How to Recognise a Great Jacket when you meet one

by lizdavenport.

“Look at me!” said the great little jacket (poem)


“That’s a great jacket!”
 Jackets will probably be your most expensive investments, so you want as much wear as possible or they will not give you value for money. I would like to share my secrets of the fitting room with you in quite a technical sense, so that you can make more informed decisions about your precious purchases.

I have created a checklist for how to recognise a great jacket when you meet one.

When You First Look at a Jacket…

Jackets have many personalities. They dictate how you feel, beginning with their cloth. They can be made of denim, sequins, linen, silk, cotton, micro fibre, velvet, wool, flannel, crepe, beaded, lace, plain, embellished or embossed.

You can check the following criteria before you even try a jacket on:

  • Choose a a transeasonal, light-to medium weight, fabric that can be worn for at least nine months of the year.
  • A stretch fabric gives extra movement for greater comfort, especially at a desk or steering wheel.
  • Do not choose thick, textured fabric as it is anti-thin.
  • Avoid crushable fabrics as they can look dishevelled and cheap.
  • Watch out for fabric that snags or catches.
  • Stripes or checks should be matched exactly, on lapels, sleeves, pocket flaps and body.
Jackets in a coordinated wardrobe
  • Look for good quality soft satin lining, very light in weight so as not to be too hot. (Many jackets are lined with cheap acetate taffeta, which stains, deteriorates and splits.)
  • If the outer fabric has stretch be sure the lining stretches with it otherwise it will restrict movement.
  • Buttons are accessories and should be a perfect match or in a material that works with your jewellery e.g. silver buttons, silver jewellery.
  • The pocket flap varies with fashion trends and often creates a key point of difference with interesting details. Check that the pocket flaps are even and matched, especially in stripes and checks. Lay the garment down flat and consciously study the detail.

10 Things to Check in the Fitting Room…

1. Across-Back Measurement

The first thing to check with your Great Jacket is the forward reach – swing your arms forward whilst in the fitting room. If the shoulder width is too narrow it will restrict movement. You must be comfortable to drive or sit at a table or desk.

2. Shoulder Line

The shoulder seam must run along the top of the shoulder. If it is too far back the jacket will fall back so you have to constantly pull it forward. If it is too far forward it gives the appearance of round shoulders.

3. Shoulder Width

It must be wide enough to allow the sleeve head to sit at the outside edge of the point of the shoulder. If it is set too far out (i.e. falling off the shoulder) it will create the “grid-iron player” look. If it is set too far in the jacket will look too small and the upper arm will be accentuated creating the “sausage arm”.

4. Sleeve & Armhole

The setting of the sleeve is critical. Look carefully in the mirror.

  • The sleeve head must be eased into the top of the armhole.
  • The easing must be at the top of the sleeve. (Often easing can be at the back of the sleeve throwing the whole sleeve out of alignment.)
  • There should be no folds of fabric down the front of the sleeve when on the body.
  • There should not be excess fabric at the back of the sleeve where it joins the back armhole.
parrot jacket
  • The front curve of the armhole must sit at the crease where the arm joins the body. If it is too far out the jacket looks too big. If it is too far in the jacket looks narrow across the bust.
  • The armhole depth is important for comfort. If it is too high you are constantly aware of it touching your armpit. If it is too low it distorts the bust fit.
  • A jacket is worn over a top, shirt or dress, so there must be room to accommodate a sleeve.
  • If a sleeve is too long the whole jacket looks too big.
  • If the sleeve is too short you look as if you have grown out of it or couldn’t afford to lengthen the sleeve or, worse, you simply have a careless sense of style.
5. The Collar
  • The back collar must not sit up too high, pushing up into the hair line. This will shorten the look of your neck as well as annoy you.
  • The centre back collar seam where the collar joins the jacket should be covered by the rolled-over collar.
  • The centre back collar should sit neatly at the back of the neck – not poking out.
6. The Front Lapels

Lapels come in many shapes and sizes and change dramatically with fashion trends. The most important fit tip is that the break point allows the collar to sit with no gaping or distortion. A well constructed good quality jacket has interfacings which control and prevent stretching in this critical area which is the focal point of the vision line.

7. The Bust Fit

A highly skilled pattern maker builds shape into the curve of the bust both vertically and horizontally using darts and seams. A Great Jacket must create a rounded space to accommodate the bosom, especially for sizes 14 +.

  • If there is not enough curve vertically the jacket will lift at the front hem.
  • A jacket should not strain or be tight at the bust (this will happen if there is not enough curve horizontally at the front of the jacket).
  • Look for buttons strategically placed at the point of the bust to avoid gaping. (If one button is above the bust point and one below, the jacket will “smile” – watch television newsreaders for an example.)
  • There should be no folds in the side front panels of the jacket. It must be smooth from the shoulder to the hem. This will be determined by the placement and depth of the darts and seams.
8. The Waist Shape

A Great Jacket skilfully follows the contours of the body. It is critical that the curve for the waist shaping sits at the waist-line. If the shaping is too high it will accentuate the hips, stomach and backside.

9. The Cuff

The circumference at the wrist should not be uncomfortably tight, but if it is too wide it will broaden the hip-line and make the jacket look too big.

10. Inside Pocket

A Great Jacket should have at least one concealed pocket inside the left front for credit card, glasses, lipstick etc.

red jacket

The Great Jacket Makes You a Winner

The alternative to a jacket is a coat or a cardigan, so there is no way to deny or escape from the fact that jackets are the pivot point in wardrobe building. A coat or a cardigan cannot possibly give you the style and versatility your life demands.

LizBecause your jackets are so important, it is best to spend a lot of time finding the best you can. If the jackets that suit you are expensive, do not falter – they are worth it, as they will underpin your confidence for years to come.

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