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…
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.
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.
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:
From Jean’s great DIY blazer alterations post.
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.
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.
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.