Well-fitting, stylish denim jackets give different looks for summer, fall

As we move into late summer, transitional pieces are key in bringing easy summer dresses, shorts and tank tops into early fall without too much effort or expense.

One of the best is a well-fitting denim jacket, which couldn't be more classic or useful. It's layerable, lightweight and tempers frilly summer frocks in an instant. Depending on the style, a jacket can give your outfit a worn-in western look or fashion-forward, edgy appeal, creating new possibilities for garments you've worn all season.

For the most straightforward, timeless version, Levi's makes several versatile styles. There's a rigid denim jacket for $198 that comes in a deep, saturated indigo with cool copper buttons that provide a snappy contrast to the dark denim. The look is clean and polished, and the piece instantly pulls together simple basics, almost in the way a blazer would but with a more casual spin.

A darker wash in denim (whether jeans or a jean jacket) will always look a bit dressier because of the even color in the wash and the stiff nature of the fabric.

On the other end of the spectrum are fall jackets that are washed, distressed and full of deliberate nicks and abrasions that give them character and a much more laid-back look.

Lucky Brand jeans has a worn-in style for $99 with an almost tie-dyed effect at the shoulders and waist, where the denim is bleached to an almost completely white finish. The denim is broken in and moves well over softer fabrics such as a silk summer dress or a thin cotton T-shirt and swishy maxi skirt.

If something more substantial in weight and details suits your needs, 7 for All Mankind offers a motorcycle-style denim jacket for $298 with a faux-fur-trimmed collar reminiscent of those attached to bomber jackets. It's right on trend for fall, with the fur and fitted body adding luxury and sophistication.

Cameron Diaz paired the Snap jacket from Current/Elliott ($274) with a summery white jumpsuit for a recent movie premiere. The rich blue of the jacket popped against the stark white of her outfit, and a multiple-strand turquoise necklace pulled everything together while adding a little festive color.

The main thing to look for when trying on denim jackets is fit. Make sure the style isn't too boxy on your body. The lines of the jacket that run along your ribs to your waist should taper in a bit but not so much that the garment fits like a second skin.

If you plan to wear your jacket over summer dresses or other items made of thinner fabric, opt for one that has been washed for a worn-in finish so it will be more pliable. This will ensure that it moves better and lies comfortably over your other clothes.

If it's a more tomboy-vintage look you'd like, a rigid denim jacket in a rich indigo will do the trick.