This post is about tailored blazers. I am comparing a typical British-style double-breasted military-style blazer to a typical French double-breasted military-style blazer.
There’s a small difference between the British blazer and the French blazer. Both are massively popular this Spring (2023). And you will want to buy the one that suits you best as it should last you for years.
So, if you’re looking for a smart jacket, read the style notes below and cast your eye over the pictures of me trying on the British look blazer and the French look blazer. I hope this will help you make the right decision.
If you prefer a more casual blazer, read my previous post this year: How to style a casual blazer over 60.
Choose a strong shoulder line
Why are tailored blazers so popular?
Frankly, I believe it’s because the jacket wears you, rather than you wearing the jacket. If the cut and seams are good then the designer has made it easy to look smart in a blazer.
So, if you’re considering buying a French or British blazer look first at the shoulders. Especially if you’re 55 or over, your upper back and upper arms may have added fat. Slowly over time, this covering softens the shoulder line so that you no longer look straight-backed.
The upper arm fat pulls the back of the jacket a little. And the rounded shoulder pushes the rear hem out and allows the front to fall a little lower. These tiny changes make all the difference to looking youthful and smart.
But a well-cut and broad-shouldered blazer hangs in place almost whatever your upper body shape.
I just suggest giving a sharp pull to the rear hem to ensure the shoulder sits right on your natural shoulder. Then leave it to the designer to let that jacket fall as it should.
The military know all about a straight back, an impeccable look and creating a strong, healthy, youthful look. Let’s face it nobody’s going to be in awe of round shoulders! That’s why a well-structured military style blazer is great for any age.
I’ve picked out a couple of blazers that have big, strong shoulders with serious shoulder-pads that extend the shoulder line right to just beyond your natural shoulder. That means the sleeve falls near enough straight down, bypassing those upper arm worries. A less bold shoulder will mold itself to follow your contours more closely. Great if you’re young, but less strikingly smart if you’re older.
Choose the right length
Double-breasted jackets tend to be long. And they’re difficult to shorten.
If, like me you are short – I’m 62 inches – the average tailored blazer will feel very long. To be honest, the first time I tried on the French blazer I thought I’d send it straight back. It seemed to drown me. But I took a few photos and decided it didn’t look as overwhelming as I’d first thought.
So don’t reject a longer blazer too fast.
For me, it was that I hadn’t worn tailored clothes for years. I retired with all my black and navy work suits languishing unused in my closet until I decided to donate them. If you’re retired you’ve probably got a similar story.
In retirement we tend to go for comfort and casual. But I’ve been trying to up my style recently so I have a few smarter outfits. I’ve just had to get used to the more structured style of smart clothes again, especially jackets.
After a few try-ons I felt more at ease with both blazers.
However I still feel the British blazer looks over-long on me.
I think the British blazer would be ideal if you were average or tall.
Jacket buttons matter if you’re short
Both jackets have shiny metal buttons. But the French blazer has six on the front whereas the British blazer has four.
This make quite a bit of difference to how the blazers look on me, especially as I’m short.
The two top buttons on the French blazer are at bust height and because they catch the light and stand proud of the fabric, they attract the eye upwards to chest level. In fact the six buttons lead the eye from top of hip to bust, giving a less heavy and long look.
If you compare the British style, the flat but shiny buttons attract the eye to waist height. So the focus is on the area between the waist and the hips. I think this makes the jacket look heavier and longer.
The right bottoms for smart blazers
Smart tailored pants look good with both jackets.
I felt the ironic, fun look of the French blazer looked good with casual mid-wash blue jeans. I like the juxtapostion of formal and informal.
I think the British style would work really well with straight, neat, slightly wide trousers. Unfortunately I didn’t have any with me when I did this try-on. Best of all I would have liked to make a pant suit with the British jacket, using one fabric throughout. It would give that rather sixties-seventies swinging London vibe!
If you agree then perhaps look for blazers that are matched with wide pants from the same retailer.
The best shoes and boots for double-breasted blazers
So, this style of top is wide across the shoulder, square across the hip and slightly waisted.
To balance this I think you need to wear substantial footwear. By this I mean reasonably chunky sneakers -I’m wearing Air Nikes and thick-soled Lacoste leather sneakers. Or a full shoe such as my leather loafers with matching gold trim to echo the jacket buttons.
Knee high boots look great with a skirt and a tailored blazer. The silhouette gets cut at about half way down – long blazer over skirt with boots. I’ve picked out some classic knee-high boots in this post.
Otherwise any non-strappy shoe looks fine eg ankle boots. Because of the military style a stiff leather boot looks best with a well-defined blocked toe and a low heel. If you’re wearing high heels I’d tend to wear longer trousers so they are half-covered. Anything flimsy like strappy sandals can look out of place because of the heaviness of the jacket.
Remember my comments on this blog are always with older women, aged at least 50, in mind. If you’re young and/or slender, you can look good in most anything!
Do blazers look better open or closed?
Looking at the photos I took of my try-on I see that I mainly wear the French blazer open, thus more casually. And the British blazer fastened, thus more formally.
Frankly, I think both open and closed look good. And that adds versatility to a relatively expensive item.
Somehow the British jacket just seems more adapted to a smarter, structured look. It looks, to me, altogether more ‘sensible’. Whereas the French blazer with its captain’s buttons all the way up, looks more fun.
But I certainly made an error when I purchased the French blazer. It looked so huge when I first tried it on that I returned it for a smaller size. I never imagined fastening it so it didn’t need to stretch easily across my waist or hips.
But when I did this try-on I wanted you to see how both blazers looked open and fastened.
So the British blazer – which by the way is more expensive and very much more beautifully finished in a lovely wool-blend cloth – looks fine fastened. And the side and rear views look fine too.
But the French smaller blazer, in a less expensive synthetic material, looks pretty bad from the rear. It doesn’t hang, it clings. And as I have fat on my back this gives the look of having a woolly sweater underneath!
Vent or no vent, that is the question!
The French blazer does not have a rear vent – this might be French military style or simply to restrict the price. The British blazer has a vent – which I always associate with military style.
The vent definitely allows the back to hang better. And it gives ease of movement too. But don’t expect a vent to make you look good in a smaller size. It should lie flat when you are standing straight up. Open gently as you walk or bend. A vent that is stretched open when you are standing up just draws attention to your hips. Better to go up a size.
The British blazer is from marksandspencer.com in their Jaeger range. You can see it here.
The French blazer is from LaRedoute. You can see it here.
Note: If you click and buy on one of the above links to the blazers I likely receive a small commission at no cost to you. Thanks you for your support!
This post is part of a set of articles about French style and chic. Other posts in this series are: