Preparing for battle is rarely an overnight affair; it takes months of scoping out the situation, investigating the landscape, and knowing your exact strategy, so you can strike at the most foolproof juncture. We like to think the same high-profile procedures apply to one of our most coveted seasonal essentials¬--the army jacket. This particular piece of outerwear sparked our sartorial interest the second we saw it on the spring runways, so you could say we've been in training camp with the army jacket for a few months now! Luckily, in the name of intelligence tasking, we can always look to the cognoscenti to tell us how to wield this stylish weapon. From looser, oversized shapes to more fitted silhouettes, lovely ladies like Alexa Chung, Becka Diamond, and Katie Homes offer us a whole stockpile of directional ensembles from which to take notes! So, dear readers, get ready for the front lines of a particularly fashionable battle as we let these trendsetters teach us how to wear army-inspired duds and create combat-chic looks.
Although typically considered a casual piece, the army jacket is also a prime option for evening outerwear as displayed by two of our favorite tastemakers, Meredith Melling Burke and Julia Restoin Roitfeld. Seen at the Cynthia Rowley for ROXY Launch Party in April, Vogue Senior Market Editor Melling-Burke skillfully dressed down her Proenza Schouler Skirt ($950) with J. Crew's Boyfriend Fatigue Jacket ($148), and punctuated the look with Alexander Wang's Rocco Baby Duffel Bag ($695), putting her own glossy spin on cocktail attire. You can easily approximate her look by pairing APC's Quilted Parka ($390) with J. Crew's Linen Charter Skirt ($80) and Skinny Leather Belt ($32.50). For an even fancier take on the high-low mix, look to Julia Restoin Roitfeld's ensemble at the reception for Derek Blasberg's novel, Classy, for reference. She paired her Burberry Prorsum 2010 Reef Knot Dress ($2195) in Trench (two great alternatives are Jill Stuart's Elyse Dress ($598) and Diane von Furstenberg's Milton Dress ($465)¬--both of which mimic the exceptional draping of Roitfeld's choice) and Burberry Prorsum AW09 Shoes ($395) with a vintage flak jacket. Snag Roitfeld's style with Miss Sixty's Raven Sandals ($165), Asos's Quilted Lock Across Body Bag ($25), and finishing up with either Free People's Brass Revival Cargo Jacket ($138) or Asos's Reclaimed Italian Parka ($109). We know, like us, Blasberg would definitely approve of Roitfeld's tactical approach to this spring essential: using it as a loose layer in contrast with a body-hugging dress.
Alternatively, you can look to Katie Holmes and Olivia Palermo to attack another critical wardrobe vulnerability: everyday street style. Holmes conquered off-duty wear when she went for a casual dinner in New York City, selecting Juicy Couture's Tony Hood Military Parka ($298) and Alice and Olivia's Leather Combo Leggings ($330). She finished the look with a bright, patterned scarf providing an interesting pop of color to her darker palette. Be sure to try Urban Renewal's Army Surplus Jacket ($48), David Lerner's Supplex Riding Leggings ($99), and Madewell's Plaid Square Scarf with Metallic Fringe ($48) to score a similar, casually chic ensemble. Our other out-and-about muse of the day, Palermo, looked perfectly pulled together when she was spotted strutting around New York City earlier this month. Her awesome layering strategy, polished off with a belt so as not to lose her figure in the fray, definitely earns her top rank and a sartorial gold star. Palermo started with Diane von Furstenberg's Marla Bis Top ($158) in Posey¬--a longtime favorite blouse of hers¬--for a pinch of pattern, then added Club Monaco's Diana Cashmere Cardigan ($299), Zara's Military Parka Cotton Jacket ($89.90) and Tibi's Leather Belt ($150, 212-226-5852), all atop American Apparel's Shiny Leggings ($46) and Stuart Weitzman's 5050 Boots ($535). While most of these items are available for purchase so that you can recreate Palermo's exact brand of city-girl chic, you can easily fill in the rest by opting for a more fitted field jacket and key all-black accessories. We like Smythe's Summer Surplus Jacket ($650) or Dsquared2's Polly Jacket ($1154) which has its own built-in belt, and recommend rounding out your Palermo-perfect ensemble with Diba's Just Great Pull-On Boots ($89), 80's Classic Wayfarer Sunglasses ($10), and Tory Burch's Louisa Washed Leather Tote ($450), which is a little more wallet-friendly than Palermo's lust-worthy Hermes Birkin!
One of our favorite directional dressers, Becka Diamond, made the army jacket a little more rock-n-roll via her personal sense of insouciance when she attended the opening of Jason Wu's new design studio in March. We like how this budding starlet used her Dries van Noten vintage jacket as a statement piece to offset her noir ensemble, consisting of Alice and Olivia's Novelty Leather Front Zip Legging ($697) and Burnout Loose Tee ($148). This daring dresser continued to add textural interest by reaching for Reece Hudson's No. 1 Oversized Clutch ($1020) in Black Leather and Python¬--a key accessory she's been spotted with on multiple occasions¬--and Bruno Frisoni Shoes ($785) from the S/S 09 collection. Take a page from Diamond's style file and start with the ultra-glam Les Chiffoniers' Zip PVS Leggings ($338) and Alternative Apparel's Burnout Tee ($35), then complete the cutting-edge ensemble with Theory's Cotton/Linen Twill Jacket ($315) and Hype's Naomi Oversized Clutch ($150).
For a final take on this absolute must-have, we look to Alexa Chung¬--a top-notch trendsetter we'd always want to recruit for our fashion army! To attend the LOFT launch at the Bowery Hotel in April, Chung donned her vintage field jacket (the same one that made its way into her suitcase for Coachella!) with Isabel Marant's Uvata Blouse ($832), vintage cutoff shorts, and Michel Perry Tribal Platform Sandals ($708) for a lovely springtime outfit. We love how she mixed girly pieces with her tomboyish outerwear for a decidedly chic, yet ethereal look. You can easily snag some of Chung's warm-weather style by pairing a sweet, semi-sheer top like Kimchi Blue's Hemstitch Camisole ($48) with your own vintage cut-offs or Urban Renewal's Cutoff Denim Shorts ($28). Throw on Nasty Gal's In the Trenches Jacket ($108) to mitigate the evening breeze, and you've mastered the final example of how-to-wear this winning trend.¬--Liza Kaplan