Borrowed from the boys – Zara navy wool blazer + Manolo bows

navy wool blazer2
Zara boys jacket sz 11-12 (altered), thrifted skirt, DIY pocket square from Nick
Manolo Blahnik pumps (similar), Talbots navy tights (similar), H&M; scarf + gloves

When shopping, I tend to poke around in the girls department, but rarely if ever venture into the boys. Little girls’ stuff is already iffy-proportioned for grown women, so I imagine boys clothing to be even further “off.” Not to mention the effort of having to fabricate a “nephew” or “brother” that you’re shopping for when clingy sales associates keep asking questions. However, after Kelly’s post on shopping for boys blazers and her success with getting one tailored beautifully (see before and after), my eyes were opened up to this world of little jackets with slightly longer lengths and chest slots for fun pocket squares.

Coach court bag (current year’s version) and vintage earrings (similar on eBay)
navy wool blazer

It would only make sense that I was with the boys blazermaster herself when I came across this heavier one (marketed as a jacket) in Zara’s boys department. It had endured rounds upon rounds of markdowns, and was 75% off at $20. I was skeptical about the wool blend quality but Kelly wasted no time in grabbing a firm fistful of the material. She released it after a few moments, and commented on how the negligible creasing left behind indicated that it was fair quality for wool.

I tried on size 11-12 and really liked the warmth, the classic true navy color, the fit of the shoulders, and the casual longer length (perfect for wearing with skinny bottoms or mini skirts). However, the torso and sleeves needed to be re-shaped for a woman’s figure. Work has had me so pressed for free time that I didn’t want to add to the now daunting alterations pile (and had little faith in my DIY skills) …but eventually gave in to the encouragement of my trusty shopping companions (had the pleasure of Wendy visiting too!).

After further evaluation in front of my mirror at home, I decided to:
1) Slim sleeves slightly (couldn’t slim too much because I wasn’t changing the armholes)
2) Shorten sleeves slightly
3) Take-in along the back seams to add shape to the torso

I followed the steps in this old tutorial for alterations 1 & 2, and did the following for 3:
navy wool blazer5
Using fabric chalk, I marked where I would like the torso of this blazer to taper in the most (around my lower waist). I then opened up the lining of the blazer and transferred my markings to the inside of the wool material.
navy wool blazer6 I drew out the new seams with chalk, keeping them smoothly curved and nipping in the most where I had marked the lower waistline. I made sure not to nip in too much to keep consistent with the “casual” style, but just enough so that it’d be evident there’s a female under the garment. Please note; the photo below shows markings on the exterior of the jacket for demonstrative purposes only – the chalk markings and stitches are taking place on the inside of the jacket, behind the lining:
navy wool blazer4

End result – boxy cut replaced by gentle curvature: 

navy wool blazer1

And to balance out the boyishness of this jacket, I added a dose of big bows for good measure.

navy wool blazer3

Readers – Have you ever shopped in the boys or mens department? I’d love to hear about your finds and experiences!


70 thoughts on “Borrowed from the boys – Zara navy wool blazer + Manolo bows

  • Anonymous March 3, 2013 at 9:00 pm

    Love your site! May I ask, do you do your alterations by hand or did you use a sewing machine? Very inspirational and I'll give it a try!

  • PetiteAsianGirl March 3, 2013 at 9:01 pm

    Thank you! I use a Brother sewing machine for most alterations.

  • Julia March 3, 2013 at 9:04 pm

    Although the weather is getting warmer, I liked it a lot every time when you are putting on an outfit with the cooler colors! You look very elegant in them! Totally should add "darker colors" to your old post of "How to look older". 🙂

  • sydney85 March 3, 2013 at 9:08 pm

    I have often bought clothes from Zara in the boys department. I take a 11-12 size. I bought sweaters a few months ago and today I bought a t-shirt. Great value.

  • myhanh March 3, 2013 at 9:09 pm

    nice work, Jean!

  • FashionEdible March 3, 2013 at 9:12 pm

    I bought a belt once from the boy's department (just had to add a few belt holes) but I'm not talented enough to do all these alterations on actual clothing 🙂 Nice job tailoring the blazer!
    FashionEdible Blog

  • Suzie Q March 3, 2013 at 9:25 pm

    Such a great idea shopping in the boys' department! If one is savvy with DIY alterations, then this is a fabulous idea. However, for someone like me though, who don't own a sewing machine or know how to do self alterations, this wouldn't work out too well. when I take things to a tailor, things I bought on clearance end up costing even more than what the items should be worth due to the cost of alterations a times. Anyways, I love how you styled this outfit!

    Suzie Q

  • Mary Claire Cook March 3, 2013 at 9:34 pm

    gorgeous, I love the winter colors!

  • Fauxionista March 3, 2013 at 9:36 pm

    I have shopped at both the boys and the men's department. I shopped at the boys department when I younger (and in my sporty phase) and managed to find lots of sports clothing that fit for less. I liked the looser fit for those and having a boyish figure helps on that front. 😉 As for the men's department, I've only bought dress shirts in XS by far for a boyfriend look.

    You're always such an inspiration for alterations although I can't sew for the life of me!

  • Anonymous March 3, 2013 at 9:38 pm

    Hi Jean!

    i have a thrifted blazer that is ever so slightly wide on the shoulders. Its not so noticeable, but it bothers me when I look in the mirror. Ther fit is otherwise perfect except for the width of the shoulders.

    It does have light shoulder padding. would taking out the should pads make the shoulders fit better? or worse???

    my logic is – taking out the shoulder pads would reduce bulk on the shoulders.
    but on the other side- taking them out can leave extra space at the shoulders??

    what would you do??

  • jenn~the stylish housewife March 3, 2013 at 9:42 pm

    wow….just seeing that seam opened up like that causes me to panic! oh how i wish i could sew! you did a great job!

    xoxo, jenn
    the stylish housewife

  • Anonymous March 3, 2013 at 9:54 pm

    Jean, I think you're amazing and you're one of my favorite bloggers to follow… but, (and I say this as gently and kindly as possible) perhaps your last photo requires some cropping…….. look closely? Eeep…

  • Anonymous March 3, 2013 at 10:29 pm

    I am mom to an almost 9-year-old boy who wears a size 10/12 or Large. I have been known to borrow a button down shirt from him (the sleeves are sometimes a bit short, but I can roll them). The fit on his blazers is too boxy for for me (and obviously, I cannot alter them to fit, since he needs to wear them)…he also has two little brothers to get his hand-me-downs, so by the time they are outgrown by my kids, they will either be worn out or outdated. In another couple of years, I will probably be able to steal his jeans to wear as "boyfriend" style (right now his pants are too short for me, and don't fit quite right through the hips and tush). My husband has already teased me about the "boyfriend" jeans I do have, telling me my "boyfriend" must be about 12 years old.

  • Anonymous March 3, 2013 at 11:03 pm

    Hi Jean,
    Love the blog-great idea with the menswear look from the boys section. I am quite a bit smaller than you are at 4' 9" and a little less than 80 pounds. Do you think this trick would work for me too? Women's clothing is not made to fit me so I often find myself in the kids section and this seems like a great alternative to girls section clothing that I alter.

  • Carolines Day March 3, 2013 at 11:21 pm

    Your DIY alterations are amazing! I just ordered a dress form, so I'm hoping to tailor some of my wardrobe as well.

  • Steffi March 3, 2013 at 11:42 pm

    Hi Jean! I love your alteration and was wondering if you'd do a post on basic sewing tools for beginners and where to find them (or have I missed a previous post? I'm fairly new here 🙂 ).

    I recently tried on a school blazer and grey swing coat at Zara girls here in Sydney. Even with my narrow shoulders, I was surprised that they needed no alteration (to my undiscerning eyes anyway). But the RRP being at AU $67 and $86 respectively, I'd have to wait for the next sale!

  • Jen March 4, 2013 at 2:41 am

    Jean, I just had to leave a comment and say that your talent never ceases to astound me! When I met Kelly in New York last month, I was telling her how amazing I thought you were at sewing and altering your own clothes. 🙂

    Also, your hair is looking lovely!


  • Anonymous March 4, 2013 at 2:57 am

    Hi Jean,
    Along with your amazing outfits, you have the most gorgeous hair! It's so thick and pretty! What shampoo do you use? Any hair advice? Mine is pretty thin! Thanks (:

  • Lili March 4, 2013 at 3:44 am

    I just love the whole outfit, especially the shoes ^^

  • Rachelle March 4, 2013 at 5:40 am

    Love this outfit,perfect for work on a chilly day. great shoes as well.


  • Amber @ March 4, 2013 at 7:29 am

    those pumps are stunning!! i typically only online shop and i dont browse the boys/ mens unless its for baggy sweats! for some reason their versions are usually thicker than the womens

  • QueenLina March 4, 2013 at 9:37 am
  • pretty little things March 4, 2013 at 9:44 am

    I love this look on you — and I love those adorable gloves too, so pretty! xo

  • Fancyfromwithin March 4, 2013 at 9:57 am

    Hi jean! I've been searching high and low for heels in that color. What's the full name of those shoes? Love your outfit, alterations and espciecally those stockings!

  • Ida March 4, 2013 at 10:00 am

    I love your earrings! I shop in men's department all the time, I shop for knitwear, t-shirts, basic hoodies, beanies and plaid shirts. 🙂

  • sophié March 4, 2013 at 10:02 am

    hi ya! I would also like to know your views on shoulderpad issues… by the way you look fantastic in this boys blazer and it works brilliantly with bag and shoes. I am nearly 5.7 and I ve bought things from boys sportsware lines as I like the youthful cut and fit. (and the price) I ve never thought of trying a blazer though – I will now! thank you!

  • Mirachelle March 4, 2013 at 10:12 am

    Hi Jean! Just recently discovered your blog and refer to it daily when getting dressed for work! Do you have any tips or opinions on "casual friday" dressing? I find it quite difficult to maintain a polished and put-together look while keeping it casual and relaxed. I find that people at work give me strange looks when I look "over-dressed" on Fridays, like I'm too serious or fancy for casual dress haha. Perhaps you could dedicate a blog post on these tips as I'm sure there are many others who would find it helpful. Thanks so much 🙂

  • Anonymous March 4, 2013 at 11:39 am

    I love this outfit on you! I have been a reader of your blog for the past year and a half and I must say I am quite sad that you do not post entries as frequent as before. However everything you do post is amazing! Please dont stop!

  • chriseda March 4, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    fantastic work you did.. looks great on you

  • lisacng @ March 4, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    You never cease to amaze me!!!

  • cindspectus March 4, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    I've actually done this once or twice! First, I always buy boy's t-shirts when I'm looking for shirts for my favorite sports teams. They are cheaper than the adult sizes, and as long as they are left to air-dry, they don't shrink to belly shirts :).

    I also have a nice argyle sweater from the boys section at H&M.; It was a green/blue combo that I couldn't find in the women's section. Although I'm not petite I have a relatively short torso and a pretty flat chest so it fit without needing any alterations!

  • Olivia J March 4, 2013 at 2:00 pm

    Thank you for the tutorial! I'm in the process of doing the same to a vintage wool jacket. Can't wait to see the results. You did a great job.

    Corporate Catwalk

  • Erin March 4, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    I love checking out the men's department for basics and accessories! H&M; especially. I purchased a cobalt blue backpack that I take to work everyday, as well as a nice navy and white striped scarf that's thicker and sturdier than ones from the women's department. They also seem to have good knit basics like crew-neck sweatshirts, cardigans and v-neck sweaters. Definitely more of the slouchy vibe that's been in this year, but I'll take it!


  • Giovanna March 4, 2013 at 5:55 pm

    Loving that blazer! Such a steal!!! Loving your navy tights!


  • sybilismyhomegirl March 4, 2013 at 6:35 pm

    I love the outfit, what a difference tailoring makes!


  • newpetite March 4, 2013 at 6:37 pm

    Gosh altering a blazer is quite a task! But you did a wonderful job! Ive never tried looking at boys stuff but looks like I will not forget them now 🙂

  • Abby March 4, 2013 at 11:12 pm

    Totally jealous of your skills. You are such an everything woman.

  • Anonymous March 4, 2013 at 11:46 pm

    You've got some sewing skillz! I like boys' white under-t-shirts (sooo versatile) but I don't wear any boys/mens button up clothes because the buttons are always sewn on the right hand side whereas for ladies they are always along the left.

  • Joy March 5, 2013 at 1:49 am

    great DIY! & excellent pairing!
    I've recently purchased a few comfy items from the boys' section @ Zara, but I would never think to try a blazer! good job turning it into your size!

  • tailorshop March 5, 2013 at 10:57 am

    I like your outfit and your tailoring skills amaze me but I hate the shoes. They're hideous and don't seem very versatile. Looks like you're trying too hard to make them work with your outfit(s). A major rip off since they're Blahniks.

  • TeddyC March 5, 2013 at 12:51 pm

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • TeddyC March 5, 2013 at 12:54 pm

    Absolutely love your blog and your fashion sense. Was just talking about a co-worker about how reading your posts makes me want to learn how to sew and do alterations. Great job!

  • andrea March 5, 2013 at 2:46 pm

    Great outfit…I'm definitely going to have to check out boys blazers! I find skirts/jackets/cardigans in the girls section at Target/Gap Kids all the time!


  • Anonymous March 5, 2013 at 3:08 pm


  • Love Style March 5, 2013 at 5:53 pm

    Wow! You're so talented with your alterations. Is this something you taught yourself? I'd love to do my own alterations but I don't know where to start! The only thing I can really do is shorten pants. =/


  • PetiteAsianGirl March 5, 2013 at 10:40 pm

    hi Mirachelle – For casual Fridays I love just simple dark denim plus a blouse and blazer. If black or grey suiting is too formal for your casual Fridays, I like ponte, striped, or textured (like tweed) blazers that are a little more casual. I also like A-lined or poofier skirts + a tucked-in sweater or blouse that may be a little too informal for everyday businesswear, but are fun for casual work days.

  • PetiteAsianGirl March 5, 2013 at 10:42 pm

    Thank you for being a longtime reader and for sticking around despite the sparse posts! Your encouraging words mean a lot to me. I would love to blog more but it has fallen behind due to work and community commitments…really hope to post a little more during summer : )

  • PetiteAsianGirl March 5, 2013 at 10:43 pm

    Hi there – They are called the Lisane Suede Bow pumps; got them from Nordstrom during their end-of-season clearance last month.

  • PetiteAsianGirl March 5, 2013 at 10:45 pm

    Hi there – I use whatever is on sale (usually Pantene for normal hair). Hair textures vary so much from person to person and mine is more on the coarser and thick side, which I find hard to tame : / (but thank you for your compliment!)

  • PetiteAsianGirl March 5, 2013 at 10:46 pm

    Hi Steffi – I haven't done such a post but I really encourage those who are interested to look for local sewing classes. Some are run by private instructors and some are offered at fabric/craft stores, but I personally feel that's the best way to learn! I took classes myself as a child and could've never figured things out otherwise.

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