20 In Anatomy of an Outfit/ Styling Tips

Finding true love in a charcoal blazer with peplum

Harper Jacket from Artful Home

Happy to be in the Harper Jacket from Artful Home


It’s no secret: my heart beats fast for neutrals like taupe, charcoal gray, navy blue, and shades of black. Once in a while I flirt with fuchsia or lime green, but I’ll always come home to neutrals. And what’s not to love about them?

If neutrals were writing their bio for a dating service, they’d say they were stable, dependable—not flighty. Why? In the world of color messages, neutral colors are about communication, honesty, strength, refinement, and helpfulness. Neutrals are more Jon Hamm (minus the angst of many of his characters) than Johnny Depp. They’re strong and supportive, with smoldering allure.


Neutral shades from Artful Home

Neutral shades are about strength, honesty, and communication


But sometimes neutrals get a bad rap. People may say they’re boring, too predictable. I disagree. Neutrals may not be out clubbing at night, but that’s because they feel totally content to sit at home with the candles lit hygge-style, snuggling with you and listening to Jackson Brown tunes from the ‘70s. Score.


Harper Jacket on ArtfulHome.com

I’m crazy for the slim then flared sleeves on the Harper blazer


What happened when a neutral added a peplum

And then there’s the Harper Jacket from Artful Home, designed by Alembic in Israel. Here’s the statement from the designers: “At Alembika, we would like you to feel comfortable with your body, not the body you’re working on, fantasizing about, or wish to have—the one you have right now.” Those are words to fall in love by.

As a brand ambassador for Artful Home, it’s my privilege to try out pieces from their catalog and review them. I know, lucky me.

This jacket is totally my type. It’s charcoal, and it’s a windowpane check. Those features alone are ticking my boxes. (I ordered size 1 and I’m 5’5″ and 138 pounds.) But what you may not have realized upon first sight is that there’s a party going on within the details of this jacket.

What would be the clue to that? This flirty peplum, that’s what! I’ll challenge anyone who tries this on to not dance in the streets. As my daughter Caitlin took these pictures for me on a recent Tuesday, the swing in this peplum had me twirling in parking lots, shaking my booty, and striking goofy poses. “M-O-M!” she’d say, as if she could turn this party around.


Harper Jacket Artful Home

Peplum details on the Harper jacket


Why wear a peplum?

Let’s bring peplums into our style lexicon. You know what a peplum is if you’ve seen a jacket, top, or dress that comes in at the waist and then flares out over the hips, most often with additional fabric that’s seamed into the waistline. The flared part could be something fluttery as in the Harper Jacket, or you may have seen peplum dresses in movies from the 1950s. I’m sure there was a peplum detail on one of the dresses in the 2017 movie The Phantom Tread with Daniel-Day Lewis, which is about the world of couture in 1950s London.

Peplum tops or jackets are great worn over slim bottoms, like a pencil skirt or skinny jeans. They can give a woman an hourglass look or simply accentuate someone who actually does have an hourglass shape. If you have a tomboy shape like I do, a peplum could imply you have hips. Either way, it’s a win-win detail.


Pocket detail on Harper blazer by Artful Home

The Harper blazer has pockets!


How I wore my Harper Jacket with jeans

This blazer has what every woman claims is her secret sartorial sweetheart: pockets! Oh, yes—one on each hip.

I styled my neutral blazer with my skinny denim AG jeans and an ivory stripe-on-stripe Halogen short sleeved T-shirt from Nordstrom. I also put on a pair of sneakers (Tod’s) with metal detail, which gives the shoe a preppy feel—perfect for my Harper Jacket.


Here's an example of peplum details

Sharing the secret shape of the peplum detail


The jacket has a one-button closure, though I also like wearing it open. I added a large, shiny beaded necklace in shades of gray and black. The scale of it relates well to the chunky windowpane design. I think it’s perfect to add my lustrous gray, barrel-shaped bag with shiny hardware, which will hold my phone, coin purse, D is for Danger MAC red lipstick, and tickets for two to see Van Morrison at the Fox Theater in Oakland.


Modern work outfits

Wearing my Harper blazer to work


How I styled my Harper Jacket for work

Say the words “windowpane check blazer” and you conjure up a work outfit, right? So that’s what I created next: a work outfit. I slipped into a white cotton shirt and black microfiber pant (Lafayette 148), and added my sparkly bee necklace inside the collar. I added my white and sheer-striped socks to my patent leather The Office of Angela Scott ankle boots. I switched bags, still opting for a framed style (so as not to take any attention away from the peplum) but chose one with a feminine bow detail on the front. (Tod’s from TJ Maxx years back.)


Work outfit with Harper blazer

Step into my office, please.


When Caitlin and I got back in the car after the last pictures were taken, I was animated, making silly talk in Caitlin’s car. It’s all owing to the fun of wearing this jacket with peplum detail. I guess I was loud, as Caitlin said, “Mom, use your inside voice.” At that moment I heard Patrick Swayze’s character in Dirty Dancing saying, “No one puts Baby in the corner.”

I responded to Caitlin in kind: No one puts Mommy in the corner!


So, let’s recap

Neutrals are not boring. They’re long-term relationship kinds of colors: you can wear them four days a week—easily—and no one will tire of seeing you look so sharp and put together. And while neutral lovers may be wearing beige and hugging the wall at the high school dance, don’t underestimate us. When Etta James sings, “Roll with me Henry,” on her song “Wallflower,” we get it.

Thanks, Artful Home, for letting me review this blazer. We’re having a lot of fun together. You would too!

Do you have pieces of clothing or accessories that bring the party when you slip them on? Oh, I really want to know about them!




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  • Reply
    Nicole K
    September 19, 2018 at 7:46 pm

    Oh what a fun post and a glorious jacket! I can feel the joy and energy and chuckled at the admonishment from Caitlin. Our kids always get a little impatient when we get a little too effervescent, don’t they? Thanks for sharing.

    • Reply
      September 20, 2018 at 12:42 pm

      Thank YOU for sharing. You absolutely named what was going on one recent Mother’s day when I was wearing orange pants and a pink checked shirt and tennis shoes. I was very “effervescent” inside and out and I think my kids left that day wondering if they should call in a mental health professional. I had to remind them that I have my silly side and they needed to widen their experience of me to include that. It was a moment! I did not back down. Mom’s are people too!

  • Reply
    September 20, 2018 at 4:39 am

    I absolutely love this!

    • Reply
      September 20, 2018 at 12:39 pm

      So happy about that!

  • Reply
    jodie filogomo
    September 20, 2018 at 6:08 am

    I always love how you give your clothes such personality.
    And I have to admit that I’m one of those that isn’t as in love with neutrals as you are, Brenda. For some reason I am a color girl, through and through. But with this peplum detailing, I could easily switch over…ha ha!!

    • Reply
      September 20, 2018 at 12:39 pm

      Jodie, you have coloring like a friend and colleague of mine does and she wears colors like you do. She rarely wears a neutral color. If you and I were standing next to each other and people were observing our natural coloring (skin, hair, eyes), they’d notice I’m full of neutrals and you’re full of brighter coloring. Our color choices often follow our natural coloring. Not always, but often. XO

  • Reply
    Nelda M Pattillo
    September 20, 2018 at 7:18 am

    Love the neutral peplum jacket! I remember my Mother making me dresses with peplum years ago!
    Neutrals can always be accessorize with color and look completely different!!

    • Reply
      September 20, 2018 at 12:34 pm

      You are so right, Nelda, they can. I’ll have to try that next with my windowpane check. Thanks for bringing that up. xx

  • Reply
    Kathleen Ashcraft
    September 20, 2018 at 9:36 am

    I’m already an hour…make that an hour and a half…into an hourglass figure, so I don’t need a peplum! However, my biggest splurge on a “daywear” neutral is my Mieko Mintz Serpent Ombre A-Line Jacket that I got on sale last year from Artful Home. It’s reversible and goes with all neutrals including denim, gray, navy and black. I’m trying to get the cost per wear down so I’m wearing it every chance I get…from the grocery store to dinner out. It’s not heavy so it is a great layering piece.

    • Reply
      September 20, 2018 at 12:33 pm

      Fantastic, Kathleen! That was/is a beautiful jacket. And good for you that you’re wearing it a lot. That’s what our clothes want from us. Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    Briar Gregory
    September 20, 2018 at 11:47 am

    I laughed out loud at the thought of you dancing in the streets in your peplum! I love how you make dressing fun instead of hard work Brenda. I’m a neutrals person but I suddenly, in my 70s I have the urge to wear pink! I wish I knew what that was about, it’s very disconcerting.

    • Reply
      September 20, 2018 at 12:32 pm

      Thanks for your out loud laughs!
      I say embrace the desire to wear pink. I always listen to those nudges we get from time to time. Wearing pink may help you move into a part of your personality or heart that hasn’t been explored yet. I think it’s exciting!

  • Reply
    Katherine Cramer
    September 20, 2018 at 2:04 pm

    I love peplum styles too, especially when I am slimmer. I’d joyfully wear the Harper jacket from Artful Home! When I go for a museum outing, I am inspired to dress with more pizzazz like peplums where there is interest 360 degrees.

    Two years ago, I added three gorgeous and colorful top pieces. I loved the first purchased, jewel-tones burgundy, golds, deep teal and deep red wool paisley mix, roomy, coat-like piece from Serrahna boutique on College Avenue, Oakland. By Spring, I added another in deep pink, purple, gold and fushia. Thanks to Fabulous Andrea at Serrahna who convided that there is another fan who has bought at least three. I suspect the Fan is The Vintage Contessa.

    While in Truckee, a gift shop had one colorful duster by ANU. My size! So now I have three colorful top pieces that “bring the party together”. I usually wear a colorful neutral column in olive green, eggplant or jeans under these comfy, party-worthy, casual pieces. They are for cooler weather: Fall, Winter and early Spring. I’ll post an idea of these festive pieces.

  • Reply
    Laurice Gilbert
    September 20, 2018 at 3:38 pm

    I wear a party every day. An acquaintance recently told me I’m an artist in how I dress, which was a huge compliment and made me feel warm and fuzzy for days. I love peplums, and even though I’m more Johnny Depp than Jon Hamm, I would totally wear that jacket. And pockets! If one genius can add pockets without ruining the line of the garment, why can’t they all? Another brilliant post, Brenda. The more effervescence the better, I say.

  • Reply
    September 20, 2018 at 3:38 pm

    Love the jacket! Beauty is in the details! Would buy this and definitely would get a lot of mileage from the purchase!

  • Reply
    Cindy Scurry
    September 21, 2018 at 10:31 am

    The peplum inspired you! I love this! I especially love your work outfit because those shoes are speaking to me!

  • Reply
    September 23, 2018 at 8:43 am

    What an absolutely stunning jacket, Brenda. I love the different styling options you have shown – both are great. I have always favored a jacket (over cardigans and sweaters) as my body shape is a slim rectangle and looks better with tailoring. By the way, that was such a funny remark about your talking loudly and your daughter commenting. Yesterday, I was told (in a very friendly and fun way!) how my voice carries and that it is so animated LOL!!

  • Reply
    Elaine @ Following Augustine
    September 23, 2018 at 7:56 pm

    I love a peplum and I love that you’re having so much fun loving yours!

  • Reply
    Moira F
    January 24, 2019 at 9:17 am

    Your articles inspire me Brenda. My fashion police (two granddaughters aged 12 and14) recently put me off wearing my new red boots with fishnet tights, only for teenagers one said, she who dares.

    Moira (from Guernsey in the Channel Uslands

  • Reply
    April 19, 2020 at 4:47 pm

    This post reminds me that I have an ARTSY, bright, multicolor sleeveless silk duster that worked its way to the back of my closet. I’m gonna be pulling that out! I wore it once dressed up, but it would look sensational this spring with a white tee, skinny jeans, & sneakers! Thanks, Brenda!

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