There have been many coat questions on the forum lately, most of them about how to obtain perfect fit. There’s no short cut and you’ll probably need to try on several coats before you find that perfect fit. Here are some guidelines to help you on your way:
- Choose the right length: If you’re after one Winter coat, opt for a versatile length that’s just above, or on the knee so that it works over dresses, skirts AND pants. Mid-thigh coats are adorable but aren’t as versatile because they don’t look as nice over skirts and dresses. But there is room for both types of coat lengths in a wardrobe so don’t feel that you need to stick with only one.
- Think about what lies beneath: It’s extremely important to wear the appropriate layers underneath a coat when you fit it on. I like to layer the following items under a wool or puffer coat: camisole and/or thermal T, fine gauge knitwear, a lined tailored jacket like a blazer or biker jacket, and a bulky scarf. Yes! I layer a jacket underneath a coat. That way when I remove my coat indoors, I still look and feel chic. Also, I’ve found that the extra layer of a jacket under a coat offers superb insulation when temperatures drop below freezing. If you don’t feel the cold like I do, your layering techniques will differ. For example, if all you need is a chunky pullover underneath your coat, then that’s how you’ll fit for it.
- Check the sleeve length and shape: I like coat sleeves to end an inch over my wrist bone for extra cozy coverage. Make sure that the sleeves look graceful and aren’t too wide. No Michelin men please.
- Opt for a flattering collar: Most lasses look great in coats with revere collars and medium sized lapels. These types of collars shape into a “V” and are slimming and elongating. Peter pan collars tend to look juvenile and shirt collars aren’t quite as spiff unless the style is double breasted. Funnel necks and shawl collars are dramatic and edgy but stay away from them unless you have a longish neck.
- Make sure the coat can close: Unlike blazers and jackets, coats have to close and look good with multiple layers worn underneath. In order to accommodate the extra layers you might need to purchase a roomier silhouette, or size up in a sleek silhouette. It’s fine if there’s a little room in the coat when you’re not wearing as many layers. But not too much room! Unless you’re wearing a voluminous trapeze coat, the fit should skim the contour of your body with and without the layers. This sounds impossible to achieve, but it really is possible. That’s why you have to try on many, many coats and purchase layering items in the appropriate thicknesses.
- Avoid sloppy shoulder lines: The shoulder line of any coat should meet the edge of your shoulders. Too wide shoulders lose structure, while too narrow shoulders look like you’re bursting out of the coat.
- Test your mobility: Make sure you can reach, walk, lift and drive. Raise your arms and stretch them out in front of you. If the coat pulls and is uncomfortable, try the next size up. Check the overall fit and drape of the coat all buttoned up WITH all your layers in a three way mirror. Make sure that there is no pulling across the bottom either.
The colour and cut of a coat is up to you. Opting for a single breasted style with tailoring features like a nipped in waist, vertical seams and panels, a revere collar and slanted side entry pockets is flop proof and flattering. Waist belts and ties offer great structure but are not a must (remember to check whether the belt loops are in the right place).
Think twice about alterations because it’s expensive to alter a fully lined garment. Shortening the sleeve and overall length of the coat, swapping out the buttons, or repositioning buttons and belt loops, are worthwhile tailoring expenses. Anything else and you’re better off purchasing a new coat.
If you live in a cold part of the world, you might like to start a coat collection, adding a unique piece each season. Choose different lengths, colours, fabrications, styles and levels of warmth. A well fitting coat spells chic with a capital C and is always a good investment.