Neither too insubstantial nor too heavy, too on-trend nor too fuddy-duddy. Stephanie Smith goes in search of the perfect coat.
New season, new coat. It’s pretty much a done deal, although there are a few associated issues, not least bulging wardrobes and a hall coat rack straining under the weight of at least six years’ worth of must-have outerwear buys. Or is that just me?
Still, it is exciting, buying a new coat. It marks another chapter in your life. What are you going to get up to in this little darling? Where will you go, what will you see and what adventures will you find along the way? Hopefully the best ones.
So you see how important the choice of a new coat really is, even more so than a new little black dress, and far more so than a new bra, although a new pair of boots does come pretty close, in my book.
But this autumn, it does feel a bit strange, because the weather continues to be so mild. As I write, I suddenly remember that Carol Kirkwood said something this morning about everything being about to change, as in get much colder, but I’m still doubting it. Weather people have been telling us for months that there’s a chilly spell coming, and still we’re having this delightful Indian summer. OK, I exaggerate, but it’s beautiful out, especially now the leaves are finally falling and turning every shade of orange and yellow – very fashionable, actually.
Yet all this makes the choice of coat more challenging. Usually at this time of year, we’re looking for chill-beaters in sturdy wool or with cool urban parka padding and quilting, but I’m not sure we’re quite ready yet. I’m beginning to wonder if we ever will be again, if global warming – if that is what it is; I am no expert – continues.
Therefore, light and layerable is the order of the day when it come to finding a new coat with versatility and wearability in mind, although luxury is key.
Fine wool is a great place to start, especially in a gorgeous colour such as raspberry or this season’s golden red, or play it safe and sophisticated in soft grey, or try out a spicy mustard shade, which sounds alarming but does team rather wonderfully with greys and neutrals.
Look out in particular for belted and wrap styles that give a clean but forgiving silhouette. The same could also be said of edge-to-edge tunic- style coats for a simple, modern shape, and very slightly bulbous cocoon styles (very slightly, mind).
A great classic length that just happens also to work perfectly for this season is to just below the knee, although edge-to-edge coats look better to the knee or slightly higher.
Choose a coat of a style that is roomy enough to be able to wear layers of knitwear under. Not necessarily chunky knits but cashmere cardigans and long tunic sweaters, that sort of thing.
Even better, dress tonally, especially in neutral shades of grey and taupe (sand, caramel, whatever), choosing your proportions carefully for a relaxed but polished look. Wide-leg taupe flannel trousers, a cream cashmere funnel-neck sweater, a soft grey wool coat falling loosely to the knee. Perfect.
A coat with kimono sleeves is ideal for layering, enabling you to show off chic cashmere-clad wrists (you can always buy wrist-warmers if it really does get chilly – like leg-warmers, but designed to give extra-cosy coverage for your lower arms).
We’re talking hybrids, really – coats that are also jackets and maybe even long cardigans or coatigans. It’s all about choosing flexible pieces that layer easily, whether that means you wear knitwear and wool tailoring under, or wear capes, wraps and oversized scarves over.
Macs are also perfectly capable of fulfilling this function, as long as they don’t have too much metalwork going on, and the fabric is light, while lines are simple and fluid. The light layerable coat is the new sturdy winter coat. Let adventures begin.