How To Buy A Winter Coat

One of the most interesting things about the recent fashion week in New York is the fact that many designers (including Erin Fetherston & Zac Posen) profiled what they called “seasonless” collections, meaning that the garments in question could be worn in hot or cold weather with simple additions or subtractions. It’s another exciting thing about that supposed “space age” we’re moving into — great technology is now being utilised to make amazing fabrics which are more breathable, adaptable & versatile than ever before.

It’s quite funny to me really, since on my index card entitled “iCiNG” which has my article ideas, I have had “global warming/seasons?” written for at least a month. I have been wondering whether global warming would start to affect fashion, & if so, when? I got my answer.

So while people in the Northern Hemisphere are shivering in their slow-developing winter, those of us in the Southern Hemisphere are sweating it out in the heat, & pondering whether we’ll ever get to layer up again. Apparently cold weather is a good two months away for Australia, but I am already winter shopping in my mind.

As winter approaches, we are once again faced with that perennial question: What coat should I buy? Should I go for trendy or classic? What fabric is best? How much can I afford to spend? Never fear my lovelies, for I am here to quell your woes.

Planning out your coat for the next few months is as easy as answering 4 questions, absorbing the information below, & going out hunting with these things in mind.

What’s the weather going to be like?
Does your city rain & snow, or does it just get cold? Is it incredibly windy? Will it be a bit nippy or it will regularly plummet below zero? Working out the answer to this should be relatively easy. My point is that you will require a different sort of coat depending on how drastic the weather gets. If it snows or rains, you’ll need something waterproof & really warm. If it just gets cold, you can probably go for something in wool. I find that cold gales give me a headache, so when I lived in Wellington, New Zealand (possibly the windiest city in the entire world), it was quite important that I had a coat with a hood.

How do I dress?
Unless you are planning on drastically changing your wardrobe this winter, think about the things you wore last winter. You will probably still have some of them, so drag them out of your wardrobe & work out how they would look with a long, classic trench-coat, or a pea-coat, or a short cape. Sometimes, buying a dramatic coat can be the catalyst that makes you change your entire look, but you need to know whether you’re willing to do this before you buy it. If you can’t afford to re-fit yourself for the season, you might want to go with something a little easier to wear.

How much can I afford to spend?
There is a vast difference between an $800 coat & a $100 coat. I’m sure I’ve said this before, but no matter — you should always spend as much as you can possibly afford on a coat. If you buy the right one, it will keep you warm through the entire cold season, & look fantastic for years. If you regularly spend a lot on clothing, & buy a new coat every season, going for something trendy will probably work for you. If, however, a coat is an extravagance for you, keep it simple.

How warm is your working environment?
For the majority of people, most days you will wear a coat to & from work, but be sitting at your desk in between. What is the temperature like at your desk? Are you situated directly beneath an air-conditioning vent? Do you need lots of layers or do they keep it pretty toasty inside? Are you a smoker who has to duck outside every half an hour? All these factors will affect how much you need to wear under your coat, which will tell you how tight or loose the fit needs to be.

Other things to remember:

Make sure you really like your coat when you buy it. It is going to be worn over practically everything you own for at least a month. If it makes you feel dowdy, short or cheap, please don’t buy it. It will just make you unhappy & that is the opposite of the point of fashion! You should get something that makes you feel marvellous.

The quality of your coat is really important. When you try it on, check the seams & stitching, pay close attention to the collar to see whether it looks like it will lose its shape, & give all the buttons a good tug. Loose buttons are a bad sign — it may have been tried on by an overzealous customer but if the buttons are attached sloppily, the rest of the coat may be similar once you’ve worn it for a while.

Sometimes a coat isn’t what you need; sometimes a jacket would be better suited to your style. (When I say jacket, I mean something warm which comes down no further than your hips.) When buying a jacket, make sure it is long enough that if you’re wearing a slightly short top underneath, your belly won’t be sticking out. It will ruin your stylish ensemble & chill you to the bone, so don’t do it!

Consider the fabric. Do you want plain black, brown or camel? Do you dare to try to maintain a white coat? Would tweed suit you better? Try to think about it objectively. A red coat might seem like a great option, but after a week you may be sick of it & aching to wear another colour.

A fur coat can be a wonderful option. They are exceptionally warm & chic. Whether real or faux, again, make sure it goes with the rest of your wardrobe, & remember, even if you buy faux, it should never be poor quality. Again, always spend as much as you can.

You may not find the perfect coat right away. Keep looking. Try lots of different places, you might be surprised at what you’ll find. Try to enjoy the process if possible!