What do you wear over a vintage dress?

I’ve made three vintage dresses this year – my first adventures working with vintage patterns! And I’m really happy with all of them, and wear them happily to work, or any occasion that calls for feeling pretty. But I get stuck when it comes to wearing jackets with them!

Especially my Advance shirtdress, in the photo below – all of my jackets feel wrong for this dress. So I never wear a jacket and just hope for nice weather all day!

I wore a Old Navy denim jacket over this one – was this wrong?

Does that mean I need to make vintage coats to coordinate? Something perhaps like this glamorously warm-looking coat, on my Etsy wishlist?

If you buy it, I’ll be so sad I didn’t snag it for myself… but I did include the link for your buying pleasure!

Maybe little fitted jackets like this one? How cute is this dress-and-jacket set – the teal version looks like a long sleeved dress but it’s actually the same dress, with a very fitted-at-the-waist jacket! It sold before I could snap it up but would that work over a full-skirted dress?

How about cute little bolero tops? I like that you can see the waistline, which is the smallest part on us pear-shapes. It makes these girls’ waistlines look teeny-tiny! And since they’re so easy to make, I could make one for each dress, I don’t need to decide on a colour that will work for everything. But are boleros too matchy-matchy? Too retro? Too formal?

What are the rules when it comes to topping off a vintage dress? Can modern coats and jackets work, or is that a vintage faux-pas? Should I make up vintage coats, jackets and boleros – or is that too costumey?

What do you wear over your vintage dresses? Opinions, please! I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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35 Responses to What do you wear over a vintage dress?

  1. Patty October 27, 2010 at 6:26 am #

    I’m a sucker for a delicate, feminine dress and a denim jacket. It’s the 90′s girl in me!

    As for what to wear, I have a bunch of cardigans, shorter length, 3/4 length sleeves, crew neck that works up to a certain temp. After that, I have a cute little vintage-vibe jacket I made from a Vogue pattern – huge collar like the lady grey, but more of a trapeze shape, in white brocade. It’s def costumey, but I don’t mind going the minnie mouse route.

    For truly COLD weather, I have nothing, although that’s always been the problem living in Minneapolis. The age-old decision between looking cute and not freezing to death. I think for general warmer climates a simple modern-style longer coat – trench style or black flannel single breasted is great.

    Lately I’ve been really drawn to super fitted bodice, full skirts dresses – you know, the classic 50′s shape. I want a coat that sort of follows those lines to the skirts aren’t all squashed but I still have waist definition. I have all the stuff for Simplicity 2812 – a Project Runway pattern with a longer, a-line, empire waist coat with a cute full gathered peter pan-like collar option. As soon as I finish my husband’s coat, I’m going to make that in an awesome yellow and interline with wool quilt batting. We’ll see how that goes…

  2. mandi coulter October 27, 2010 at 6:36 am #

    i was going to say i would wear my gap jean jacket :)

  3. lap October 27, 2010 at 6:38 am #

    Back in my scenester days (late 80′s-early 90′s) I would wear my vintage dresses with jean jackets or motorcycle jackets always, but I also would usually have on Doc Martens. It was always a slightly tough contrast to the vintage shirt dress. I live in Minnesota and have a large selection of vintage coats so outerwear is easy once the snow falls, but in transitional weather it’s hard to resist a classic jean jacket.

    I love the bolero looks you’ve shown especially the wide waisted one! I think that would look stellar with a full skirt as well, and would be wonderful in something plushy. With most full skirted looks I think the classic cardigan works well too.

  4. CGCouture October 27, 2010 at 6:59 am #

    Would be planning to wear this jacket all day, or just when you’re outside? Because I think your Lady Grey would look gorgeous with the brown polka dots, but then, I could just have the colors on my monitor messed up….

    I think if you were wanting something to wear inside on days when it’s cool in the office, I’d opt for a cute fuzzy sweater or a cardigan. They have some cute patterns on Ravelry if you know how to knit/crochet…

  5. woolcat October 27, 2010 at 7:35 am #

    Well, your denim jacket with the flowery dress rocks. Not sure I have any suggestions for the other ones! I can imagine a knitted shrug or cropped cardi would look great with your gorgeous new red dress, though.

  6. Tanit-Isis October 27, 2010 at 7:45 am #

    I am a big fan of long, fancy coats for all occasions :) (well, the chilly ones, anyway). I haven’t been without a full-length winter coat since high school. I think the denim jacket looked totally cute with that dress, but I am definitely of the opinion that a vintage (or merely classy) coat wouldn’t hurt (the long, full one is amazing!). There’s a vintage-vogue pattern not too far off the bolero-type one you linked (maybe less fitted, though). I think the Lady Grey shape would work with any vintage dress, but maybe not all your colours ;) (although blue and brown together can be quite striking!)

  7. Nancy October 27, 2010 at 7:56 am #

    How about a shrug? Shrugs are quite vintage and they show off the dress very well. I love the vintage coat and think it is great for outdoors, but you’d still have to take it off when you went inside.

  8. Mav October 27, 2010 at 8:02 am #

    I find your denim jacket looks nice with the dress.

  9. Darci October 27, 2010 at 8:09 am #

    I like the denim jacket, too. It’s a look I rock quite often in the spring and summer. :)

    You could make up a few boleros/shrugs to go with your dresses, too. I think they’d keep you warmer as it cools into fall, and I bet you’d find yourself wearing them with things OTHER than your fantastic dresses. They’re also SUPERfast to sew, which is a bonus!

  10. Peacockchic October 27, 2010 at 8:17 am #

    I like the denim jacket with the dress. I would go with one of the smaller size coat/boleros so you don’t hide the beauty of the dress. But I guess it is a fine line before it looks too costumey if you go too vintage on every piece. I think I liked the fitted jacket one that sold on etsy the best.

  11. Katie October 27, 2010 at 8:29 am #

    I love that Advance 4916 pattern and would love to see you make it up…maybe in that cherry red wool from Sewfisticated??? I also love the denim jacket over your vintage sheath dress, that was a really cute look :)

  12. Irene October 27, 2010 at 8:35 am #

    Just because you have vintage pieces in your wardrobe, doesn’t mean that you have to look like you just stepped out of 195_. The denim jacket looks great. I think that any jacket that looks appropriate (colour and proportions-wise) would do perfectly. Bottom line – if YOU like the way something looks – wear it.

  13. Catherine October 27, 2010 at 8:47 am #

    No jackets unless it’s a full on winter coat… BUT I have sworn by cardigans over the past year. I make sure the arms are nice and form fitting because I find to balance my figure a looser skirt requires a slimmer torso – so you can’t buy them too loose… but cardigans have absolutely saved the skirt and dress portion of my wardrobe!

  14. amber October 27, 2010 at 9:47 am #

    I see I’m in the majority in that I like the juxtapostion of the vintage floral dress with the denim jacket. It’s how I would have worn it and I think it’s a cute look. I do think a shrug or bolero may work well with certain dresses and I can’t say that I blame you for wanting a long glamorous coat, too. Wow, I’m really no help here, am I? ;)

  15. Lady J October 27, 2010 at 10:05 am #

    I wear a mix of modern and old cover-ups over vintage dresses. I used to team up a lot of second-hand blazers with similar dresses to the ones above but I’ve fallen out of love with this look a little. For your shirt dress, I’d be drawn to a light-weight mac or maybe a jacket with bracelet length sleeves, possibly in a trapeze style. But for the floral dress I think a big cardigan with a narrow belt could look excellent. I feel like you can rock multiple styles!

  16. Uta October 27, 2010 at 11:02 am #

    While I don’t wear vintage, I have a rather large jacket and coat wardrobe, because I really feel different outfits call for very different toppers. I think you can go three ways here: 1. Go vintage i.e. wear something period-appropriate that you wouldn’t buy in a modern store (bolero, vintage coat). The disadvantage is, imo, that it can look costumey. 2. Go for contrast, e.g. the denim jacket, a leather jacket, a metallic coat, something modern and totally different. This can look great, but may be a bit too much of a fashion statement in some situations. 3. My favorite: Go for a classic that was as appropriate to wear then as it is now. A trenchcoat comes to mind. Or a close cut, short jacket in a timeless style. Or a simple coat with proncess lines. Regarding style in general, I think there are only two silhouettes that look right: An at least knee-length coat or a short, close cut jacket.

  17. ~Sherry~ October 27, 2010 at 11:07 am #

    I’m a big fan of fitted cardigans with dresses, and think they work really well with vintage dresses as they are neither too modern nor too vintage. The bolero is cute but could look too costume-y if you’re not careful!

  18. alice October 27, 2010 at 12:24 pm #

    i like the denim jacket plus vintage dress. i like vintage clothes like i like vintage and old-timey furniture: mixed in with contemporary pieces.

  19. Roobeedoo October 27, 2010 at 1:26 pm #

    A handknitted lace shawl is perfect for evening wear. Or a vintage style cardigan, again hand-knitted if possible. But I like the contrast of a denim jacket with a vintage dress – it stops it getting too precious and “sweet”.

  20. Kat October 27, 2010 at 2:10 pm #

    I think the denim jacket looks great with that dress!

  21. ruby slippers October 27, 2010 at 2:40 pm #

    I always find cardigans helpful, a little cropped one is always a winner. I also like little 60′s style swing coats over a straighter skirt they always look chic and fit in with the retro vibe

    xx Ruby Slippers

  22. Heather October 27, 2010 at 2:43 pm #

    I think the denim jacket looks great with the dress! I personally have a collection of pashminas in a large number of solid colors, and I also like 3/4 sleeve cardigans. For winter, I have a couple of vintage wool jackets – one hip length in black and a gorgeous one that I found at Value Village last year that goes below the knee. I’d like to make a hip length vintage car coat – it’s on the list. For those that have a narrow waist, a shrug or bolero is a good choice!

  23. sallyann October 27, 2010 at 4:13 pm #

    The demin jacket is perfect. What about making a demin or twill jacket in another color. You might try Butterick 5402. One of my fellow students in sewing class made one in raspberry twill.

  24. A Sewn Wardrobe October 27, 2010 at 5:54 pm #

    I love long cardigans, belted over dresses. It unfortunately hides part of the dress… but that’s winter. :(

    I have a shorter Banana Republic merino cardigan that has some stretch to it, so it fits snuggly in the arms, and it is really flattering over a dress. I saw a similiar one in a few colors at Ann Taylor recently…

    I’m a little obsessed with cardigans, if you can’t tell. Good luck! Layering is hard!

  25. Gail October 27, 2010 at 10:52 pm #

    Vintage on vintage doesn’t always work. ‘Bintage’ my daughter calls it. I think a shorter length jacket is right with these dresses or a beaded cardigan.

  26. Digs October 28, 2010 at 4:47 am #

    The jacket is perfect: young and modern styling for a very lovely and feminine dress.

  27. monkeysocks October 28, 2010 at 6:23 am #

    I have a couple of coats, all of which are modern but look slightly vintage without being too specific in era or detailing.

  28. Elizabeth October 28, 2010 at 6:37 am #

    I have trouble matching jackets to skirts or dresses – therefore ,to keep warm, I usually wear one of several shawls I own. One is a lovely silk scarf almost 2 feet wide and nice and long – you can wear it as a scarf, or as a shawl. Two others are very fine wool in that “babushka” style with a fringe : one is amber tones and black with a bit of green, and the other is wine colored. Another plain one is just red, with a bit of fringe – I think it’s poly or acrylic, but whatever. And finally one is kind of fuschia with lots of gold thread, bought at an East Indian accessories shop. When it’s cool enough to wear an outer jacket, I don’t bother trying to match the jacket to my clothes, i just wear whichever best suits the weather (trench coat, leather jacket, wool coat. That’s about it!) , but instead choose one of these wraps to coordinate.

  29. Tasia October 28, 2010 at 8:53 am #

    I knew you guys would have great answers to this question!
    I’ve learned that my denim jacket is OK, that classic is best when it comes to outerwear, and that I really should learn to knit! (Or buy a lot of fitted, short cardigans. With slim-fitting arms.) Which is probably true as I own two cardigans, total! And one is grey leopard print so it doesn’t go over printed dresses. (Or does it? Print-on-print is in but I might just look a little kooky…)

    This is brilliant – thanks so much for sharing your opinions and thoughts!

  30. SewLindaAnn October 29, 2010 at 5:11 am #

    I bet you could whip out a couple of casual but nice cardigan type garments in no time. I also love the capelets, and they’re coming back in a big way. Neat fabrics would really take them to another level of fun and usefulness. Denim jackets are never inappropriate. If you’re going fancy then sew on some velvet!

  31. Rebecca October 29, 2010 at 6:32 am #

    Only two cardigans? Gasp! I have a cardigan on me or with me almost every day. Maybe that’s cause I live it Ottawa and its cold her almost all year.

    The ones that v in the front are flattering with dresses because they don’t flap open when left unbuttoned. Then sometimes I layer a leather jacket or jean jacket on TOP of the cardigan. I like the multi layered look, or am forced to.

  32. Tasia October 29, 2010 at 9:25 am #

    I know, sad that I only have two cardigans! It’s because I can’t knit and I rarely shop :) I see all the knitters out there making the CUTEST stuff – little shrugs, boleros, wraps and cardigans! I also prefer the V-neck style, don’t like the flapping fabric either! I like the layered look just because you never know what the weather will do here.. it’s so unpredictable! Except for the rain. That’s a given!

    @SewLindaAnn: Velvet! Yes. Wouldn’t a velvet cropped-jacket be so cute? And until then I’ll stick with the denim jacket, which I love anyways!

  33. frk.bustad October 31, 2010 at 5:20 am #

    Oh, I love the bolero jackets! If the weather isn’t too cold, I’d go for something like that. I love wearing trench coats with a tight belt to keep the hourglass figure. I wear a lot of dresses (retro-inspired, not necessarily vintage pattern), and find that a trench coat works with most of the dresses.

  34. Stephanie October 31, 2010 at 2:42 pm #

    I like how you mix it up. I think modern mixed with vintage always shows that we have our own style!! <3

  35. Rachel November 1, 2010 at 5:02 pm #

    If you’re jealous of what the knitters can do (apart from learning to knit of course), you could organise a ‘skill swap’ with a friend that can knit. I can’t knit and i have a friend that can’t sew, so shes’ going to knit me some wrist warmers and i’m going to sew her something.

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