Wednesday, March 7, 2018

"Pretend" Blazers

Last week, I received unhappy news. Our dress code had changed. Casual Fridays were no more, and jeans no longer had a place at the office. Alas, my brief taste of wearing jeans to work was over too soon. The newly codified rules also contained a textual ambiguity. They arguably required business formal the rest of the week and allowed business casual only on Fridays. (I don't think that's what they actually mean, though.) 

My personal interpretation of business formal for women is that it requires some kind of blazer or jacket, though it doesn't necessarily require the ultraconservative look I adhere to for entry-level attorney job interviews. This creates a slight problem, as I loathe jackets. I find them restrictive and uncomfortable, and they're so not my style. With a chest measurement that's three, as much as four, standard mall brand number-based size chart increments up from the rest of me, they never fit off the rack in a way that feels awesome. (Of course, standard size chart measurements rarely match reality, so it's not as difficult for me to shop as it sounds, though jackets are reliably more difficult than other items.) Tailoring is so expensive here that, for something I dislike wearing, it's unlikely I'll put money down for anything more complicated than hemming a sleeve, especially when I have suits that are "close enough." And most jackets need dry cleaning, which I hate needing to go do.

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I'm still pretty sure that business formal in the sense of requiring a blazer or jacket isn't the rule, but in the meantime, I was thinking about how I'd work around the jacket requirement, which does apply at some firms. I'd probably opt for "pretend" or "almost" jackets that have the look, but not the restrictiveness of actual blazers, nor the dry-cleaning requirements. Essentially, I'm thinking of jackets in less traditional materials.

  • J.Crew Factory Sweater Blazer - I had high hopes for this machine-washable cotton sweater blazer, but the sizing doesn't work on me. It's too long in the body, which isn't surprising, as I need petite sizing in their other blazers, and this is only available in regular. The lapels don't lay flat well, which is an issue I sometimes have in regular blazers too, maybe because my shoulders and chest are a little too wide. Outside of the length, this item generally runs a little large. (I often do better with size medium for more fitted sweaters, but small is the closest size for me here.) 
  • J.Crew Factory Open Sweater Blazer - Another machine-washable cotton sweater blazer, which has a J.Crew equivalent that is dry clean-only because it's made of merino wool. (I wouldn't experiment with machine washing J.Crew merino wool, as I've experienced shrinking even when washing with cold water and laying flat to dry.) Sizing is similar to the other sweater blazer, but because of the open, more cardigan-like design, I like this much better and may keep it in two colors. (I'm in the market for cardigans because my older ones, mostly from Loft and Ann Taylor, are showing a lot of wear.) 
  • MM. LaFleur Saint Ambroeus Jardigan - This is the last item I've personally tried. My main objection, after I ordered it following my showroom appointment, was to the price and the dry clean-only guidelines. From trying it on and seeing it on a friend, it's probably the most jacket-like cardigan I've seen. It holds it shape fairly well, and generally has a somewhat structured look because of the material. I don't think it holds that shape as well if one is very busty, unfortunately, so that was another strike for me. I tend to get sweaty and wash my sweaters and jackets often, so the dry-clean only restriction was a problem. I've seen some internet commenters say they machine wash this and lay flat to air dry, though it's so expensive that I'd get nervous about not following instructions. 
  • Betabrand Collarless Yoga Blazer - This one comes highly recommended by a law school classmate, i.e. someone to whom business formal also means a more traditional, structured-looking blazer or jacket is strongly preferred. I'm intrigued, and likely to put in an order when the black color comes back in stock. 
  • Banana Republic Long and Lean Fit Inverted Collar Ponte Blazer - I generally can't wear Banana Republic as their styles don't fit me well, but judging by the reviews, this seems like a solid machine-washable blazer.  
  • Boden Elizabeth Ponte Blazer - This one is often recommended on Corporette comment threads. 

Even as I write this post, I know not to get too attached to the goal of finding a perfect "pretend" blazer that is sufficiently structured and formal looking, but is machine-washable and doesn't feel as restrictive. Out of the items I've tried so far, both recently and in the past (I once bought a more casual, machine-washable red twill jacket from Loft, but it didn't hold its shape well), the closest thing was the MM. LaFleur Saint Ambroeus jardigan, and it was still pretty far from what I wanted. I like the J.Crew Factory Open Sweater Blazer more as a standard cardigan with an interesting collar, rather than a true jacket substitute.

What is your interpretation of what business formal requires for women? Is it ever needed at your office? Do you have any nontraditional jackets or blazers that you like?  

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