A few weeks ago I posted about layering underneath dresses. Today I’m going to do a first installment on layering over dresses. The sky’s the limit, from jackets, cardigans, blouses and shirts, to coats and even other dresses. Today we’re going to tackle jackets.

It’s all about finding the right combination of two variables:

  1. The silhouette of the dress
  2. The length of the jacket

The following guidelines are by no means hard and fast rules and I frequently see them being broken successfully by stylishly creative and daring ladies who understand how to balance out proportions. But it’s a good place to start if you’re new to wearing jackets over dresses.

Tailored cropped jackets work extremely well

Wearing a really short jacket over a fitted, fit-and-flare, A-line or sack dress is virtually flop proof. By cropped I mean that the length of the jacket hits you on or above your natural waistline. Think of cheeky styles like shrunken blazers, biker jackets, Chanel jackets, boleros, short tuxedo jackets and denim jackets. Extra short retro trapeze jackets and faux fur shrugs work well too. The length of the dress can be either a little below the knee, on the knee, or shorter. Keeping the jacket un-buttoned or un-zipped creates a vertical line down the front of the body, which is very flattering.

These pictures illustrate my points nicely.

Regular length blazers require a little more thought

A classic blazer layered over a fitted knee length sheath dress is ideal for a formal, reasonably conservative, professional work setting. But if you’re looking for a more playful outfit, try combining a shorter dress with a boyfriend blazer or hip length tuxedo jacket. I’ve found that layering longer jackets over dresses works best with form fitting or sack dresses. The proportions don’t work as well over A-line or fit-and-flare frocks unless you belt the layers at the waist. Scrunch up the sleeves for textural outfit interest.

These pictures illustrate my points nicely.

Layering knee-length trench coats and wool coats over any style of knee length or shorter frock is a no-brainer even though you’ll usually take those off inside. Shorter wool coats and trenches can work too, but they never seem to look quite as good as when the coats are as long as the dresses themselves. To my eye anyway.

If you have further questions on how to layer jackets over dresses, please ask away in the comments below. Never done it before? Start experimenting to get more mileage from your wardrobe. Any excuse to wear our beloved frocks for more of the year!