Trial and Error: Styling a short, boxy jacket

Update: J.Crew is currently having 30% off your order and free ship at any price w/ code WISHLIST (ordered this Crewcuts merino wool dress in camel/navy previously). One of my favorite purchases last month was this J.Crew lady jacket in spicy gold (must thank Elle again for her review and sale alert). It’s a solid quality, ladylike piece that I’ve received many compliments on, but boy is the silhouette hard to work with! The shape is short and square, and the fit is slightly roomy on me – but my tailor didn’t think it was wide enough to warrant taking-in.

I tried this jacket with many different types of garments, in hopes of finding a pattern to what works. Some parings look bad and some look okay, but I can’t put my finger on exactly why. Since several readers have asked for ideas on how to work with this shape, I figured I’d share some photos, and hopefully you guys can help decipher the fit code.

1. Below left: Starting off with the easiest and most natural looking pairing – with the matching pencil skirt. I think this works because the same-color, same-width (at the hips, anyways) bottom piece makes a continuous line with the boxy jacket. But how often does one get to wear a matching mustard wool suit, especially without a politician husband in tow?
2. Below right: With a bell-shaped mini skirt. This looks okay to me. Again the similar width connects the two pieces, and even though the skirt color is different – it’s short enough so that there’s enough leg visible (+ heels) for creating a lengthening line.

3. Below left: With legging jeans, no blouse showing. This looks okaaay, but the tight, narrow bottoms plus wide top is starting to border on football linebacker style.

4. Below right: Un-tucking the shirt. In theory, this would be cutting into the long, lean leg line…but I think it makes this ensemble look more flattering. Not sure as to why.

5. Below left: With fitted cropped pants, blouse un-tucked. Looks similar to # 4, maybe a little worse because the leg’s cut off at the ankle.
6. Below right: With fitted cropped pants, no blouse visible. Yee-uck! Ignoring the embarrassing outlines of camel toe…it looks like the more narrow/fitted the bottoms, the more jarring/wide a boxy jacket appears in contrast. If you are naturally top-heavy, then a square, cropped jacket may be even harder to work with.

7. Below: With a variety of pencil skirts. The right (pardon the hip wrinkles) has the least color contrast and looks better out of the 3, but not as flattering as the slightly shorter matching skirt in #1. From the middle photo, I realized not to wear a boxy jacket unbuttoned.

8. Below: Over some sheath and pencil dresses. Very mediocre.

9. Below left: With an A-line, knee-length skirt. I wouldn’t wear these two exact pieces together, but am undecided about the overall look of the two shapes  together.
10. Below right: Wildcard, because these short shorts were lying on the floor. The long leg line with un-tucked blouse is flattering in my eyes, but I would probably never have an occasion where a wool jacket is warranted while legs are so bare.
There’s one or two last pairing types that I didn’t show here, and they happen to be the more flattering (in my opinion). Please tune back in a day or two for an outfit post : )

Readers – Please share any insight on why some of the above may or may not work. How do you /would you suggest styling a short, boxy jacket?

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  1. I love your experiment! Very educational :). I just read your "winner" but hopefully you can find more so that this jacket can be worn many many times :).

    Posted 12.21.12 Reply
  2. Thank you for this great post – I actually really like the way the jacket works with the shorts… call me crazy. I had my eye on the jacket too, but I couldn't think of enough things that it would work with in my closet to justify the at-that-time non-sale price. I think you came up with a surprising number of good looking ensemble potential!

    Posted 12.20.12 Reply
  3. Did you consider a long pair of trouser or bell-shaped jeans with high heels? I think that would balance out the boxiness of the top. I'd love to see you try it.

    Posted 12.20.12 Reply
  4. Edwina wrote:

    I quite like 2 and 10 actually. The bubble skirt of 2 is slightly unexpected 🙂 And I like the juxtaposition of 10 but you're right… it's hard to find an occasion to wear it to.

    Posted 12.16.12 Reply
  5. Annabelle wrote:

    I really like that last look, but I agree — it might be more useful if you lived in, say, San Francisco than in the Northeast.

    Posted 12.16.12 Reply
  6. Tara wrote:

    I might consider wool or tweed shorts: perhaps a tweed with shades of mustard and brown? Or cream and brown? Mustard and cream? You could wear the shorts with opaque tights.

    Posted 12.16.12 Reply
  7. The XS was very fitted on me throughout (would be good for a club/lounge). It's all personal preference, but I liked the S better because it looked less sexy and I could see myself wearing it more often. Good luck!

    Posted 12.16.12 Reply
  8. sepopley wrote:

    I agree with 3 completely. That's what I thought when I tried it on in store. 1 could fix it, but it doesn't seem worth it to me. I'd take a classic black but boxy jacket over it any day.

    Posted 12.15.12 Reply
  9. sepopley wrote:

    I agree with 3 completely. That's what I thought when I tried it on in store. 1 could fix it, but it doesn't seem worth it to me. I'd take a classic black but boxy jacket over it any day.

    Posted 12.15.12 Reply
  10. Ana wrote:

    Jean, have you considered a high waisted bottom? I'm thinking a high-waisted pencil skirt would balance out your proportions or better yet, high waisted slacks with a slightly flared leg that just graze the ground. Almost like a sailor pant…
    I can't wait to see the winning combination, either and I absolutely love this color! I am top heavy and could never wear a boxy cut blazer without looking like I was about to tip over.

    Posted 12.15.12 Reply
  11. Abby wrote:

    Banana has theirs back in stock again today in neutrals. Jean did a review on these a while ago.;=3&pid;=656152032

    Posted 12.15.12 Reply
  12. Khaeos wrote:

    I like it with the denim pants and shorts with the untucked shirt. I think the full yellow skirt suit option is a little matronly but would work if you broke up the suit a bit and wear the blazer open

    Posted 12.15.12 Reply
  13. Anna wrote:

    I just measured myself and I'm actually 32-23-32. Oops!

    Posted 12.15.12 Reply
  14. Anna wrote:


    Any update on the Zara TRF sequin dress in XS? I've been eyeing it for myself and wanted to know how it fit you. I'm 5 ft 1 and 32-24-34 so we are pretty close in size, though I feel almost "big" compared to you!

    Posted 12.15.12 Reply
  15. vera g. wrote:

    Carol, your observations are very astute. I agree with everything you said in your first point about the jacket being intended for someone with a taller frame. It seems to me that for a boxy crop jacket to look right, its hem need to hit a little bit below the waist, not near one's hips. Otherwise, it comes closer to looking matronly than chic.

    Posted 12.15.12 Reply
  16. LitLaur wrote:

    Interesting! I generally agree with you. Since having the shirt untucked seems to work, I wonder if a belt have a similar effect.

    What about long, (relatively) wide-leg or slightly flared pants?

    Posted 12.15.12 Reply
  17. Anonymous wrote:


    Posted 12.14.12 Reply
  18. Bromeliad wrote:

    Something full and poofy?

    Dunno. But I like your process for figuring this stuff out.

    Posted 12.14.12 Reply
  19. Anonymous wrote:

    #1 and #4 looks the best out of all these

    Posted 12.14.12 Reply
  20. So glad finding your blog! Love your style, I am a petite too, and I have a blog called Petite C'est Chic, watch it and tell me your opinion, if you want 🙂 I already follow you on Bloglovin'! Great work by the way,

    Posted 12.14.12 Reply
  21. Eva Wu wrote:

    i think your style is impeccable

    Posted 12.14.12 Reply
  22. Rosie wrote:

    I ordered that jacket a while back but returned it because of the same issues. I have broad shoulders and the jacket made me feel like a linebacker! I also found the sleeve length awkward. It's a shame, since it's a beautiful piece and also at a good price right now. I do own some Chanel-like jackets that are more figure-flattering, and it's unfortunately JCrew had to cut this one so boxy.

    I am fortunate to be a "big" petite and I found that the added length of sizing down to a regular size (0 instead of 2p) looked better.

    Posted 12.14.12 Reply
  23. Anonymous wrote:

    I have seen quite a few petite bloggers getting this jacket. I don't get it though as I don't think the style and color looks particularly great. The style is boxy and it might not be the best style for petites either. The color is also quite unique and it's one of those colors and styles that you can't wear often because of the unique look. Maybe it looks much better in person. Nonetheless, I appreciate your effort in getting this paired with various outfits. It's nice to see the options out there for styling. However, I don't think the piece looks really great with any one outfit though.

    Posted 12.14.12 Reply
  24. I don't think they look bad (just a few that aren't great) but I actually like the ones with the "skater style" skirts/dress. I've worn my boxier jackets with wide-legged pants and they seem to elongate my legs. It'll be interesting to see which looks you deemed the best!

    Posted 12.14.12 Reply
  25. Just discovered your blog and it is amazing…love your style!!! As for this post like the one with matching pencil skirt the most. Also prefer the options with untucked blouses over the tucked in ones.


    Posted 12.14.12 Reply
  26. Julia wrote:

    New fan here, too! Not sure if you read through all these comments, but I'll share my two cents. I am just as picky as you when it comes to fit and I have sacrificed beautiful pieces because they just didn't work with my body shape. The feeling is probably close to sending kids off to college… which I haven't done yet. Anyways, the matching pair works because the tapering of the skirt towards the lower hem balances out the boxy-ness of the jacket. All other combinations where the bottom is not tapered nor very close to its color will emphasize its boxy-ness, which we're trying to kill (you probably know this). I would pair it with peachy skinny pants (not cropped) and do not bunch around the ankle (prefirably ponte) and pair it with those peach pumps. The key is to take the primary attention away from the jacket with the bottom silhouette which should be neutral and lengthened as possible. Also you can try layering with tops with a bottom hem that is longer where the crotch is as compared to the sides. Hiding the zipper area will elongate your legs. This is what I would do. Or I would just not wear the jacket. It's asking for it with all those geometric lines man.

    Posted 12.14.12 Reply
  27. Nabila wrote:

    Hi Jean! New fan here, I love your style 🙂

    I like #1 and #4 best. I think the reason why the jacket doesn't work in #3 is that there is no connecting line between the jacket hem and your hips. The hem awkwardly hangs over and above your hips like a lampshade, almost! But when you untuck your blouse it helps create a connecting line from the jacket hem to your jeans. That's my theory, anyway!

    Posted 12.14.12 Reply
  28. I like your wild card pairing best, but than again I'm a So Cal gal. Try wearing thick warm tights with the shorts, gray may work with the yellow.

    Posted 12.14.12 Reply
  29. Rose wrote:

    I think your wildcard look would work quite well if you added tights and matching colored boots 🙂

    I agree that boots and a scarf could potentially balance out the boxiness of the jacket! And it's a gorgeous jacket indeed

    Posted 12.13.12 Reply
  30. Anonymous wrote:

    Thanks so much for the tip! I've been wanting the Paulina suede and leather booties for a long time, and now I saved $130 off them thanks to you!!

    Posted 12.13.12 Reply
  31. Franziska wrote:

    I think your skinny jeans and untucked blouse is my favorite – it's that perfect combination of young and mature (but in a good way, not like an old lady).

    Posted 12.13.12 Reply
  32. Petite-ish wrote:

    I think the problem is that the short fit of the jacket paradoxically makes your torso look long in the outfits with pants. the length between the end of the jacket and the crotch of the pants (is there a more lady-like way to say this?) ruins the illusion of longer legs that the matching skirt-jacket combo achieves, the illusion that your legs start at the jacket hem. The untucked shirts help break up that awkward length from the jacket hem to the crotch (sorry) of the pants. And against the pencil silhouette, the more voluminous jacket make your hips look too narrow. Maybe try a puffier A-line skirt or wide, shoe-skimming pants to balance it out?

    Posted 12.13.12 Reply
  33. Anonymous wrote:

    Ooooh, I've got it! Try it over an untucked chambray button-down!

    Posted 12.13.12 Reply
  34. Anonymous wrote:

    The boxy shape reminds me of other boxy jackets, like classic jean jackets and motorcycle jackets. I envision this jacket in more of a rock'n'roll 80s style, with lighter/brighter skinny jeans (white? stonewash? red? ooh, leopard!), with chunky boots to balance the boxy top. Maybe add a floaty print top peeking out, and/or a Rolling Stones-style fringed scarf???

    Posted 12.13.12 Reply
  35. Anonymous wrote:

    have you tried to add a scarf to make the jacket look less boxy?

    Posted 12.13.12 Reply
  36. Anonymous wrote:

    Jean, I bought this in another color and returned bc of the boxiness, and I realized I would never get enough wear out of it. The concept is great but it doesn't work n real life all that well given the cut. I also feel the spicy gold color in particular makes this jacket so memorable that even if it did go well with other bottoms, wearing it would be far too memorable to wear often. I like that you keep a well edited flexible wardrobe and I personally don't see this fitting, although the skirt in the same color I think works ok.

    Posted 12.13.12 Reply
  37. I really do like the look of the wildcard pick. But you're right, it's not very often that you would wear such a combination.


    Posted 12.13.12 Reply
  38. Anonymous wrote:

    This is uniform style suite. It becomes boring after a while. Though, the whole set looks good on you. As for matching, I will have a cami inside and unbutton the jacket or only button one at waist. I will match bottom with a boot cut trouser or pants to soften the uniform top. I'm 5' 7" size 0. I don't know if my height make differences in the look. Love your blogs.

    Posted 12.13.12 Reply
  39. Morgan wrote:

    I actually kind of love the cropped fit of it on you (or maybe it just photographs nicely but I really think it's cute with most of the things you paired it with)! I especially love #2 paired with the bell-shaped skirt and #4 paired with an untucked blouse and jeans.

    Posted 12.13.12 Reply
  40. Anonymous wrote:

    Love this post! I have exact jacket in dark gray, I pair them with T-shirt(untucked) and turtleneck(untucked) like in photo 4. So natually I vote for photo 1 and 4. Your idea of paring with skirt is very refreshing and inspiring to me. I think this jacket also go well with a scarf.

    Posted 12.13.12 Reply
  41. newpetite wrote:

    Im not a fan of those boxy jackets. Im wondering if you wear it with a bootcut, it might even out the proportion.

    Posted 12.13.12 Reply
  42. Anonymous wrote:

    Honestly I think the color is more problematic than the style. Imagine a classic black or white boxy jacket – would go with almost anything.

    Posted 12.13.12 Reply
  43. fwum fwum wrote:

    Contrary to other comments, I think looks #1 and #4 work because these outfits maintain the illusion of a shorter torso and longer legs. Look #1 does this well, but wearing jeans messes up the illusion. In looks #3 and #4, you can see where your hips lie and where your legs acutally begin. The cropped jacket only emphasizes this, making your torso appear long. I think #4 looks better because the extra line provided by the shirt breaks up your torso. This post left me confused all lunch, and this is the only explanation I can think of!

    Posted 12.13.12 Reply
  44. The main problem I see here is that the jacket is 1 1/2 inches too short for some pieces and 1 inch too long for others. The looks that look best are #2, #4, and #7 on the left. I think #4 looks better than #3 because untucking the top lengthened your top half; you look too out of proportion in #3. I think you have a few decent pairing options here, but I don't think I would keep the jacket since it's so hard to put pieces together that flatter you.

    Posted 12.13.12 Reply
  45. Sunnysider wrote:

    Slightly off the wall suggestion Jean – but how about wearing it over your Alice + Olivia sequin dress. If I remember correctly it had a mustardy colour in it and might just work?

    Posted 12.13.12 Reply
  46. Anonymous wrote:

    Thanks for the Perfect Pump sales alert!

    Posted 12.13.12 Reply
  47. Anonymous wrote:

    Ah, the cropped boxy jacket . . . such a challenge! I have a vintage Pendleton crop jacket (black wool) that I love, but admit it is hard to style (I have large hips). I get it right every now and then, so I won't give it up.

    My favorites were pics 4 and 8 (middle). I agree with what others have said: pairing jacket with something that lengthens the torso looks best. That is why pic 4 looks better than pic 3 – the tee lengthens your torso.

    I like pic 8 (middle) because the dark dress skims your figure and has the effect of lengthening your torso.

    As to pics 5 and 6: crop + crop = no.

    I really like the contrast of the fancy jacket over a more casual look. My recommendations: wear jacket with high-waist pants or jeans, untucked button-up oxford, body-con dress that hits at the knee, or roomy shirt/blouse over slim leggings. I can't wait to see the follow-up post.

    Posted 12.13.12 Reply
  48. Anonymous wrote:

    what about tights underneath the shorts and a pair of flats for a casual chic look?

    Posted 12.13.12 Reply
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    Posted 12.13.12 Reply

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