Over-layer tops (aka “jackets”) provide the greatest opportunity to customize the 12-piece wardrobe plan to your own lifestyle, taste and body type. And sewing your own lets you tap into the exact mix of color, style and fit that’s right for you. From tailored blazers to jean jackets, draped cardigans, vests and even zippered hoodies, these over-layers literally double your mix/match options while they let you create a sleeker, slimmer look and camouflage figure challenges. What’s not to like?
Let’s start with the most casual iterations and move to more dressed up options.
For a jean jacket look, it’s tough to beat Butterick #5616 (below, left) I like View A (but with the collar from View B) especially because it ends with a standard hem rather than a separate topstitched bottom band that would put a strong vertical right across your hips. The slight dip at the center front hemline adds to the flattery, and you could even exaggerate it a bit more if you wanted. Side seams and darts can be straighted a bit for rectangular and inverted triangle bodies or shaped more for curvy bodies.
Patch pockets are great for adding visual fullness in the bust area; simply omit them if Mother Nature gave you all the fullness you care to have. The three-quarter sleeve gives a taller appearance, but you can also lengthen the sleeve and keep the option to push it or roll it up when you want that look.
If you want a dressier spin on a jean jacket (and you have fairly strong sewing skills) the Cindy Jacket (below center) from StyleArc is a great look for a shaped silhouette and contour hemline. You could streamline the sewing time by omitting the welt pockets and even the patch pockets. Designed for wovens, it’s equally compatible with ponte knit.
For a sweateshirt or bomber style, I like McCalls #7636 (below right) even though it needs a few modifications. The set-in sleeve is more flattering than a shoulder-narrowing raglan cut and it doesn’t have a contrast rib at the bottom to draw attention toward your lower body. It lands near the waist, which makes it work for curvy figures, and blouses over a bit to balance fuller hips. For a straighter body type you can add a few inches of length so the jacket ends closer to the hipline.
I would modify the sleeve pattern to eliminate the excess fullness at the lower arm and the extra length that blouses over the hand — both style details that add mid-body and hipline bulk to nearly any figure. Substituting an elastic wrist finish for the rib trim will do even more to keep the focus away from the hip area and let it flow up toward the face.
Draped and cascade jackets and vests are fast to sew, easy to wear and can be dressed up or down the formality scale with accessory choices. There are many pattern choices; here are a few:
McCall #7484 (below left) is an easy-sew style ideal for ponte knit because the “wrong” side will show. Includes both jacket and sleeveless vest versions in both misses and womens sizing.
Pamela’s Patterns #110 Cool Cardigan Draped Front (below center) is best suited for soft matte jersey solids or featherweight sweater knits. To further emphasize the drape, I like to split the front pattern piece vertically near the front edge (parallel to grainline) and spread to add several inches of additional fullness. The split extends up into the back collar extension, where the fullness is eventually absorbed in the CB shirring.
The Nina Cardigan (below right) from StyleArc has a waistline seam that allows for a more shaped body silhouette. The cascading front is significantly longer than the back. This style is best in soft jersey.
The Lizzie Top, (below, far right) also from StyleArc, has crisp, angular, slightly Asian styling designed to wear overlapped or folded back. Best in firm fabrics like ponte knit.
Cardigans provide a slightly more structured, yet relaxed over-layer styling. I like to sew cardigans with a matching shell so I have the option to wear the two as a set or split them to mix with my other tops.
Pamela’s Patterns #108 New Versatile Twin Set (below left) includes various lengths plus the option to turn the facing to the inside for a traditional finish or to the outside for a contrast band. Ideal in ponte knit. This is another one where I straighten the shoulder slope a bit to accommodate a shoulder shaper for a more structured look. (You’ll remember this pattern’s shell was one of the recommended under-layer tops in the previous post.)
The Fay Cardigan (below center) from StyleArc features a front that spreads a bit below the waistline button closure, creating an especially slimming vertical emphasis. The design has a sewn-in camisole front, but I’d skip that and instead sew a separate under-piece to maximize the mix/match versatility.
Vogue #9011 (below right) is quick and easy to sew, with a stitched-on front band that forms a slight shawl lapel. Make the short version from a firmer knit or the longer version in a softer jersey.
Front-button shirts can do triple duty – and a stand-alone shirt, as an under-layer and unbuttoned, as an over-layer with a tank or tee underneath.
McCall #3750 by Palmer/Pletsch is beautifully shaped for curved bodies. What looks like an applied collar is really an extension that rolls back – much quicker and easier to sew.
Butterick #6472 is a straight cut ideal for straighter bodies like rectangles and inverted triangles. The staggered hemline is oh, so flattering.
The Elsie shirt from StyleArc is another straight cut with staggered hem. Sleeves can be worn long or rolled into a buttoned tab. Patch pockets add visual bust fullness; skip them if you prefer not to add in that area. Cute front band/neckline treatment give a distinctive look.
And finally … traditional, lightly-tailored jackets. These can be worn for career or community leadership roles, and some can also be “roughed up” a bit – pop the collar, push up the sleeves – for polished casual looks with jeans, cords or khakis.
Blazers – always a versatile classic – are an up-and-coming trend for Fall ’17. All three recommendations below are out of print, but still available on their respective websites. And new blazer patterns will doubtless show up as this trend continues to emerge.
Butterick #5965 (top left) is a personal favorite, with an easy-sew shawl collar and center-front hook closure, no overlap. I’m a big fan of the shoulder-princess seams that allow easy alteration for full bust, curvier or straighter bodies. I sew it, unlined and shortened to high-hip length, from stable but flexible ponte knit.
McCall #6172 by Palmer/Pletsch (top center) also provides plenty of fitting points from armhole-princess seams and vertical darts. Recommend View A for triangles; View B for other body types.
Butterick #5760 (top right) is another shoulder-princess style, this time with a front overlap and a notched collar.
Beyond blazers, the Chanel styling of Vogue #7975 (bottom left) is a perennial favorite. View B and C are the most flattering length for most bodies. Shoulder-princess seaming lets you adapt the pattern to your shape and avoid the boxy look many Chanel-style patterns produce. Sew this in a tweed and consider making a self-fringe trim for just the neckline and front edges, leaving the hemline untrimmed to minimize horizontal emphasis.
StyleArc’s Janet Jacket (bottom center) is a sleek, lined jacket with a double-hook center front closure, slightly raised neckline and great potential for dressing up or dressing down.
If your taste and lifestyle are elegant and your skills are advanced, Vogue #8519 by Claire Shaeffer (bottom right) might be perfect for you. Fully lined, with edge bands and in-seam buttonhole, this option isn’t for casual looks.
If you have other favorite patterns for over-layer tops, please share them in the COMMENTS section below.