Wearing Leather in the Gardens

Wearing Leather in the Gardens

I bought my first leather jacket on Boxing Day 2016, and it was a true turning point for my wardrobe.  That black jacket (from Blak Luxe) has been worn several times a week, every week, since.  In June I discovered the pink version at Leven, and in July that jacket went on sale and into my wardrobe.  I have a pale cream/taupe suede jacket as well, and if there was a red version available, I’d be all over it in a heartbeat.  Absolutely nothing else I own, or have owned, is as practical and yet great to wear as a leather jacket.

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Styling up a leather jacket has been done to death.  Most obviously great with jeans (and any shoes), everyone knows you can use a leather jacket to toughen up a really feminine dress, or to make a pair of dressy pants more casual.  If you drape a leather jacket over an evening dress, you immediately look 80% cooler.  I thought pale pink would be harder to wear than black, but all the old clichés have remained true – all that’s changed is the need for a bit of colour coordination.   I’ve pulled together twenty ideas for styling a leather jacket on Pinterest. I thought for this shoot I’d go full noise on pink, with not only my outfit but the beautiful spring gardens coming through at the Wellington Botanic Gardens all on theme.

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This jacket is reasonably long on me, so it overlaps anything I wear that comes to my natural waist.  With fashion’s current love of the high-waisted item, that’s practically everything I own.  With a full skirt like this, the natural instinct can be to go for everything stopping at the waist, to emphasise the waistline (and to create an hourglass shape).  For this outfit, where the skirt is practically rigid, I liked the overlapping leather with the shiny rigid skirt, and focused instead on keeping the layers clean.  That’s the reason for a plain white tshirt (another hero item in my wardrobe) and the clearly delineated waistband.

I don’t like the look of skirts with a fixed waistband on me, because they serve to make my torso look rather square – like a Lego lady, who happens to have a skirt on over her unarticulated legs.  Layering the jacket over the waistband helps to smooth out this effect, by closing in my upper body.  In addition, I brought out an old trick and used a silk scarf, rolled on the diagonal, to create a new waistband.  Not only does this make the outfit look a bit fancier, and more intentional, it breaks up the waistband from the skirt and diminishes the effect of a firm band above a full skirt. 

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The shoes were a no-brainer, not only because I loved them but because they worked so well with the purple and blue tones in this skirt.  There are two easy ways to wear a print – lean into the most prevalent colour (pink!) or draw out the least prevalent colour (chartreuse).  The latter is much punchier, and if I was styling this skirt properly, instead of just going all in on pink, that would be my natural inclination.   

When it comes to choosing a leather jacket, my personal preference is a jacket without any excess trimmings.  I want the zip front, two diagonal zip pockets, and the awesome zip vents on the sleeves…and that’s it.  No studs, no fringe, no quilting, no stupid belt, nothing.  I think that keeps the jacket looking “clean”, and helps it transition from year to year.  If you’re spending hundreds on a jacket, it better last.  Dark colours are also definitely best, and I admit I hesitated at buying a pale pink jacket.  There’s going to be an awkward point in its lifecycle where it’s worn and dirty enough to look awful, and I’ll have to persevere until it finally reaches the point where it looks old enough to be great again.

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Leather, as opposed to suede, is a better choice if you’re not looking for a new time-consuming hobby in the form of caring for leather goods (and pebbled leather, while heavy and harder to break in, is very hard-wearing).  Suede is like a magnet for grease and stains, and every time I wear my suede jacket I know I’m signing up to a cleaning session, which puts a real dent in my enjoyment of it.  Suede also, obviously, shouldn’t be worn in the rain, and wears much more obviously than smooth leather.  It’s not an entry-level material, and if you have budget for one jacket, do not go suede.  I realise I’m being intense about this, but it’s pretty up there in “key issues I feel strongly about”.  

Also keep in mind that leather alone is not warm.  In winter it will be fine with wool layered underneath it, but it’s not going to do the same job that a wool coat will.  They are the perfect transitional jacket, which is rather convenient as we all go into transitional dressing now. 

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There are so many leather jacket options out in the world, but I’ve rounded up ten below:

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Skirt is a million years old, but this one from Kate Sylvester (on sale) will give the same full skirted effect.  I buy my plain tshirts from AS Colour.  Scarf/belt is vintage and the shoes are, of course, from Merchant 1948.  My jacket is past season Blak Luxe – current season is here.  Earrings are from Forever New, not available online.