get cardigans that, though simple, will be a daily and easy go-to because they go with almost everything. I’m trying to provide several of those in the examples below.
SHOPPING TIP #2: Just as your tops, dresses and skirts vary in length, so should your coverups. Aim to have 1-2 excellent waist-length vests/cardigans and 1-2 long (like to your bum or longer) vests/cardigans for around the house so that it’s easy to find one to go with any of your outfits. For your first good coat, something that is long enough to cover your bum will insure it goes with most of what you wear. Jackets and blazers are usually either waist-length or cropped; go for waist-length first and add cropped later.
SHOPPING TIP #3: Coats are expensive when you buy them new—unless you find a great deal. If you'd really like your coat new, check out JCPenny.com, Macys.com, Forever21.com, or Target.com. (Click these links to view the coat selections they have available and then narrow the price down to your budget in the sidebar.) In the summer or spring you will likely find some incredible discounts! You can also look for a coat in consignment or thrift shops. Just keep in mind you may need to spend on dry cleaning before wearing it.