How to shop smart for your winter coat

We can hope for an Indian Summer but the cold weather is more likely just around the corner.

Woman in a winter coat and red, blue mustard wrapThis is Britain – time to get your big coat out and keep it on until at least well… May.

If your old one still does the job then good news… you chose wisely last year #smugface.

If not, don’t panic. I’ve got a few tips to share with you for this season’s top trumps in the coat world.

First off, here are a few pointers to get you moving in the right direction:

Before you start shopping…

It’s a good idea to make a checklist of what you’re looking for in a coat. So take a look at the tips below to help you make a shortlist before you hit the shops or go online.

Step 1: be practical

Functionality. Obviously warmth is a no brainer but what else do you need your coat to do?

Do you need a smart structured coat for work and socialising, a more relaxed hooded coat for dog walking and pot holing, or maybe a hybrid that does all of the above?

Practicality. Once you’ve sorted its purpose, the fabrics should be relative.

Does it need to be waterproof, hooded, lightweight, warm, woolly, zipped, buttoned or washable?

Do you need it to go over layers of jumpers? If you wear a lot of thick knits, then you need a more lightweight, flexible, waterproof coat which allows for the thicker layering without adding bulk such as “lighter quilted” style (not giant puffa jacket as is in trend for the fashionistas).

Or a more refined cape coat or classic mac style.  To avoid the “nana” mac look, keep the colours rich and vibrant rather than lilac or mint green.

If you usually wear bulky knits to work but want a smart tailored coat then maybe swap your chunky knits for finer weaves and/or layer up with other tops – that way your coat fabric can be thicker and stiffer for added warmth.

Budget. Decide on how much you want to spend but bear in mind that coats are a pricier garment best to allow a bit of flexibility if you can.

Premium heavy fabrics will usually require dry cleaning and care, so factor this cost in too.

Step 2: which colour?

This season its all about rich deep hues such as Burgundy, Rusts and Evergreens.

Keep the colour neutral. This includes greys, browns, blues, blacks and other darker hues, as you’ll get more use with various outfits. Have a look at your footwear and bags too.

Add colour pops. Neutral doesn’t mean boring, you can add bursts of colour and interest using scarves and accessories.

Keep it personal. Still being practical, a darker colour is a lot easier to keep clean and creates a sleeker, slimmer you, but go with your personality as bright or light can make a great statement.

Stick to what suits you. Make sure the colour is flattering – this is so important. There’s nothing worse than wearing a coat (all season and for many more) that sucks the living daylights out of your face.

A good tip is to look for coats in similar colours and tones to those in your hair or eyes.  But please don’t feel you have to trot round the shops shoving your head into coat racks!

Be pattern savvy. If you like a pattern, just make sure that it works with your current wardrobe,

Also the size of the pattern matters, so if you’re petite keep the pattern dinky, and if you’re fuller figured or tall, you can go for larger prints.

 

Step 3: what style?

Quick analysis – have a good look at your waist and hips in relation to each other and decide which you are most similar to below.

Shaped. If your waist is narrower and clearly defined from your hip then your coats need to empahsise your waist with a softer/drapier fabric, fitted waistline or a belt.

Straight. If your waist has no definition and seems to be a similar width to your hips then your jackets need to be structured and straight.

Semi-straight. If your waist is somewhere in between the two descriptions above, then you need to go for semi-fitted coats or straight coats with belts.

Other body parts to consider…

We’re all so unique in proportions it would be impossible to cover all of our body foibles but the important ones here are:

  • If you’re full busted, avoid thick/heavy stiff fabrics and high necklines.  Softer fabrics, single breasted and lower necklines work best.
  • If you’re bottom heavy, coats that fit at the waist and kick out at the hips are great, but make sure there’s some interest to your narrower shoulders to balance you out, such as wide collars, epaulettes and square necklines.
  • If you carry weight around your middle and want to detract attention, go for A-line coats, cardigan or swing styles but make sure the hem sits quite low
    (around your thigh).

Getting the right length

  • Make sure your coat hem falls on a narrow part of your body, and never let it sit on the widest part of your hips or calves (above or below is better).
  • A three-quarter coat is a good length and provides ample coverage from the elements. This hits right on or below the knee.
  • If you’re petite, try and avoid ankle length, as you could look drowned in fabric.
  • Don’t go too tight or too baggy, as both can make you look larger than you are.
  • Only wear padded or puffy coats if you’re slim.

Time to go shopping!

Now you’ve got your shortlist you can go shopping without having to spend hours trawling round.

  • Department stores (online too) are a good place to start as they cover different brands and styles under one roof. House of Fraser, John Lewis, Debenhams and Marks & Spencer have a myriad of styles and labels. You can also buy online and collect in-store so you can be sure your style and size is there waiting. And return it there and then if you change your mind.
  • If you have a favourite woolly knit you’ll be donning this winter, wear it when you shop for your coat, so you can gauge the fit.
  • Don’t worry about the size on the label. If it fits properly it doesn’t matter (cut out the label if you don’t like it). Certain cuts and fabrics do mean you may have to go up a size anyway.
  • Don’t go too on trend if you haven’t got a lot of disposable income. Some styles are timeless, some are not and will soon be at the back of the wardrobe or in the charity bag!

This season’s trends

With a Victorian Twist

Soft tailoring, ruffles, high necks. For the more expressive personality there’s also upholstery-esque floral fabrics.  Think stately home curtains.

Quick march…

The modern military look is a great tailored and chic theme for the more classic among us, with double buttons a plenty.

You’ll find them in all lengths from cropped to maxi, but there is also a more relaxed youthful version by way of the sharp tailoring and brocade embellishments.  Quite rich naval looking. Gold buttons etc.

Pretty in plaid

There’s no ignoring plaid, checks and tweed this season and it’s everywhere from cardigan and cape coats to wraps. It’s Big. And it’s now more heritage meets country file. Tweed, dog tooth and then bright checks in bright but earthy hues. More check than tartan.

Please be careful with plaid if you’re quite curvy as all those straight lines can hide your loveliness and can make you look boxier if the garment is stiff or doesn’t belt.

Phew!

Yes there’s a lot to take in (who knew coat shopping was so complex?)

But it’s worth paying a bit of time and attention to getting the right coat as in this country you’ll certainly be wearing it for many months to come!

Sara MARSDEN-SHREEVE

About Sara MARSDEN-SHREEVE

I’m an image consultant which means I get to help women look and feel great – it’s my dream job! I became tired of seeing so-called ‘perfection’ portrayed in the media, and it’s my aim to help women feel confident whatever their body shape. You can find out more about how I can help you by visiting my website.