Thanks to a warm Autumn, there are more coats still in store than ever before. That’s good news for all of us. Now we just have to find the right one...
This may sound radical for a fashion piece, but when it comes to buying a coat, form and function are more important than the latest catwalk manifesto. No one wants to look outdated of course, hence the inclusion, above, of form. But coat trends move at a glacial pace and there are always several on the go concurrently. Military or wrap, cape or oversized duvet, long, slim, single-breasted and grey flannel or sheepskin and boxy – they’ll all work as style statements this winter but also, importantly, keep you going for the next five or six years at least. The question is, what works best on you and within your daily routine?
It’s important to get this right. A beautiful coat, a chic bag and the right shoes are gate-keepers to looking stylish. Choose wisely and a good coat will perk you up in the mornings, keep you cheerful on the commute and make a snappy entrance every day in the office, year after year. On jeans days it can make you look glamorous and sleek.
But first, some questions. Do you spend most of your time “outside” in a car or on over-heated public transport? If so, a heavy, wool, ankle sweeper will soon become a liability. On the other hand, if you feel the cold, there’s no point falling for a coat that leaves your neck overexposed, however clever the neckline.
Resist too, suede, lovely though it is. Instead, I’d recommend unlined double-sided coats with collars that can fold over to cover your throat and roll into a compact sausage for stowing in your tote. They used to cost a fortune, but Joseph, Harris Wharf London and Jigsaw do terrific versions each season that are guaranteed classics.
Double-breasted camel coat, £215, Uterque
Kimono sleeves? Striking, but drafty. Tight, narrow sleeves on the other hand, may look elegant, but can make it impossible to wear anything but the slinkiest cotton or silk t shirt underneath. Bell sleeves? Very now, very dramatic – but they’ll date faster than a Vote Donald baseball cap.
If you’re looking for details that make a coat distinguished, I’d point you in the direction of half belts at the back which look eternally chic, neat patch pockets, contrasting top stitching and perhaps some discreet piping, though not all on the same item. For longevity, the styles that never seem to grow stale are trenches, A-lines, military and tie wraps. The latter are versatile and flattering on most bodies and can always be worn unbelted for variety. They’re also good for layering.
Epaulettes can look fussy on smaller, narrow shouldered women. A lines can fore-shorten, so bear that in mind if you’re already on the petite side. Exaggerated lapels are also only for the tall and may minimise the life-span of a coat too. It’s vital to try on before committing. A theoretical dream can look very different on. A very generous boyfriend once gave me a black leather Alaia coat. I have never, ever worn it. Memo to self and generous boyfriends: long black leather not only has unfortunate Gestapo connotations, it’s catastrophically harsh on the skin. If only it had been a mid-honey colour.
That said, it’s always worth trying a left-fielder. For instance, a coat with half sleeves may seem frivolous, but on milder Autumn and Spring days, can be surprisingly useful. If you like wearing chunky jumpers and elbow length gloves, it could work on colder days too. Fabric wise, sheepskins get lighter, softer and more luxurious every year although they still tend to look bulky when belted and work best in straight-up and down, fuss free shapes.
Stiff materials are the business when it comes to tailored coats that require a degree of lapel leveraging, but can feel constricting if you’re not used to them. At the very least, make sure you can bend your elbows and raise your arms above your head. If you’re looking for luxury and warmth without fur, tweeds and wools are wonderful. However alpaca is the gold standard. Max Mara’s are magnificent, pricey, life-timers - extremely warm, but also softer than tweed.
Angora should be given a wide berth since it’s hard to corroborate where it came from and whether it involved plucking from live rabbits. M&S, Benetton, Zara and Gap have banned it but many sales assistants in more expensive stores are woefully under-informed. I was told by one in a Bond Street store last year that angora had to be present in all cashmere coats to make them extra fluffy. This is nonsense, so check labels before buying. The same goes for down coats. If you can afford it, I recommend Stella McCartney’s, which are filled with synthetic wadding.
Length is tricky. Until this winter, knee seemed the most sensible bet, but with hems settling around shins and ankles for the foreseeable, something longer looks more elegant – unless of course you plan to spend most of the winter in trousers, in which case knee or even shorter, is ideal. Alternatively, on skirt days, you could wear a hip or thigh length coat or jacket. If you’re wearing long boots you should be perfectly snug.
If there’s a lesson here it’s that no single coat does it all – keeps the rain off, works on the Tube and in the Tundra, looks elegant and oozes street-cred. A repertoire is required. The basic capsule coat wardrobe consists of a waterproof trench (Macintosh are far and away the best, properly waterproof and with detachable fleece linings in some instances), a smart classic wool number; a weekend and casual Parka and a short coat. If you want something glamorous for evenings, the cape’s become a classic, especially in black (the one time I’d recommend it above most other colours) and navy.
Talking of colour, self evidently neutrals are the most wearable, but as you build up your collection, you can afford to introduce some indulgences including cream. It may not be your every day go to, but when you do wear it you’ll feel a million dollars every time.
What's your coat tribe? The best styles to buy now
By Krissy Turner
Why it works: The beauty of the trench is in its layering opportunities. Wear it over a shirt now, and cashmere when the weather cools down. It will see you through Spring over light knits, and if you go a size up, a blazer will fit snugly underneath.
Don’t be afraid of: Branching out to other neutrals - khaki and navy which are just as versatile.
Where to buy your coat this season: Cropped styles are popping up all over the high street, but if you want a long-length, warmer trench that will work well into winter too, head to Oasis, Jigsaw and Next.
Why it works: Whereas a plain coat may hide a fabulous ensemble, the leopard coat quite easily makes an outfit. Forgo jewellery and keep the rest of your look simple to allow your coat to steal the scene.
Don't be afraid of: Doubling your prints. The humble Breton stripe and leopard print combo is more wearable than you may think.
Where to buy your coat this season: Harris Wharf London are a great stop for affordable, high quality coats. Our favourite is its grey leopard offering which is ideal for print first timers.
Why it works: Sharp military styles mean business. They’re most likely to come in khaki, navy and black which will inevitably go with everything and add a formal touch to casual attire.
Tibi double-breasted wool-blend coat, £1310, Matches Fashion.
Don't be afraid of: Wearing it in the evening. The hardware offers a glam element so these coats are ideal for day to night wear.
Where to buy your coat this season: Zara have a khaki number with just the right amount of gold detailing (£119, zara.com) while Mint Velvet’s option has chic matte silver buttons (£199, mintvelvet.co.uk)
Why it works: It's all too easy for a coat to cocoon your figure. Cinching in the waist with a thick belt will create a feminine silhouette. This coat is best worn over knits and dresses - cotton shirts will be crushed underneath the belt.
Don't be afraid of:Colour. Cream and grey are classic buys but an unexpected bright panel - think navy with orange (£595, rejinapyo.com) will add an interesting modern element.
Where to buy your coat this season: Max Mara do a great tie coat and the most delicious shades of vanilla and camel. & Other Stories are also a great stop for a belted 100% wool number. Look for one that falls just below the knee - it will look especially good with knee high boots.
Why it works: We have to admit we were sceptical, but it’s been proven; the puffer coat oozes cool and nods to the never-ending 90s trend. They’re also as cosy as it gets - be sure to opt for waist or knee length styles as they're most flattering.
Don't be afraid of: Trying one. Opt for a lightly padded option (Uniqlo have great ones in a range of colours) if you're wary of the extra width. Rely on neutral colourways to avoid looking like a teenager.
Where to buy your coat this season: Mango has the widest selection of quilted coats we've seen, including matte black shorter styles, and navy knee-length styles. Although pricey, Moncler have excellent hooded versions, which will see you through many winters and ski seasons too.
Why it works:A classic Prince of Wales check never dates and smartens up an outfit a treat. Although this is one coat worthy of an investment, the high street has lots of quality flattering options, including this slim-fit number from H&M, below.
Don't be afraid of: Adding an edge. Pair a maxi check coat with patent ankle boots and a metallic bag to jazz it up a bit.
Where to buy your coat this season: Any coat shape goes for checks - Finery have a great trench style, M&S have pea coats and maxi numbers, and Topshop have various oversized check coats.