I sometimes wear a light denim or chambray shirt with both sides tied individually in the front (think I learned that trick here long ago) and left open. I find that more flattering than tying both sides together into one knot. Hope that made sense!

I hear you. I like Roxanna’s suggestions a lot. I am not a fan of cardigans for me, almost to the point where they are a poison eye. Short ones look too preppy and long ones seem frumpy on my body. So I defer to cropped jackets with structure that hint at a waist without defining it. Tough to find when you are short-of-torso, I know!

I do have a very cropped printed bomber that’s very lightweight — I finally figured out that it works with either full-length high-waisted wide-leg pants or with midi length dark dresses or jumpsuit. I don’t zip it up. It’s not puffy at all so it just sort of skims the top and ends at my waist.

And I have a military style olive jacket that is a little longer but somehow works over skirts and dresses because it is fitted through the waist and not boxy. I don’t know exactly why this particular jacket works while others don’t but I suspect there is a combination of fit and hem length that makes something a little different work on each individual.

I have a now-ancient and soft, faded blue fitted denim jacket that is a little small on me if I try to button it up. But that slightly small fit means that left unbuttoned, it still stays close to the body and is flattering over these kinds of dresses and doesn’t look try-hard. It is cropped enough that I think it works well on me. Yeah, it’s a classic piece, but I think with your touch with modern accessories and footwear, you would make it work!

I think what Janet said is key. For this purpose, I actuality look for cropped toppers that might be too small when done up. That way, when I leave them open, they hint at shape underneath while still going along the lines of my body.

I have no idea what this brand is but this is the idea (but smaller so you don’t get lost in cloth)

I like those Nic & Zoe wraps Angie suggested. I like tying a wrap at or above my waist, especially over a dress. I could see that being a really nice look with your black dress.

Janet, Roxanna - I totally understand the slightly too small solution for a denim or other kind of jacket. This is how I wear a lot of jackets, even blazers I know I will never button up. It's reality with my body type and I'm glad I'm not the only one who does this! I have a very lightweight printed bomber that's never been worn (another ridiculous buy from last summer) that I should try here. Cardigans aren't my favourite choice here for the same reasons Janet mentioned. I don't mind longer ones over shorts or pants, but with dresses, especially longer ones, I'm not sure it's the look I'm after.

crst - now that's an interesting idea! I can't say I've ever thought of it , not being one to wear shirts very often. But a nice linen shirt would be perfect ! Thank you!

Brooklyn - no, you're not the only one. I don't like the classic boxy denim jacket look either. I have a few and never wear them. I prefer detailed, fitted ones that add something to the outfit rather than just sit on top of it IYKWIM. And yes to a denim blazer! It's been on my HEWI list for years now . I'm a fan of Free People, and should look to them for solutions - great suggestion, thank you!

anchie - a big scarf is actually a simple solution here and now I'm wondering why I didn't think of it. I was , as usual, dashing out the door and had about one minute to find something. I think I must have a linen oversized scarf that would work! Yay! Not edgy, but arty and interesting , which works for me too .

I knew you all would deliver here - thank you so much for taking the time to write !


also check out Blue collar red Lipstick on IG. she does a lot of loose dresses with toppers, usually in a funky, arty way:


I don’t have any good pics right now, but more fitted short jackets are what I use/ would use. I also have a shirt knit blazer style with 3/4 sleeves that looks... not exactly edgy, but more casual/ fun. Some short cardigans are slightly fitted.
WHBM to me carries ( or used to) a lot of jackets in this category.

I do what others do and it's no real help to you - a cropped, fitted, denim jacket. I got one of mine from the kids' department at Old Navy! (It's XXL kids, mind you!)

My thrift find of the Paul Smith short linen-wool blend blazer has turned out really well for me. It's not ultra cropped like the denim jackets -- comes to about my high hip. But the sharp cutaway on it mimics the effect Brooklyn probably gets with her short denim blazers -- so it gives some waist definition. Also it is unlined and super lightweight, so easy to wear. It's a great little piece.

I also sometimes wear long cardigans with loose midis, although I tend to prefer those with slim dresses/ tube skirts more -- just works better with my proportions.

Another topper that works better with sheath style dresses is a short kimono style thing. It's actually great for that purpose. If it were longer and had slits in the sides, I think it could work really well for a looser dress. But the version I have tends to look better with a knee length sheath.

Years ago I had a really light linen-like cardigan with trailing ends --cropped in the back and angled forward in points a bit. That was when those things were trending. I don't have it now, but I sometimes still miss it. It was a really useful item for this purpose, especially if it was an in and out of AC situation. It stuffed in a bag really well and came out easily.

ETA, I now see Angie's examples and mine was similar to the Nic and Zoe one. Except navy, of course. I actually wore it out with wear after two years, which I guess shows you how useful such a thing can be at times! Hmmm. I didn't know they were still available but might have to do a search for similar!

Ooh - thanks Roxanna! I know you've mentioned her before but I don't think I've ever looked at her IG account. She's got great style. And this whole discussion is making me miss a lot of my older, more interesting clothes that would have worked really well here. A silver linen fitted unlined blazer for example. UGH - what happened to my wardrobe? It's SO boring .

I have dresses with a similar vibe, and my denim jackets don't work with all of them. The ones I do like with them are the shortest denim jackets I have, one of which is cropped, and the second of which is a petite size and a boxy cut.
Two other things I find work with this style of dress:
1) a loose, open front cardigan that I can wear upside down, so that it is very short in the back. If you have any open-front cardis, just give them a try upside down and see if they will work!
2) Shrugs, which I make without a pattern, from a long rectangle of fabric (examples below; these are longer than you might want). You can use a rectangular scarf and tie the two corners together at each short end, put your arms through those openings you've created, and wear it that way. It's not as easy to wear as a shrug that you sew, in which you actually create arm-shaped tubes, but it's similar.

Also, I have the Nic & Zoe four-way cardigan that Angie pointed out, and the corners can be buttoned back away from the front to create this same shrug effect. Or the corners can be buttoned across the front, to create more of a waist, or they can be tied loosely in front, to shorten the cardi. Great versatility.

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Yay! Sooo many fun options

I forgot to mention:

  • longer kimono topper
  • waterfall cardigan (same cascading idea)
  • shrug
  • bomber (I see that's been mentioned)
  • wrap (that too)
  • fluid Summer bombers and utility jacket
Denim blazers are structured - I don't know if that's an option. Also they can look a bit long.

If I remember correctly, your printed bomber is oversized? Scrunch the sleeves for structure.

Apologies for not reading through everyone else's answers yet, but it sounds like you're not actually looking for something structured like a denim jacket, right?

Photo #1: The hat adds some structure

Photo #2: The burnout velvet fringed kimono look skews more 'Boho rocker'

Photo #3: a big necklace can add some structure & edge, even to a long (cardigan) over long (dress) look

Photo #4: Just wanted to show a sleeveless utility jacket variety too.

Photos #5 & #6: If you're worried about looking matronly VS edgy, see how a more draped style looks more edgy than a fitted long cardigan? Cuffed sleeves help too

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I find I don’t notice the dreaded line in the back where shorter topper and dress meet if they are the same color.

Barbara Diane - yes, low contrast is definitely better.
Zaeobi- these are all perfect, actually. I'm not sure I see myself swanning around the grocery store wearing a long kimono, but maybe it's worth a try. Thank you! Oh, and you're right, I'm not looking for denim jackets. Been there, done that. Structure is just fine.
Angie, that Rails military jacket is perfect! I'm putting it on my wish list .The print bomber I mentioned is not the same oversize one I showed in the forum last summer. Diff one
Firecracker - you wear this look so well! Upside down cardigan , eh? Ok! If you say so

The Nic & Zoe one looks good, doesn't it? A little conservative/maintstream for my taste, but might we worth trying. Also - why is it $100 ? Doesn't strike me as quite necessary . I don't know much about that brand - I guess the price surprised me for what it is.

FWIW, I’ve never found a sufficiently cropped jean jacket to work with dresses. DD has one that she’s worn to shreds and has shown me that an inch or two in length can make all the difference in whether it works or not.

Drapey dresses with asymmetrical hemlines are tough because toppers with horizontal hems can look too tailored. I wear the sleeveless shift over the long sleeve dress partly for warmth.

The sheer shirt is out for alterations; I will have to see if it works over non-fitted clothing. On me, it is 3/4 length so the proportions might work better with dresses than a normal length.

Thanks for reminding why I get frustrated wearing certain dresses. I think I just resort to throwing on a scarf or wrap.

Ooh lots of good options! I've also just worn a hoodie with unstructured dresses.
Think I may need an asymmetrical dress

Runcarla’s post reminded me I used to have an unlined short-sleeved white cotton shirt that fit this role well. While it hit at high hip, I think the light color (I’m fair skinned) and sheerness kept it from chopping me in half and it was infinitely cooler than a denim jacket. I would wear it unbuttoned over sleeveless dresses or tops, Kind of like this find, but white.

Just saw this long post. Brooklyn and you Lisa are not the only ones who don’t like certain denim jackets. Well in fact, I don’t like any denim jackets at all and have never owned one.
I would wear a cardigan in the situation you are describing, I have a couple that tie or knot at the waist that I like with midis. But you might tell me they look matronly

As I live in a hot climate - but also have to deal with a lot of gentle aircon - this is a common problem for me.
The best two options for me are
(1) a denim jacket in softish denim (not too stiff). I then button the middle two buttons to pull it in and give it some shape.
(2) ballet style wrap cardigans that tie around my waist .

I tend to wear cropped jackets or long line cardigans. If there is no waist definition, or the topper stops at my hips, I look like a block. I have this organza wrap top which provides a bit of coverage or some cropped jackets.

@Lisa good to see we're on the same wavelength - I was worried my recommendations would be too Boho or RATE for your purposes!

Haha the longer length isn't mandatory, but it just gives a more dramatic effect when worn over a maxi dress. A shorter kimono topper could give a similar effect without too much drama, especially if it's fringed or made from a more burnout material. Adding the long necklace and/ or a hat will help, too.

Seeing this is still going...I thought I would show you what I do. It’s evening in winter so I am just wearing today’s top/pants with no jewellery or makeup and have put the 2 summer cardigans over. The red drape one is from 2013 and the same as a white drape one that I reluctantly edited after 51 wears because it was getting holes in it. They are so useful over sleeveless maxi dresses in the cool of a summer evening like by our friend’s pool.
And the bronze one is from last year, already worn 7 times in a similar situation. Over a dress or even over a longer top I feel they are somewhat flattering!
Not as glamorous as Zaeobi’s pics, but possibly more practical. I don’t have to fiddle with them while trying to hold a drink or eat a plate of barbecue!

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She wears a lot of loose dresses with interesting toppers...

I like your examples Jenni - they're like summer weight, tie-front boleros