I love blazers, all fabrics and textures, especially structured with strong shoulders and slim sleeves. But they feel fancy for my daily uniform of denim and sneakers, especially if I am not going to an office and running after my kids. Any suggestions for a compromise? Is there such a thing as a blazer for everywhere? — Meghan, Redwood City, Calif.
The origin of the blazer is somewhat shrouded in mystery: Some stories claim it was invented by the rowers of St. John’s College, Cambridge, who wore bright red jackets in the 1920s; others suggest that it was popularized by the crew of the H.M.S. Blazer in 1837 when Queen Victoria came aboard. What is indubitable is that since its debut in Vogue in 1893, the blazer has been a key part of pretty much every wardrobe.
Blazers are simply the perfect bridge garment: redolent of adulting but not as uptight as a suit; gender neutral; warm enough to don when there is a chill in the air but not so hot they become stifling; good as a partner for dresses, T-shirts, sweaters, jeans; and always appropriate.
Blazers experienced something of an identity crisis during the working-from-home months (what is the point of a jacket when you are at your kitchen table?), but since we’ve begun to venture into the world again, this particular item of clothing has come into its own as the go-to solution for any number of wardrobe scenarios — including running after kids.
This is because it has turned out to be the perfect garment to throw on top of your former WFH uniform to transform it (and hence you) into a more polished version of whomever you have become. As a result, the question is no longer: to blazer or not to blazer? Duh. Of course you blazer.
The question is: Which blazer? Given that they are available in pretty much every material and print under the sun, it can be a daunting choice. (My go-to is a Dries Van Noten number from years ago in a silvery sari silk.)
But if you are going to focus on just one go-anywhere blazer, consider the collarless jacket (or collarless blazer). That was the suggestion of Nikki Ogunnaike, the senior digital director of Harper’s Bazaar, when I asked. Trading the raised collar and lapels of the classic blazer takes the look a step away from the suit and a step closer to the T-shirt, and in those steps is all the difference.
Look for fabric with a more tactile weft, like bouclé or tweed rather than wool, perhaps with a slightly cropped cut, like this version from IRO. It’s pricey, but less expensive versions from previous seasons can be found on sites like Poshmark. For more affordable alternatives, check out J. Crew and this tweedy Chanel-ish version from Aqua.
Another option Nikki suggested is exploring is the sweater blazer, which is essentially a cardigan with slightly more substance. They are, she said, “infinitely more relaxed than wool workwear blazers but still polished.” Look at J. Crew Factory, Anthropologie and Summersalt for options. Then go out in a (yes, I’m going to say it) blaze of glory.
Your Style Questions, Answered
Every week on Open Thread, Vanessa will answer a reader’s fashion-related question, which you can send to her anytime via email or Twitter. Questions are edited and condensed.