Looking back at my relationship history, I could never be accused of having commitment issues. But when it comes to my wardrobe, different story.
I should start by saying I am a Piscean. Yes, the one who takes 25 minutes to order at a Vietnamese restaurant (don’t blame me, the menus are gigantic!). I’ve been eyeing a designer handbag for more than six months and just cannot bring myself to seal it with a click. The fact I am pregnant and have started measuring all discretionary purchases in “how many nappies/prams/onesies is that worth?” may have something to do with it.
It’s the same with buying a winter coat. It’s likely your most outer layer is the single biggest purchase you will make in any season. Good coats are designed to last but even when our pea brains can measure the cost-per-wear quite easily, the outlay can sometimes feel as weighty as buying a car.
But it needn’t be a credit card-maxing exercise. Legendary designer Jil Sander, whose latest unisex collection for UNIQLO goes on sale this week and is priced under $350, says a good coat “should be of a comfortable, quality material, it should have a great fit, thoughtful details and be adaptable to different climatic situations ... A coat should also give you the smart, modern silhouette and subtle air of self-assurance.”
Sander says a coat should not be an impulse buy. “Sometimes, we are seduced by one aspect and neglect the problems we feel. But functionality and comfort shouldn’t be dislodged from the aesthetics. In my design, I try to translate practical aspects into innovative looks ... But you have to make sure to find the perfect fit for you, especially with the contemporary oversize-look.”
Don’t just take it from an international fashion powerhouse. Margie Woods, of Australian label Viktoria & Woods, shares some of Sander’s wisdom when it comes to finding the perfect coat. She says a good coat should “blur the lines between casual and dressed up”.
Stylist Penelope Cadzow’s three essential coats
- A puffer: “I don’t believe you need to go high end. Kmart and H&M do amazing styles, super warm, different lengths, and fun colours, too, under $80.”
- A teddy coat: “This trend has been around a few winters and is continuing ... stick to a neutral to go with everything ... or try a fun colour like burgundy, ink blue or emerald green.”
- A stylish coat: “Invest in a good quality wool or wool blend ... sticking to black, charcoal, navy or caramel. Budget anywhere from $400-$600.”
Woods’ checklist includes a neutral colour, relaxed fit and easy texture that won’t annoy or irritate in a blend of wool and, if budget allows, cashmere. “You may have to pay a little more for quality but it will serve you well for years to come,” she says. “If it’s a forever coat, stick to beautiful toffee tones, soft grey marle or ivory.”
Stylist Penelope Cadzow dispels the myth that a good coat needs to be fully lined. “No lining can be so good as if it has a wool component it will be closer to your body and keep you warmer,” she says.
For men, key colours include black, navy and grey, or consider a subtle houndstooth check or Prince of Wales pattern in a black/grey combo. Labels to look out for include Christian Kimber, Jac & Jack and Trenery.
With faux fur such a popular material, how can you know you’re getting a “good fake” that won’t look drab after one wear? H Brand’s Tara Cunniffe say furs that are soft, dense and smooth are generally good quality. “Poor quality faux fur garments can be bulky, itchy and very uncomfortable to wear,” she says.
Sizing is also a key consideration; you want to embrace the oversized trend but not make it look like you “borrowed” someone else’s from the cloakroom. Woods suggests asking yourself how you will wear it: will it be over knits, or mainly finer layers? No matter the answer, make sure you have enough room to move your arms easily. No one finds that robot look sexy.
As for coat care, don’t rush to the cleaners at the first sign of spilt milk. Spot clean and let your coat air out as often as possible; sunlight and air are nature’s best bacteria fighters when it comes to textiles. And have it cleaned at the end of each winter before you put it into storage, ensuring it’s fresh and ready to wear for the next year’s first cold snap.
And if you are buying a fur, H Brand’s Cunniffe say to give it a good shake or treatment with a lint roller to stop excessive shedding when its new (this should stop after a few wears, so maybe keep that roller handy or buy a mini one you can slip in your bag).
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