Edgy motorcycle jacket reveals a soft side

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
| Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012, 9:03 p.m.

Motorcycle jackets aren't just for biker chicks anymore.

This edgy piece of apparel has found its way into everyday wardrobes for women.

“Motorcycle jackets have been pretty big for a few years now, but the vast majority of options now on the market are making them more approachable for the average woman,” says Joanna Douglas, Yahoo! Shine Fashion Editor. “I don't really consider them a trendy item, because a leather jacket is a really classic piece that will never go out of style, and adds a cool factor to any look. Think of James Dean.”

Motorcycle jackets have come a long way in terms of shape, Douglas says. They used to be a little bulky and loaded with zippers, but, this season, you can find more lightweight, feminine, tailored silhouettes at varied prices from H&M to Alexander Wang.

You might be wearing a simple white T-shirt and jeans, but when you throw on a great leather jacket, suddenly you have an amazing outfit, she says.

“My favorite way to wear a motorcycle jacket is paired with an ultra-feminine dress — think ballet pink with a flippy skirt — and some classic black pumps,” Douglas says. “You cannot top that outfit.”

The motorcycle jacket is an iconic American piece of clothing, says Emmy-award winning stylist David Zyla, author of “Color Your Style: How to Wear Your True Colors.” He will be in town Saturday at Macy's in Monroeville for a style event.

“It is a classic,” Zyla says. “When I think of a woman wearing a motorcycle jacket, I think of a free spirit, someone who has a sense of adventure and a little bit of danger. When a woman wears a motorcycle jacket, she creates an edgy look.”

Zyla agrees with Douglas on pairing the piece with something feminine to create that masculine-feminine juxtaposition. The motorcycle jacket is synonymous with Marlon Brando, who wore one in “The Wild Ones.” He wore one designed by the company Schott NYC, a line that's available at Roberta Weissburg Leathers in Shadyside and SouthSide Works.

“The one Marlon Brando wore is the quintessential motorcycle jacket that every other one is based on and has evolved from,” says Roberta Weissburg, owner of Roberta Weissburg Leathers. “Today, there are longer versions of it as well as many fun colors. I suggest wearing the motorcycle jacket with a pair of slim jeans and a high boot or cute skirt.”

Motorcycle jackets used to be exclusively leather, but designers have caught on and found a way to make them accessible year-round, Douglas says.

They are available in faux leather, but also suede, wool and even cotton.

These lighter-weight versions are great for layering before the weather gets cold. If black isn't your thing, you can now try one in bright colors, like royal blue and red, or softer neutrals like navy blue, tan and gray.

The asymmetrical closure is one of the defining details of a motorcycle jacket. But you will see the coat in many different styles and looks which makes it new, Weissburg says.

“I've also seen some cool, quilted designs,” Douglas says. “There's a style out there for everyone. The key is balancing the toughness of the jacket with softer pieces. Instead of pairing a black leather jacket with black skinny jeans, opt for jewel-tone denim.”

This is the perfect time of year for a motorcycle jacket, because you need something, but aren't ready for a padded winter coat, says Kristen Saladino, Self magazine senior-market editor.

She likes hues such as oxblood or gray, or one that's patterned or textured.

“I love the modern and somewhat-futuristic look with these jackets,” Saladino says. “Make sure you create what I call the ‘tough-and-tender look,' so you are not too over the top with the biker look. I love a white, crisp blouse underneath and a pair of skinny pants.”

She also says stay away from a super-cropped look and stresses that the jacket should fit well.

Choose one with some embellishment if that is the look you want, she says, such as one with multiple zippers or those that are fleece-lined or have a fur collars. But be sure to stay away from looking like a member of Motley Crew in 1984.

The styles that include removable sleeves so you have a vest option are versatile, says Marissa Rubin, senior market editor for People Style Watch.

The motorcycle jacket is definitely a strong trend and has become a classic staple, she says.

It's perfect to mix its toughness with a holiday dress. Whatever you do, always make sure it's worn at the true waistline.

“It's a go-to fall jacket.”

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at jharrop@tribweb.com or 412-320-7889.

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