Today’s post has been inspired by a personal coat conundrum. As the weather has turned blustery so suddenly in the UK, I’ve found myself reaching for a coat far earlier than I did last year when I barely needed one until January. Looking at the coat rail in my dressing room, it was hard to see what I have because there are too many and being in a decluttering frame of mind, I decided that rather than needing a new one, I’d actually like to pare them down. So, using the process that I started with the capsule wardrobe assessment back in January, I assessed them with a clinical eye. The obvious starting point was to ask myself ‘in creating a winter coat capsule, what do you really need?’
The trouble with coats is that they’re expensive, they take up a lot of space and with elevated midlife body temperatures, I find I only really wear them now if it’s really nippy. However, it has to be said that a good looking coat enables you to dress lazily in winter – throw a fabulous coat over a navy jumper and jeans for example and you look as though you’ve balanced your outfit with Parisian intent. Coats also help you to make an entrance; in Winter they’re the first thing that people see and so in those all important seven seconds when impressions are formed, they count. And of course if you’re shopping or doing a playground run for example, they’re the only part of your outfit that people see so good coats earn their keep.
I sat and stared at my coats for while last weekend thinking through what to keep but I realise that not everyone will have more coats than they need. So I thought it might be helpful if I shared my ruminations in case you’re in need of something new. Every year of course there’s a fashion coat – take last year’s teddy or borg coat for example. They’re still around this year but the problem is that if you’re a fashion follower, they have 2018 stamped all over them. I’m guessing that if not now, soon, thousands of them will be heading towards landfill in all of their polyester glory. Thinking back to 2016, the M&S pale pink coat was all the rage – I bet we won’t see a single street styler in one of those this year. And this of course is the behaviour we all need to avoid which suggests that the ‘it coat’ is the first to be questioned in terms of spend and sustainability so, I’m not going to cover ‘it coats’ today.
I decided to look back through my outfit pictures from last winter to see what I actually wore for work, weekend and nights out. I have a few very good quality coats that date back to the mid 90s. They include cashmere classics and a few statement numbers; I may not wear them often but I’ll keep them forever because they feel fantastic. Then there are the workhorses, the coats that I wear on a day in, day out basis. They tend to fall into two camps: I have a rainbow collection of Ultra Light Down coats for dog walking and the gym (and sometimes at home when Mr MC and I are having a thermostat stand-off). Otherwise I tend to opt for a city coat (or you might call it a Chesterfield or a Crombie) because they’re versatile and flattering.
What makes them flattering? It’s the fact that regardless of what you wear with them, you’re instantly applying the rule of two thirds to your outfit. This alone will flatter your proportions and give you a more pulled together look than if you threw on something longer or shorter. Here are some pictures from last winter to give you an idea of what I mean about their versatility.
Worn with wide leg trousers and a silk blouse for work…
With jeans and a jumper at the weekend…
With a sequin skirt for a Christmas lunch…
With wide leg crops and a jumper for work again…
And with a satin midi and jumper for drinks with friends.
In my city coat collection I have black, navy, grey, tan and red which seems a lot but I wear them again and again. I do think it’s worth having more than one but they can be hard to find because in retail they’re seen as Plain Janes – they don’t look exciting on the shopfloor or online so they tend to be hidden away (fear not though – I’ve unearthed some for you). And it’s true, they don’t look exciting when you see them on their own because they’re so neutral but all you need to do is use accessories – shoes / boots / bags / hats / scarves to add focal interest and suddenly your outfit comes to life.
I’ve tried to find something to suit every budget. Fabric makes a big difference when it comes to this style of coat. A high wool content always looks best but bear in mind that it doesn’t always wear well if you’re using it heavily – every day for a long commute for example. These days I’m happy with a wool blend that includes up to 30% polyester because that can help a coat to hang well and be slightly less warm. Let me show you what I’ve found and I’ll give you the wool content in the caption.
Winter coat capsule – city coats
- Burnt orange coat. Starting with one of the best you can buy on the high street in heavy, high quality 100% wool. Over the years this coat has acquired cult status and every winter there are forums dedicated to the new colours that are released. I’ve featured burnt orange here but you can also choose from black, navy, grey, camel, Prince of Wales check and my current favourite, biter chocolate. The cut is gently tailored to give it a slightly more feminine form than a classic straight cut Crombie. It’s an investment but you’ll have it forever.
- Leopard wool coat. If you’re starting from scratch, buy a couple of city coats in solid colours first but if you already have a few, here’s an option for something a little different. Slightly longer than the one above it’s designed to hit at the top of the knee. 75% wool and 25% viscose, it has a three button fastening and slip pockets if you like to have somewhere to hide your hands. Also available in navy or ruby boiled wool (52% wool content on these).
- Navy city coat: this sits well on the price:quality ratio. It’s 67% wool, 8% cashmere and 25% polyester, I’ve tried it and it has great weight and feels more expensive than it is. A classic straight cut particularly good for apples and column shapes, bear in mind that it has a two button fastening not just one as shown above. Also available in dark camel.
- Pale camel coat: another high quality offering. I find camel hard to wear but I love this shade, it reminds me of clotted cream fudge however it’s also available in orange or petrol blue. The attention to detail on this one really makes it stand out, it’s 100% wool and it has stab stitching on the collars and pockets. Once more a coat for life.
- Crossover black city coat: this has a little extra interest given by the button placement being set slightly to the left which draws the coat across when fastened making it extra chic. Lovely deep lapels, it’s mid-priced and has a 62% wool content.
- Relaxed city coat: amazing quality for the price, this is 90% wool and 10% cashmere. It isn’t tailored so it’s perfect for anybody who likes the gamine or gentlewoman look. It has a two button fastening and is also available in camel or black – a fantastic buy as long as you don’t want a slightly nipped in waist.
- Longer city coat – I particularly love this one for its stand up reveres and collar which give it insouciant chic. It’s slightly longer than the others, designed to hit at the knee and it’s tailored. Note that the colour is charcoal rather than black which can be kinder to the skin tone. The wool content is 67%.
- Berry city coat: the updated version of one of my all-time favourite coats. This boyfriend style now has two buttons but is the same high quality 100% wool. Also available in camel or navy, it’s pricey but now £100 less than when I bought mine two years ago (it’s the one I’m wearing at the top with the red blouse and navy trousers, it’s a lovely soft, warm coat that whispers its worth).
- Longline city coat: I had to add this when I saw it because it’s so beautiful. It’s incredibly chic but it’s saved from being just a tad too classic by the patch pockets which bring it bang up to date. I love the fact that they actually work as slip pockets so you can easily slide your hands inside. It’s also available in plum or navy and maxi length coats like these are very strong this year. They look great worn with midi-skirts or wide trousers and so will be here to stay for a while. 100% wool.
Winter coat capsule – statement coats
So assuming that we now have a workhorse or two in place, it’s time to introduce a couple of flamboyant or luxury numbers. These are the impression makers, I wear mine for meetings or parties or blogger events – whenever I need to look the part as soon as I walk through the door. There is another use for them though. Here’s a bit of a rough looking picture from last Saturday. You may remember that we were having a new bed delivered and it inspired me to spend the day bottoming out the bedroom (as my grandma would have said). Anyway at about 6pm an envoy was sent up the stairs to say that if we left in five minutes, we’d have time for a burrito and a movie – they’d obviously realised that cooking an evening meal wasn’t on my agenda. And this is where the statement coat comes in. With no time to get changed or put on any make-up, I quickly threw this leopard one over the scruffy jeans and sweatshirt I was wearing, added boots and lipstick and off we went. I’d forgotten that this umbrella also has a leopard lining which is perhaps overkill, I meant to pick up a plain black one.
(Everything is past season)
I’m not pretending that this was an ‘outfit’ but the coat helped it to look better among the Saturday night crowds than if I’d thrown on a down jacket and trainers. So, let’s look at statement coats that are not on trend but will always have a place in your wardrobe when you want to stand out.
- Yes you’ve guessed it, this red coat is the one that makes my heart beat faster and I know I already have a red coat but… it has to be said that this one is longer, leaner and it has a lovely texture. Just a 54% wool content though…
- Now this pale camel coat looks a bit like a wet dishrag here, you need to look at the model shots to see it in all of it’s glory. It’s one of those coats that would send a message: ‘don’t touch me – I have very expensive taste.’ It makes me think of glacially pared down chic worn by women like Gwyneth Paltrow or Cate Blanchett. It’s beautiful – 80% wool.
- It’s very difficult to find a cobalt coat, I spent last winter looking for one and ended up with the red one instead. This one has a lovely deep revere collar which makes it look more luxurious than the price suggests. It’s also available in ‘raisin’ which looks chocolate brown to me. Given that you probably won’t wear it every day, you can decide whether it matters to you that it’s 91% polyester.
- After I showed you preview shots of this red herringbone coat I promised to let you know when it arrived and it just has. It looks great but I haven’t had chance to try it personally. 20% wool, 9% alpaca, the rest is a blend of man made fibres.
- A real princess coat in pale pink, navy and grey. I love this coat and it would be a good investment if pink and navy are among your key wardrobe colours – or, if you tend to wear a lot of grey and navy, this would help to lift it for a special event. 50% wool, also available in green/aqua/navy and currently 30% off.
- Now this zebra coat is a bit of a bank balance buster but I’ve tried it and the quality is incredible. Only a few have been made so it will be a truly iconic coat for the rest of your life. It arrives on 18th October but is available for pre-order. 100% leather and just stunning.
- Faux fur coats obviously need to be a considered buy because they’re acrylic and difficult to dispose of ethically so you need to be sure that you’ll keep whatever you choose and wear it for a long time. This buttermilk colour is timeless although it’s almost sold out even though it’s just arrived so you’ll need to be quick. A pale coat stands out in a crowd of dark winter colours and faux fur is probably the best way to wear something as light as this because it won’t easily get dirty.
- I keep looking at this long leopard coat because there’s something very silver screen about it. You can just imagine Ingrid Bergman cocooned inside it. Again it needs to be a considered purchase but it’s stunning and it would work just as well over jeans as it would an evening dress. Timeless.
So I hope that’s given you plenty to think about. I’m still struggling with my paring down because all of my coats meet my brief so I’ll just keep logging what I wear for now. In the meantime there are a couple of new drops to share with you. The October deliveries are pretty much the last ones of the season other than party clothes which will start arriving at the end of the month. The winter sales are scheduled for the beginning of December this year and then we’ll be into Spring/Summer again – makes your head spin doesn’t it?!
New collection at Boden here – including new statement coats
New delivery at M&S here and the first few party shoes have arrived – these are the ones that have usually sold out by the time you’re in the mood so have a look now if you can face it. They’ve also finally launched the new look Per Una here.
The new collection from Whistles is here
The new delivery from Arket is here.
Disclosure: ‘Winter coat capsule 2019’ is not a sponsored post
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