I’ve had the heating on for at least three weeks, I’m still fronting out a bare leg, but my enthusiasm wanes every morning. You might have brushed off the dust from your old favourite overcoat and thought, “hello lover…”. Or you might be staring at a cupboard full of threadbare, dreary looking things with a wistful sigh wishing back summer. Coats are probably the one item of which we ask the most. You want it for work, an evening out, to put over jeans at the weekend… and then there’s that wedding you forgot about, in Yorkshire, in January… Plus, whether high street or high end, it’s likely the biggest wardrobe spend you make will be on your coat, so you also want longevity. A tall order for even the savviest of shoppers. The ideal is to have a few good options on rotation so they all stay fresher for longer. The most crucial aspect of buying a coat is fit. If you can’t do it up properly, don’t tell yourself that you always wear them open anyway; just don’t buy it. Consider what you’ll want to have on underneath it, and have a really good think about how many variations of shoes/boots it will work with. Is it a coat for over dresses? Or great with a trouser? I rarely find that one does both equally well. Beware the oversized and the too long – being drenched in fabric isn’t helpful. I also have a fear of where to put the thing if I’m out. A big, cosy wool number is fine until you get to a busy pub. If that’s all raised your sartorial stress levels, hopefully the following field research will help. Happy shopping.
The statement coat for £1,000
Survey says: Well, someone had to step up to ponder what a modern day Marie Antoinette might wear. Plus I think we can all agree that in spite of her dubious attitude to animal welfare, Cruella de Vil’s look is timeless. Have I ever spent this much on a coat? No. Would I? Perhaps.
When I need something that really fits well, the high street generally doesn’t work for me. I’m at my biggest right now, and mainly subsisting in uninspiring all-black outfits. I like a snazzy coat and, when you’re not feeling that confident with the rest of your outfit, a striking shell can make a huge difference externally and internally.
This (faux!) Mary Katrantzou number stole my heart. It’s beautifully soft, in a classic double- breasted, belted shape, and monochrome goes with most things (I love the idea of slinging it on with – black – jeans). If your budget is generous, then do seek out lesser-known brands, which often use as luxurious fabrics as the very high end but as they’re not as famous, their marketing budget isn’t added into the cost.
With that in mind, I’d counsel looking at Awake (delicious cream oversized faux shearling, £885, matchesfashion.com), Jacquemus (the most elegant, black, single-breasted, wool maxi, £805, brownsfashion.com) and Maggie Marilyn (see her gingham, wool mix trench, £680, net-a-porter.com) for under-the-radar chic options. Saying that, Stella McCartney is a place I would certainly invest – for me, her cut is spot on. I’ll be holding out for her herringbone Katherine coat to go in the sale (currently, £1,450, stellamccartney.com).
And, for something really show stopping - this La Double J number is the most fun I've had in silk brocade, ever. It would make a wonderful top-coat for a winter wedding or fancy occasion.
Chic checks for around £500
Survey says: I love checks. They bring a lot of high definition energy to the table and fulfil the classic-yet-modern brief beautifully. On the minus side, they can make you look like a bookie in a Fifties comedy. They’re also ubiquitous. Not into that at all. Never mind, I thought. I’ll sidestep the all-pervasive windowpane check and go for something tiny and less predictable – a Dior-esque dog-tooth or puppy tooth. What could be chic-er? Nothing.
And nothing was what I found in the canine-check category – or not at my allotted price point. There’s a gorgeous single-breasted dog-tooth raglan-sleeved one from Toast (£395 toa.st) but it doesn’t have a belt. It had to be belted. I’m a shrimp and without belts or ties, I get swamped.
What with actual Dior being out of the question at £3,000 plus, it was back to the bigger windowpanes. I was dubious, but then I found this LK Bennett iteration. The colours – ginger, brown and a berry – were the biggest selling point, because they provide the key to a new spectrum of colours I don’t normally wear without any of them being overwhelming.
I’m wearing them with a pink blouse here – there were a lot of taupe-y, spice and rose mixes on the catwalks, which make a refreshing change from my usual navy, khaki and grey zone – although this coat would also look good with navy and khaki. It’s quite pricey at £595 and wouldn’t be my first choice when it freezes (30 per cent wool, 35 per cent polyamide, 29 per cent viscose, it’s not the warmest), but it’s a flattering silhouette and an excellent length with midi skirts. And when checks aren’t flavour of the moment, it will look even better.
The teddy coat for under £250
Survey says:The bulky nature of teddy coats initially put me off. Did I really want to be adding furry inches to my frame when on a normal day that’s exactly what I try to avoid? It was for that reason that shopping for one was tricky: it needed to hit the right point on my leg (basically nowhere near my thighs – Warehouse also do this one in two shorter lengths, which I did try for research purposes only) and it needed to be a practical and a flattering colour.
H&M had a lovely mustard one (£69.99, hm.com) and there was a cream Warehouse number I initially fell for (£115, warehouse.co.uk) but to avoid the inevitable dry cleaning bills, I narrowed the search to chocolate brown ones. Aside from this one, pictured, that I loved, Mango had a coppery one that hit the knee (£69.99, mango.com) and Next had one with a belt, which is key if you’re worried about that bulk (£58, next.co.uk), though I found wearing at least one slim-fitting item underneath helps with this.
All of the ones I tried were fairly cumbersome, so are not ideal should the weather cool down. For obvious reasons, they’re not great in the rain either, which further limits the time frame you can wear it in. See? Tricky. It’s for that reason that I hit the high street in search of one, as there was no need to throw money at a coat I couldn’t wear every day. Save it for snow or crisp wind, and this will be the cosiest cover-up you could ever own.
A waterproof for under £150
Survey says:When I was assigned my coat category, I was less than impressed. There is no such thing as a chic waterproof, I wailed. Codswallop, the team cried back at me. First of all I should make it clear I have blurred the lines a little; I have bundled together water-resistant and waterproof. I don’t plan on doing the Three Peaks Challenge in this jacket (I don’t plan on doing the Three Peaks Challenge at all, to be honest), nor am I going to be pounding the pavements in a deluge.
But I do want something that will keep me dry in a shower. My first port of call was Arket – my high street go-to – which has launched a “2-in-1” range of interlinking jackets and coats, which can be layered up for when the weather turns colder. Its baseball-style, nylon, padded jacket (£69, arket.com) is a great showerproof option.
Uniqlo’s Ultra Light Down jackets offer a similar concept, at an equally reasonable price (NB go for collarless jackets – they will work with all styles of overcoat), £49.90, (uniqlo.com). While perusing Uniqlo, I stumbled across a wind and waterproof coat from Christophe Lemaire’s “Uniqlo U” collection. At £89.90 it seems like a no-brainer – and with a detachable hood, it looks more Parisian-practical than first day at school.
At the upper end of the price spectrum there are classic styles that I would argue are worth the investment: Mackintosh teams its technical nous with exceptional design (mackintosh.com), while Burberry’s water-repellent heritage trench coats will never go out of style. So I stand corrected about no such thing as a chic waterproof. There are lots out there; it’s just a question of looking. As they say, it never rains, it pours.
Chloe Mac Donnell
The colour jolt for under £400
Survey says: My current wardrobe is beginning to look a bit like a fashion editor’s cliché consisting of mainly items in black, white and grey. So a colourful brief was definitely a challenge. I’m also one of those people that tends to alternate between two coats – one in navy, one in black, the latter slightly warmer than the other.
A quick trawl on the high street initially did nothing to brighten my mood, with the options seeming to consist of either plum or pillar box reds in boxy or duffle shapes. All a bit too female lead in a festive romcom for me. Marks and Spencer proved much more fruitful. With its slightly cropped sleeves and peaked lapels, an apple-green peacoat looked much more expensive than its £79 price tag, while a cobalt blue, single-breasted coat (£119, marksandspencer.com) is a good option if you’re looking for something with more of a tailored feel.
Whistles also came up trumps with a peach-coloured, wide-sleeved coat proving surprisingly flattering and – bonus – is now on sale for £212 (whistles.com), while Weekday has a good, slightly oversized emerald version (£110, Weekday.com).
At the top end of my budget, I fell for this one from Matérial, a brand based in Tbilsi in Georgia. In light blue, everything from my darkly hued existing wardrobe works well with it. Both its longer length and belt tie are flattering on my taller frame, plus as I prefer not to wear tights I like a coat that keeps my legs warm too.
While £400 may seem high, the fact it’s made of 100 per cent wool (something I found impossible to hunt down on the high street), and from more of a niche brand (meaning you’re less likely to twin with every second person on the tube), justifies it for me.
The camel coat with a twist for £250
Survey says: I thought my ability to be satisfied by any camel coat south of the £1,000 mark might have been completely spoilt after my visit to the MaxMara archive last year, where I had the joy of being ensconced in one of the label’s famously perfect camel wrap coats. And so it was that I traipsed to the shops on a mission to prove myself wrong. How wrong I was.
John Lewis came up trumps straightaway with several gorgeous options from its own collections: Modern Rarity’s £280 belted option is a classic you’d keep for years, while the unlined £199 John Lewis and Partners style is ideal for milder outings. I found Jigsaw’s £499 draped collar coat to be the closest one could reasonably expect to come to feeling like one is wearing a dressing gown while also looking quite luxe/not bonkers – as such I’d advise taking a size down from your usual.
On to Selfridges, where I fell for Maje’s slightly over-budget £529 double-breasted, belted style. I concluded that camel looks chicest long, but not so long that you can’t see some of what you’re wearing underneath, so as to avoid beige overload. It was back at the office that Boden threw me a curveball. I’d been searching for something MaxMara-alike (and the above are all excellent contenders) but I love how the Farleigh makes the category its own with a bold panel of red at the back.
Photography: Andrew Crowley
Hair: Patrizia Lio at S Management using Bumble and Bumble
Makeup: Joanne Pidlaoan using Smashbox