Wardrobe essentials: second layer tops

This is the fifth article in the Wardrobe Essentials series.

Second layer tops are all the vests, cardigans, jackets, and sweaters that are usually worn over tops or shirts (first layer). For simplicity’s sake, this category also includes any third layers, typically worn indoors for added warmth in certain climates. Outerwear, however, doesn’t belong here – it has its own category.

Wardrobe essentials – jackets, sweaters, and cardigans

The important factors to consider here are similar to those of first layer tops: besides good fit and flattering colors, we need to take into account the neckline, sleeves, overall length, fabric, shape, and closure.

Neckline
Collarless necklines lend themselves to accessorizing with scarves and should work well with the collars of your first layer tops. (No bunching, please.) Collared necklines require careful coordination with the first layer’s neckline. My general rule is one point of interest (collar/neckline) per pairing so it’s either a fancy neckline top with a collarless jacket or a plain neckline top with a collared jacket. I use this rule to make life simple but your mileage may vary.

Sleeves
Here, the look or overall impression you’re trying to convey is important to consider. Are you going to be in a formal, professional situation? Long sleeves are best. In more casual environments, three-quarter or bracelet length sleeves are also acceptable. If the first layer top has long sleeves, they should be either hidden completely or showing at the wrists in a manner that looks pleasing and purposeful.

Length
There are two predominant lengths available in RTW and in sewing patterns: high hip and just below the leg break. These tend to be flattering on most women. That said, experiment to find out your preferences – there are women who look fabulous in a waist-length jacket and those whose favorite length is mid-thigh.

Fabric
Lots of choices here – from soft knits in cardigans and sweaters to fine wool suitings in jackets to leather in vests… Different levels of drape, texture, and weight will affect the garment’s look. Find your best fabrics.

Shape
Shape is an important detail to consider – fitted vs. loose vs. oversized – as it will affect the fit and the silhouette of the garment. Experiment to find out what works best. Some figures are flattered by closely fitted clothing, others look great in looser silhouettes.

Closure
Buttons, zippers, and belts (or lack thereof) are another consideration – does the cardigan or jacket button closed or hang loose? If it hangs loose, will you want to close it? If so, how? Does it have a matching belt? Does it look better with a different belt? If the closure is a zipper, does it lay flat? All of these are best figured out before the purchase becomes permanent.

Next up in this series will be a closer look at dresses.

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One response to “Wardrobe essentials: second layer tops

  1. Alexandra, I really appreciate this series about wardrobe planning. I know it can help me to make better decisions about what I plan to sew (and buy). Thank you for all the work you’re putting into this.

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