For outdoor adventures in nature, you’ll need a utility jacket. Whether it’s waxed or unwaxed is up to you. When I lived in the UK, I wore my navy Barbour Bedale jacket on daily walks through Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park. When I’m stateside, I also wear a green utility jacket (sans wax) from J.Crew in moderate weather.
I’m currently on the hunt for an activewear jacket that can be worn on brisk walks to and from the gym. Something that weighs less than a trench coat but is heavier than a disposable plastic poncho would be ideal. Also, I need it to be long enough at the back for my liking.
When it comes to acquiring a vest, you have two options: a puffy vest or one of lesser thickness. The puffy vest can be worn over sweaters, knits, and other tops with long sleeves. However, it might be too thick to tuck under another piece of outwear. I own one vest, and it’s on the thinner side, which gives me a lot of flexibility in the ways that I wear it. I especially like wearing it under my cape during the colder months.
A jacket that pairs flawlessly with every or almost every dress in you wardrobe may be a little difficult to come by. But, don’t rush your search. (By the way, I’d steer clear of boleros and shrugs if I were you.) I own two cropped, military-inspired jackets in navy and camel. They pair well with my sleeveless A-line dresses and skirts.
Honorable Mention: Raincoat
I don’t own a raincoat, and I won’t be in the market for one until my next trip to Scotland. (The winds in Edinburgh will turn your umbrella inside out until you become fatigued and give up.) Stateside, I prefer to wear my trench coat in the rain with an umbrella and Le Pliage.
I always end up mentioning Hearts and Found to strangers who compliment me on my Madeline dress. This style suits me so well that I own it in five colors: light grey, black, navy, red, and lavender. Although the Vietnam-based shop offers designs in standard sizes (these are returnable), the tailors will produce custom sizes upon request. All of my Madeline dresses were sewed with my measurements in mind. You may think it’s risky to order a nonreturnable dress that you can’t be fitted for, and I’d agree. But, I decided to do it anyway.
I discovered Hearts and Found on Etsy in 2016 when I was in the market for a new A-line skirt. The Lola skirt was the first item I purchased from the shop, but I bought my first dress shortly after that. Ordering the skirt was less of a risk because, with the exception of the length, the tailor only required the waist measurement to make it. Ordering the skirt first gave me an opportunity to see the fabric and the brand’s craftsmanship before committing to a more expensive purchase. I’d give the sewing 4.5 out of 5 stars; the imperfections are really minute.
I measured myself several times before ordering the Madeline dress. I even had a friend double-check my results. When I submitted the order online, I made sure to type the measurements correctly. Shortly after submitting them, the shop confirmed the numbers with me prior to the production stage (an added layer of precaution indeed).
My grey Madeline dress arrived three or four weeks after I’d placed the order, and I was pleasantly surprised by how well it fit. I ordered four more (although, not all at once). Before you run to get your measuring tape, we have to go over a few points. The first Madeline dress I ordered is essentially the Elizabeth dress with two bows on the back (a component of the Madeline style). It has a sweetheart neckline instead of the bateau featured in Madeline’s description. Perhaps the tailor made the executive decision to construct my dress this way because he/she thought it would be flattering. I didn’t ask questions because I was pleased with the product. I order my second and third dresses in navy and black, and they arrived with the bateau neckline. Once again, the fit was perfect.
Things started to get a little dicey with my fourth and fifth dresses, which I ordered in red and lavender. The first, second, and third dresses all have adjustable straps. Each strap has two buttonholes, and I decide which one to pair with the corresponding button on the inside of the dress. Although I always wear the straps at their shortest length, having the option to adjust them gives me peace of mind. If the tailor in Vietnam had made any error with the length of the straps, the adjustable feature would have enabled me or a tailor stateside to sew the straps to the dress with ease.
The red and lavender dresses were too small and arrived without adjustable straps. The red dress was the smallest of the two, and I couldn’t zip it up. Additionally, the neckline was too high and rested uncomfortably on the base of my neck. I managed to zip up the lavender dress, but it was too tight and the straps were too long.
Communicating with the shop was easy, and we reached a resolution after exchanging several messages. I agreed to pay for shipping, and the shop sent two replacement dresses. They came with adjustable straps (a feature that is now available only by request), but the sizing was still off. I’d added half an inch to my shoulder to waist measurement and 1.75 inches to my bust measurement. I’d gained a little weight, but not so much that the first three dresses (made with the original measurements) didn’t fit. The toros of the replacement dresses were too long and the busts of both garments gapped at the sides.
At present, I have two red and two lavender Madeline dresses hanging in my closet. The original red and lavender dresses suit my current size. I’m planning to have my tailor lower the neckline of the red one and shorten the straps on the lavender one. I’ll have two appropriately-sized dresses at the end of it all. Although I have a few dresses in mind for future orders, I haven’t decided if I’ll be requesting custom sizing or settling for a standard lettered size.