In general, I’m a thrifty gal. I love saving money and sharing those bargain finds with you. But today, I want to shift gears a bit. Instead of bargain fashion finds, I’m going to tell you about one of the fashion areas where I don’t cut corners: winter coats. Specifically, how to choose a winter coat where form fits function. You want a piece that is beautiful, will serve you season after season—and most importantly—will keep you warm!
If you think about cost-per-wear, your winter coat is an item you will use daily. It pays to look for quality! You want durable/warm materials, a unique design and perfectly tailored fit. And it’s actually a great time to buy a coat, because many retailers want to clear out remaining Black Friday stock. So, let’s dive in. Here’s everything you need to know about choosing a winter coat.
Cheap coats don’t keep you warm (learned this one the hard way). So, be sure to read labels carefully. These days even designer pieces with high price points can be made of cheap acrylics. Don’t be fooled by pieces claiming to be “wool” that merely have a tiny percentage of wool and 80 percent nylon or who knows what else. In a perfect world, cold climate-dwellers would want a coat that is 100 percent wool. Unfortunately, those pieces are super expensive and exceedingly tough to find. Instead, I shoot for wool blends composed of at least 50 percent wool.
Stay away from anything predominantly polyester, for instance this “wool look” coat. It’s gorgeous, but 71 percent poly! Polyester is fine when mixed with other fabrics, but is not breathable or warm. You’ll get sweaty when active and cold when you’re not. Not all retailers disclose fabric percentages online, but those that do will include them in the garment description. My burgundy coat is 63 percent wool and has served me well for winter wear. In contrast, my lighter weight shawl coat (pictured below) is just 35 percent wool. I bought it for between-seasons wear.
When buying a winter coat, a proper fit is imperative for both form AND function. First, think about what you will be wearing with it. Do you have enough room to layer a sweater or turtleneck? Can you fit a work blazer underneath? You must have enough room for layering. In addition, do an arm movement test. Can you raise yours comfortably without pulling or tugging? You want to be comfortable in your coat.
A quality coat will also be flattering to your figure. Just like dresses and suits, coats come in various cuts and silhouettes. Try on a variety of options (double-breasted, single-breasted, wrap, puffer, military-inspired & pea coat) to see what works for your body type! For example, as a petite girl, I gravitate to coats with a tie or defined waistline that hit me around the knee area.
Since your coat will be an investment piece, you’ll want to choose a winter coat with versatility. Sure, we all like making a statement—but this is not the time to be trendy. Smart coat-buyers stick with classic shapes and colors. In fact, many eschew color all together and remain firmly on neutral ground. Until this burgundy beauty, all of my winter coats were black.
Stylists say the most versatile coat colors include black, navy and gray. They can be paired with nearly any color and will never go out of style. Camel shades and winter white are also lovely, but much more difficult to maintain. Personally, I just can’t keep them clean! If you want color, red and burgundy play well with others.
This tip might seem to run counter to what we were mentioning about with versatility. However, we’re talking about subtle embellishments—zipper detailing, faux fur, buttons, grommets, a unique collar, etc. These small touches can transform a classic shape into a knockout piece!
For instance, my burgundy number has military-inspired buttons and a collar you can wear in several ways: buttoned up around your throat for warmth or open with exaggerated lapels. Detailing is where we can have a bit of fun with our winter style. Now, here are few of my winter favorites…