How to Find a Blazer Jacket That Fits

how-to-fit-blazer-2

It’s no secret I love a good blazer, but being petite doesn’t exactly make finding one that fits easy. I get a lot of questions about how I find blazers that fit, and the truth is, not many of mine really do as perfectly as I’d like. Many of them I’m slowly taking to the tailor for alterations (pricey! Ouch!) and I’m using tricks to hide the fit imperfections on the others.

Here are some tips I’ve scrounged up on what to look for when shopping for a blazer than fits well. You can also take this information to the tailor with you, to help you and your tailor determine the best fit for your figure. The blazer used in these photos is knit, and has been altered to fit in the shoulder and the sleeve shortened. I’m considering also getting the sleeves slimmed, but that will wait for another day…

Shoulder:

shoulder-1

Most jackets and blazers have at least a little bit of padding at the shoulder. This gives the blazer shape, and shouldn’t be removed, since it can change the fit and drape. The padding can be lessened or increased with new shoulder pads if needed. The shoulder padding should end at the end of your natural shoulder.

If the shoulder is too wide: not only will you look too broad shouldered, but the sleeve will begin further down your arm than it is suppose to, which may cause restriction in arm movement. If you raise your arm, you may see considerable “denting” in the fabric below the shoulder pad. If you wear a shoulder bag, you may also feel it start to pull your blazer down from the shoulder, which is usually how I get annoyed enough to finally alter the shoulder down.

If the shoulders are too small: your arms will appear to jut out in width compared to the rest of your body, making you look a little something like The Incredible Hulk, ready to rip out of his clothing. You may also notice arm movement restrictions, and an uncomfortable tightness.

One trick I read in a men’s magazine article: while wearing the blazer, stand near a wall and slowly lean into it. If the shoulder pad hits the wall first and scrunches up, it’s too big. If the shoulder pad and your natural shoulder touch the wall at the same time, it’s a good fit. If your natural shoulder rests against the wall but the shoulder pad does not, it’s too small.

Reaching across your body with one arm, to grab the opposite arm (as seen in the photo above), will also give you an idea if the shoulders are too big. If you see the shoulder pad jutting out, it’s too big.

Shoulder details: depend on your figure. For example, on me, puff-shoulders look awful. Some broad-shouldered ladies may not like blazers with strong shoulders, as they may emphasize the shoulder even more. It’s all about trying different things until you find what works for you.

Tricky fits: Being either narrow or broad-shouldered makes finding a blazer that fits tricky. If you’re narrow-shouldered, blazers that fit in the torso may be too big in the shoulder. If you’re broad-shouldered, you make need to size up to find a better fit in the shoulder, which may then make the rest of the blazer too large.

Torso:

The torso of a blazer should run along the line of your curves when buttoned, but not pull tight. The general rule is to get a blazer that you can easily button over the largest part of your torso.

If the torso is too big: you’ll lose your curves in the extra fabric, and may look boxy or overwhelmed.

If the torso is too small: you’ll see the fabric pulling and straining, especially around the buttons.

If you’re busty:  that may mean having to size up to find a comfortable fit over your bust. Often times, this means the blazer will be too large in the shoulder and waist, and you’ll have to consider altering those areas down to fit. Another option is purchasing a blazer with the intention of not wearing it closed. This cuts down on the versatility of the blazer, but may reduce alteration costs.

Buttons: on blazers come in a variety of number combinations. The more buttons a blazer has, the more it will hold you in and stay in place. The “stance” is the highest point where the blazer buttons, and different stances will look better on different figures. If you’re busty, you may find that a blazer with a lower stance will constantly widen at the bust as you move about, so try blazers that button higher, or have 2 or more buttons. Ladies with a smaller bust can often get away with a lower stance and/or less buttons.

Lapels: should be in proportion to your figure. Petites generally look good in smaller lapels, but plus-size ladies (petites included) can often get away with a larger, more dramatic lapel easier than smaller ladies can. Lapel size also goes in and out of style, with the current trend towards a thinner, sleeker look, which I’m loving.

Pockets: can play greatly into the look of the blazer. Depending on the style and size, they can make or break a blazer on your body type. The pockets on this particular blazer are small and angled, so they’re not distracting to the silhouette, and actually create curves in the way they draw the eye. Bulky or patch pockets can add bulk to hips, which can be good or bad depending on your body type.

I like blazers with feminine seaming that helps to nip the blazer at the waist. Sometimes this means several length-wise seams that help shape the blazer, or it may mean a belt-like detail that gives the illusion of a small waist. Peplum details may also help create a feminine shape.

Some jackets are meant to fit boxy (like the iconic Chanel tweed jacket). In this case, you’ll need to determine if your figure can handle a boxy fit, and just how boxy you’re willing to go.

Sleeves:

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An average length sleeve, when standing straight with your arms at your sides, should end near the joint where your thumb connects at your wrist. Bracelet length sleeves stop just above the wrist to allow for the showing off of a bracelet or watch. 3/4 sleeves stop just below the elbow.

Sleeve details: add to the quality of a blazer, my favorite of which are buttons with working button holes (meaning, the buttons actually button and un-button, opposed to just being sewn on for looks). These of course will add to alteration costs if the sleeve needs shortening.

Sleeve width: is also something to take into consideration. The sleeve should run close to your arm for a slim, sleek look. A wide sleeve can look bunchy, and make the blazer look boxy. It’s often amazing the difference a slimmer sleeve can make on the overall look of a blazer. Just take a look at Jean’s DIY sleeve slimming/shortening to see what a slimmer sleeve can do:


sleeve1
From Jean’s great DIY blazer alterations post.

Arm Holes:

Arm holes shouldn’t be much wider than your upper arm.

If the arm hole is too wide: it can restrict your arm movement and pull on the bust of the blazer. It also tends to look sloppy.

If the arm hole is too tight: it can be uncomfortable to wear, chafe your underarm, and can limit the amount of clothing you can layer underneath.

Length:

Jacket lengths go in and out of style, but the most common and classic length stops at your hip. Depending on your figure, you may look better in slightly longer or slightly shorter jacket lengths.

Knit Blazers:

One way to dip your toes in the world of blazers is to start with knit blazers. These are especially handy if you’re a small petite like myself and find classic blazers difficult to find. Knit blazers are usually cut smaller with the intention that they will fit snugly like a sweater, so the chances of finding one that fits decently in the shoulder, torso and sleeves is higher. They are also less formal for those women who tend to feel silly or oafish in blazers.

I’m sure there are many more fit points to consider for a well trained, professional eye, but the above points should be a good starting point for us normal folk.

I’m wearing - Esprit knit blazer, size 0 :: Banana Republic t-shirt, size xs :: 7 For All Mankind Gwenevere skinnies, size 24

Readers: Any other blazer jacket fit tips you’d like to share?

41 Comments

  • Reply February 28, 2012

    Angie

    wow kelly this is one intense, in-depth post! there is so much to hunting down that perfect blazer and i haven’t thought twice about arm holes. h&m seems to do well for us petites in the blazer category and my trusty black one i can’t stop wearing. now i’m going to have to try on my whole collection to see how they match up to your fit list. thanks for doing all the research!

    (hahaha “oafish!”)

  • Reply February 28, 2012

    Tina

    Thanks so much, this is very helpful! I am debating about investing in a quality black theory blazer but it’s soooo costly =/

    • Reply February 28, 2012

      Alterations Needed

       Tell me about it! Do you have a Theory outlet near you? That’s where I’ve picked up most of my Theory blazers, and you can find good deals during their crazy holiday sales. I’ve also heard of ladies having good luck at Nordstrom Rack stores, although I’ve never found a good one there. My other favorite place to find Theory blazers is Bloomingdales. They usually have a better selection than Nordstrom, and their sales can be really good.

  • Reply February 28, 2012

    Yifeng Amy Hu

    Thank you so much for sharing the tips! I’m doing research for blazer now and really admire your collection.

  • Reply February 28, 2012

    Elle

     This is a GREAT post! Thank you for the super informative post. :) I am often undiscriminating when it comes to blazers that fit just ok…so will have to reference this post a lot in the future. :)

  • Reply February 28, 2012

    Amber

    im going to give these things a try kelly. im seriously struggling with finding a blazer that fits and doesnt make my man shoulders look huge :(

    • Reply February 28, 2012

      Alterations Needed

      Yeah, if you have broad shoulders already, too much padding can look awful! Have you tried draped blazers? For some reason, I’m thinking a more fluid fit might look okay, but I may be terribly off base. =P

  • Reply February 28, 2012

    Shoppingisfun

    Kelly, I like this post. Since you have a lot of experience with having jackets tailored, I would like to ask…I have a blazer with “too big” armholes. The blazer has already been taken in and had the sleeves slimmed. Can the armholes be made smaller? 

    • Reply February 28, 2012

      Alterations Needed

       Hmm…usually the arm holes will be made a little bit smaller by having the sides and armpit taken in, but since you’ve already had that done, and the arm holes are still too big, there may not be much a tailor can do. Maybe someone else will have a better answer for you.

      • Reply February 28, 2012

        Aubrey Dang

        they’d have to detach the arms from the blazer, detach the seams on both shoulders, detach the lapel. 

        then they will make the armholes smaller by cutting the length away at shoulder seam that they just detached (think of it as lifting the jacket up at the shoulder so the bottom of the armhole now sits closer to your armpits and cutting away that extra fabric at the top). 

        they may/may not have to fix the cut for the back of the neck. 

        they will split open the seam that runs down the arms and sew it back up slimmer, in proportion to the armholes.  

        most likely, they’ll also adjust the lapel to match the new length of the blazer. 

        Finally, they’ll connect back the shoulder seams, sew back the  lapel and attach the arms.

        This will run you a hefty amount.  I wouldn’t even try it bc it’s also risky that they’ll just mess it up.

  • Reply February 28, 2012

    Petite LG

    Kelly, this post is super informative. Do you know I’ve never looked into those points when I tried on a blazer =)? Finding a blazer that fits is probably a bit easier for me than for you since I am bigger. That’s why I didn’t really pay attention to those details. I will definitely keep this post in mind the next time I shop for a blazer.

  • Reply February 28, 2012

    SewPetiteGal

    Wonderful post – I especially enjoyed learning about shoulder fit trick.  I am definitely going to try that for all future blazer purchases.  LOL on the Incredible Hulk line.

    One question:  is it possible to have a fitted blazer that stays smooth throughout the torso when buttoned?  When I button some of my blazers, they don’t feel tight but sometimes you can see some slight fabric pulling.  Sizing up makes it too loose / boxy so I’m never sure which way to go.

    • Reply February 28, 2012

      Alterations Needed

      Personally, I don’t think a little bit of pulling is a big deal, but I prefer my clothing fitted, and to err on the side of snug rather than loose. I also think this depends on a few factors such as fabric weight (stiffer fabrics will show less strain than flimsy ones), blazer shape (I tend to see more pulling on one-button blazers, maybe because all the work of staying buttoned is confined in one little area), and body type (women are made of so many different shapes and curves, it’s kinda funny to think something will lay “flat” on us…hehe). If you’re not busting out of your blazers and popping buttons, I’d say you’re okay. =)

    • Reply March 17, 2012

      Francesca

      SewPetiteGal, I had a tailor tell me that when  fitted blazer bunches as you describe (where it’s not tight but there are horizontal lines pulling), it’s a sign that the blazer length (shoulder to hem) is too long for your petite torso.  It may be that the blazer’s waist -where it might be nipped in) is actually hitting you at a lower point, like where your high hip is. 

      Unfortunately, there’s no easy alteration for this other than find a shorter style or petite sizing.

      • Reply March 18, 2012

        SewPetiteGal

        That had honestly never occurred to me but it makes sense!  I’ll definitely be on the lookout for that in future blazer purchases – thank you!

  • Reply February 28, 2012

    witheachpassingday

    Kelly thank you for the  in-depth post on blazer. I have never thought of these points when I trying on blazer before. I will have to remember this or bookmark this post on my cell phone. 

  • Reply February 28, 2012

    Carrie

    GREAT post! When evaluating a blazer I bought recently I actually hit your archives, searched “blazer”  and tried to figure out some key things to look at … but I missed a lot. Thanks for the detailed and clear breakdown. :) 

  • Reply February 28, 2012

    New Petite

    Thanks for this post! My main problems are the baggy sleeves and the bust area! 

  • Reply February 29, 2012

    Phoebe

    This is such a great post! It was imformative and I especially liked the tip about leaning against the wall since I normally just eyeball it and end up not making the purchase since I am left unsure. Now I can verify for sure! :)

    • Reply February 29, 2012

      Alterations Needed

       Thanks Phoebe! That’s my favorite tidbit too! I was leaning all over the H&M fitting room I was in the other day…LOL.

  • Reply February 29, 2012

    Arts

    Thanks for the post Kelly. I’m on the lookout for good quality, but easy on price blazers and jackets. I don’t have a theory outlet or bloomies near by. will try Nordstrom Rack.

  • Reply February 29, 2012

    Cimorene

    How difficult is it to have too-wide shoulders altered to fit smaller? Is this something a good tailor can do and how much does it usually cost? I’ve heard that some tailors refuse to do it because shoulder alterations can be complicated and tricky. I have a coat with too-wide shoulders that I’d love to have tailored to fit properly, but am worried that it might get ruined in the process.

    • Reply February 29, 2012

      Alterations Needed

       I just had it done for the first time, and it can be tricky and expensive. I asked my tailor how he did it, and here’s the explanation he gave me:

      1) remove the sleeves.
      2) remove any shoulder padding.
      3) cut away the extra fabric from the end of the shoulder.
      4) re-attach shoulder pads and do any extra snipping or shaping they may need.
      5) re-attach the sleeves and do any extra snipping or shaping they may need.

      As you can see, it can be a pretty involved process. Tailors who do custom menswear should be able to handle it just fine (my tailor makes custom suiting, so he’s a pro!), so I would look around for someone like that in your area. As for cost, a fellow blogger in Los Angeles has a tailor who takes in her jacket shoulders for $75. My tailor usually charges $125, but cut me a break (he did the shoulder and sleeves for $100). Price can be high as far as alterations go, but if you love your coat enough to put a little bit of money in it to look really sharp, it may be a very wise investment. =)

      • Reply February 29, 2012

        guest

        Wow, that’s a pricey tailor you have there! My alterations lady works out of her home and charges me $20 to take in shoulders, $5 to hem pants, $20 to take in the bodice of a dress (it was for a Donna Morgan strapless pleated chiffon dress, taken in 2″). I hadn’t heard of such prices before her either – I guess I just got lucky?

  • Reply March 2, 2012

    Kim

    Too wide shoulders is a pet peeve for me! I think they make me look like a linebacker.

    Thank you for your tips and input. Well fitting blazers definitely take up an outfit multiple notches!

    Kim

    http://www.aprettythought.com

  • Reply March 2, 2012

    Thbaccam

    Thanks for the tips. Very informative. What would you say the proper mobility of the blazer arms? I have a blazer that is fitted, but I think the arms mobility are somewhat restricted when I reach up or extend the arms. Do you have any thoughts on this?

    • Reply March 2, 2012

      Alterations Needed

       Thank you! I’ve never seen a blazer stay put on anyone while they were reaching up for something. I think some mobility restriction is normal, but you should still be able to reach upward with full extension, the blazer will just move up a little with your arms. I’ve worn blazers and coats where in order to reach up fully, I’ve had to physically grab the sleeve or shoulder and move it up, so I could fully extend my arm. In this case, the shoulder didn’t fit right, which is why I couldn’t reach fully without moving the blazer shoulder first.

  • Reply March 3, 2012

    Jacqueline C. Rineer

    This a great post, Kelly, thanks! I love the tip from the men’s mag…NOW THAT is what they should put in women’s magazines *humph* Seriously. 

    I’m currently on the hunt for a sleek, multi-tasking black blazer. This will make my search easier =D 

  • Reply March 26, 2012

    Feisty

    Might as well get your jackets tailored specifically for you if you’re going to pay for the jacket and then have it altered.

  • Reply April 1, 2012

    Yan Ling

    This is such an informative post!  I finally figured out why my blazers aren’t fitting the way I like.  I’m an in-between petite at 5.4″ with normal width shoulder.  However, my torso is extremely slim so most blazers look boxy on me.  You mentioned that taking in the shoulders is a costly alteration, what about slimming the torso?  I have a few pieces I love and I was wondering if it would be worth it to get the torso taken in.  

    • Reply April 1, 2012

      Alterations Needed

       Hi Yan! Slimming the torso doesn’t cost too much, especially compared to taking in the shoulders! I have my jacket torsos slimmed for about $30 – $40, but my tailor is a bit expensive, so you might be able to find good work for a little less if you’re lucky. Shoulders on the other hand, will cost you anywhere between $75 – $125! Ouch! It’s way better to find a jacket that fits in the shoulder, and then tailor the torso if you have to.

  • Reply April 21, 2012

    Shree

    Great post!  I am always on the look out for a great blazer, and it’s just so difficult.  I don’t really have any, other than suit tops that I got alterred. :(

    There’s an H&M close to where I live, but their blazers NEVER fit me right.  I’m 4’10.5″, 99 lbs, and a size 2 is good in the shoulders but tight in the torso when buttoned.  But a size 4 fits in the torso and makes me look like a linebacker.  Do you think it’s worth altering either size to getting the perfect fit, and if so, which size should I get?

    I’ve been to Theory and all the blazers were so long and boxy on me!  No Theory Outlets here, and Nordstrom’s Rack was also a no-go.  Help!! :(

    • Reply April 21, 2012

      Alterations Needed

       Hi Shree! I know how you feel! First of all, don’t ever alter an H&M blazer, because it’s so not worth it, unless you happen to be crafty enough to do it yourself for free. H&M quality isn’t very good, and putting more money into a cheap item that will probably pill or get icky quickly will only break your heart later. I know, because I’ve had cheap items altered, only to have them fall apart after the first wash, and it was money down the drain.

      As for what to alter…if the blazer fits in the shoulders, that’s a plus. Altering shoulders smaller (which I’ve had to do to some blazers I really love) is expensive to the tune of about $100. If you can avoid it…avoid it…I wish I could. So in the case of the H&M blazers, I’d say buy the size 2, and wear them open. You can get away with only wearing blazers open these days, and unfortunately, you can’t alter items bigger in the areas where you need more room.

      Theory blazers are only good when they’re the short “shrunken” ones, and unfortunately they haven’t made any good ones lately. I think the last petite-friendly Theory blazer I saw was in 2010, outlets included, so you’re not missing out on anything since there’s nothing much to miss out these days. I’m keeping my fingers crossed they make some nice shrunken ones for fall. *fingers crossed*

      By suit tops, do you mean matching blazers for your suit pants/skirts? You can totally wear those with jeans on the weekend! It’s one of my favorite looks, and a great way to make your work clothes do double duty. Wear a t-shirt underneath and roll the sleeves to casual it down. =)

  • Reply January 8, 2013

    Olivia Irene

    Just linked your in my blog :) Great fitting post
    oliviairene.blogspot.com

  • Reply August 15, 2014

    Kathy

    Great article, very helpful. Now a fan of your page

  • Reply September 5, 2014

    Miranda

    awesome tips, wondering if a tailor can fix leather jackets?, I have one from neiman marcus shoulders and hands are a little big

  • Reply November 14, 2014

    Sarah

    Loved this article! Wanted to let the readers know, if they don’t already, that Express has really nice mix and match suit separates that go all the way down to a size 00. I have the bust and shoulders of a five year old, but I bought an Express 00 suit jacket, and after reading this article, I don’t think I need to have it tailored at all! I do need to hem the pants though, even with heels. Thanks again for such an informative article.

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