My 2009 guidelines for fitting a coat still hold true in 2017. Earlier this week I suggested creating a capsule with a variety of coat lengths if you live in a four season climate, because the length of a coat affects outfit proportions. Today I’m focussing on coat width. The width determines what you can layer underneath the coat, so a variety of widths comes in handy when you live in a four season climate and frequently wear outerwear.

Of course, our lifestyles, climates, comfort levels and sartorial preferences will differ, which makes some of the scenarios irrelevant. But for someone like me who is a stickler for good fit, wears outerwear fairly frequently, and needs to layer a few or multiple items underneath, a capsule of varying coat widths works exceptionally well. 

I run cold and therefore tend to buy most of my coats on the roomier side to accommodate layering. Some coats definitely look, fit and feel better with fewer and lighter layers, while others look, fit and feel better with bulk underneath. The fabric of the coat also plays a role. Heavyweight coats smooth out the texture of chunky knits and multiple layers more successfully than lightweight coats do. 

I’ll use my current coat collection as an example, explaining what can be layered underneath along the way. It has taken me years to build my outerwear capsule to a point where I have casual and dressy options in these categories.

NOTE: In some cases you’ll see the same coat do double duty across a range of light and heavier layers because the fit and fabric are magical. Those toppers somehow don’t look too big with light layers, yet handle multiple and thick layers as effectively. Also, most of the dark coats are ink blue and not black. 

For completeness’ sake I’ve included two jackets just because they form part of my outerwear capsule. I always wear a camisole, but when it’s very cold – around freezing and below – I wear a long-sleeved HeatTech thermal tee as my first layer over a bra. 

Light Layers

These are the coats that look best with light and fewer layers like woven dresses, sweater dresses, and fine to medium gauge knitwear because they’re more fitted. Thermal undies and scarves work too. That said, I have layered a fine gauge body-con turtleneck with a streamlined blazer and moto jacket under the J.Crew dressy red coat. It’s not the most comfortable combination, but because it’s very thick, the coat looks smooth despite the layers.

Light Layers & Jackets 

These are the coats and jackets with roomier fits, which means that I can layer them over multiple light layers like fine to medium gauge knitwear PLUS a denim jacket, streamlined blazer or moto. Scarves work too.

Chunky Knits

I have an assortment of very thick, chunky pullovers that look best worn with these coats and jackets. I can wear a camisole or a long-sleeved thermal tee underneath, as well as add a cold-weather scarf.

Exuberant Sleeves

These are the coats that work over bell and lantern-sleeved dresses and pullovers. Their roomy fit on the sleeves prevents the sleeves from becoming squashed and creased.

Layered to the Hilt

I wear these coats when I’m layered to the hilt with thermals, pullover, blazer and scarf, because they’re extra roomy. I find it very handy to have both casual and dressy options.

My chartreuse Modern Retro Karen Millen cocoon coat is a dressy option for every outfit because the length, width and dressy integrity are extremely versatile for my style. It’s become my hardest working coat. 

Think about the width, and how this impacts your layering options, as you add jackets and coats to your wardrobe. You will end up with a much more usable outerwear capsule.