Fashion: The dress coat

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Not just for covering up, the coat goes seriously upmarket for spring/summer’s special events. Stephanie Smith advises on what to look for.

Never underestimate the power of a perfect coat – perfectly cut, perfectly fitting, perfectly on-trend.

The Duchess of Cambridge is well aware of the coat’s special properties, as she has been demonstrating deftly on her Royal tour of New Zealand, stepping off the plane in a super-smart, 
pillar-box, double-breasted red number by Catherine Walker, a favourite designer of the late Princess Diana, herself a fan of the bold military-style coat.

That’s the thing about the coat. It speaks volumes, holds and creates associations, is able to combine a classic and timeless quality with a cool, contemporary update. It is not a mere frippery of a fashion item. A coat, after all, is serviceable as well as an attactive, flattering garment. It is ideal for making a statement. This is what makes it perfect for special occasion dressing. A coat says much about who you are and who you would like to be. It presents a smartness that says you are paying your respects and marking the occasion, while also allowing the opportunity to express yourself, perhaps be a little bolder than you would with indoor clothes.

The Royals really do like a coat with a military edge – witness also the Alexander McQueen blue coat that Kate wore on her first public walkabout on the New Zealand tour (see left). Slim-fitting, and belted, with clever peplum-style pockets to highlight a tiny waist and create curves, this is a coat that suits her neat frame, although it is the colour that makes it sing, lifting it to become the perfect on-trend coat, the soft yet pulsatingly vibrant blue so new, so now, so remarkable, yet neither loud nor extravagant.

This is important, especially when considering how it will photograph. There’s a lot of cloth in a coat; do you really want to stand out in a wedding album because all eyes are drawn immediately to your garish yellow or riotously patterned coat?

Seasonal colours and patterns are all very well, but wedding albums tend to hang around for a long, long time. That’s all I’m saying.

Coats for this spring and summer have become 
very special. Look for pared-down styles with minimal detailing in beautiful colours and cut in shapes that flatter and suit.

The duster coat is always flattering, to just below the knee, but colour is key to make it stand out. It’s ideal too for wearing what you want beneath, unlike very fitted coats, which can crush fabric under them.

Two-tone, colour-block coats look sensational, especially if one colour is metallic, and don’t forget that a coat worn open can create a flattering column display of the dress worn under it.

Cutwork and lace coats are very on-trend, expecially in white, and ideal for this summer’s special events. 
They work well with hats 
too, softening the overall effect.

VICTORIA HALL SALTAIRE: Hannah wears: 1970s silver lurex top �10; 1980s black and silver A-line party skirt, �15; shoes, stylists own.

 All clothing and accessories from Rose & Brown Vintage. Pictures by Simon Hulme.

Vintage fashion: Party like it’s 1959 (in Saltaire)