What's The Best Topper To Wear With You Dresses and Skirts?

What’s The Best Topper To Wear With Your Dresses and Skirts?

As I was curating a client’s virtual closet for the summer months we talked about the best toppers and making sure to add a wrap, sweater, or jacket to all of her outfits – even her summer and Florida outfits. Why? Because even when it’s sweltering out – when you go inside the AC is blaring and it gets COLD. Or when the sun goes down it gets chilly. Another reason, some ladies want (notice I didn’t say need) to cover their arms. Or for modesty reasons, some need to cover their arms.

Yes, all valid reasons to need a third piece. In addition to the fact that a layer often adds an extra element of interest to an outfit (and ya know how much I love that). However, even though there are so many reasons to throw on that third piece, there is a perpetual issue when it comes to adding a layer to outfits with a dress or skirt. If it’s the wrong piece – or more specifically, if it’s a piece with the wrong proportion, the functional layer ends up looking dowdy and ruins the whole outfit.

Or the third piece looks like an afterthought instead of an intrinsic part of the outfit. Sort of like when someone is going to a black-tie event and throws their Northface puffer over it. Yes, they’re both items of clothing, but they don’t go together. It’s like eating Filet Mignon and Froot Loops at the same meal.

So what’s the best topper to fix this common dressing dilemma?

What are you supposed to put over a dress or skirt? IMHO there are 4 options when it comes to adding a layer on top of a dress or skirt…

  1. Dress cardigan

Now you might be wondering what exactly a dress cardigan is. Is it a cardi you wear over a dress or a dressy cardigan? Well, it’s actually kind of both, depending on the occasion. But the most important thing that makes  a dress cardigan the best topper is where the cardigan hits your waist. The sweater needs to be somewhat cropped in order for it to highlight the waist and not look like something Mrs. Doubtfire would wear. Having the sweater hit at your true waist (think where your waist goes in – or another helpful hint is where your elbow crease is when your arms are hanging at your side). When the cardigan ends at that point it naturally is a focal point at your midsection and visually creates an hourglass figure.

2. Cropped jacket 

I personally love a cropped jean jacket. But any jacket (blazer, leather, suede) on the shorter side will do. Essentially it’s the same story as with the cardigan. The bottom of the jacket should end at your waist, so it works with, as opposed to against, the silhouette of the dress or skirt.

3. Knit wrap

Wraps tend to work well when the dress, skirt, or occasion is on the dressier side. Because adding a wrap to an outfit instantly ups the fancy factor. Again, keeping the waist visible is important. If the wrap is too long and overpowering you could look like a washerwoman (to use one of my grandmother’s expressions) instead of the chic diva vibe you were going for.

4. A longer blazer or sweater – but draped

There are times when a longer blazer or cardigan is either all you have on hand or the item that matches color-wise. So here is how to make it work… basically, just drape the third piece over your shoulders – like a 1950’s librarian – but cool. There’s something about the casual drappey-ness and the fact that it’s not sitting on your waist that makes it work. I’ve heard this called the jacket sling or shrobing (shoulder robing) and it means wearing your jacket ( or sweater) over your shoulders like a cape. It’s certainly a more sartorial take on the third piece – and it does require some limited movements (no big hugs or the jacket falls off the shoulders, straight to the ground.) But it does keep you warm-ish and add interest to the ensemble. 

You may be thinking you have something like that in your closet already, yay – problem solved! And if not, hopefully, some of these suggestions solved the problem by pointing out the key elements that make a topper the best topper for dresses and skirts!

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Photos: 1. Molly Nook, 2. Becky Cormell, 3. Maggie Boyle



Cleveland-based personal stylist and fashion blogger.

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