How to choose the perfect winter coat
[l-r coats from Wallis (£65), Topshop (£95) and Miss Selfridge (£75)]
If there's one thing worth shopping around for, it's you winter coat. With weather like we get in the UK, you'll be getting a lot of wear out of it, so it's worth having a good think about what will work best for you. As this is the season of the statement coat, it's easy to get fooled into buying something covered in frills, embellishments or details, but remember you need something practical too.
To help you find your perfect coat, I've put together my ultimate guide to shopping for outerwear. If you have any questions or additions, do add a comment. I'd love to hear from you all!
Firstly, set yourself a budget. It's really easy to find something good in the £50 - £100 mark, but it may be false economy to go much cheaper unless you're buying into a trend. Think of the cost-per-wear on this; you might think £100 is a lot but when you'll be wearing this item every day for three or four months straight, it soon becomes worth the investment. There are decent affordable coats out there (my big tip is Dorothy Perkins, I'm on my third year wearing a classic black number from there and it's only just beginning to look tatty) and there are cheap, fast-fashion ones (see Primark's £25 ruffled number). Which you go for really depends on a) your budget and b) how long you want it to last.
Then, ask yourself these questions...
Do you do your coat up?
If you tend to throw your coat on and go without doing up the buttons, you're probably best to go for a simple single-breasted or zip-up style. Double-breasted coats will hang strangely, bunch up and add unnecessary bulk if they're not done up. However, if you do fasten your coat most of the time, double-breasted ones look neat and tidy and keep you warmer.
Are you smart or casual?
There's nothing worse than a super-smart coat with scruffy jeans and trainers, or a tatty parka with a pencil skirt. Think about how you dress on a daily basis and pick a coat that goes with your overall look. It sounds stupid, but a lot of people who dress casual suddenly plump for super-chic, belted 3/4 wool coats and end up looking like bag ladies. If in doubt, invest two coats, a smart one for work and posh events and a cheaper, sporty number for the weekend (and for handing into dodgy club cloakrooms)!
Do you love a bit of colour / print?
You'll be wearing your coat a lot, and that means it's the perfect way to inject a bit of colour into your wardrobe. This season red and teal coats are all over the place and they look brilliant with wintery shades like black and grey. There are also some great printed, check and plaid coats around for those who want to make a statement.
Just remember, if you wear a lot of colour anyway, you might be best to go for a plain, dark coloured coat so it doesn't clash with your outfit. White coats are lovely, but while Liz Hurley can keep hers spotless, the average pleb probably can't. By all means get a pale-coloured coat, but remember to factor in all that dry-cleaning. They're hugely impractical!
Do you layer up a lot?
If you feel the chill and find yourself layering your clothes, it's best to go for a coat with a bit of room in it. Trapeze, cocoon or egg shapes will give you room to wear something thick underneath. If you pick something too fitted, you'll end up with that attractive 'michelin man' effect. You can always counteract this by buying a coat in a size up, though.
Do you want a belt?
A lot of coats now come with belts around the waist or hips. These are perfect if you're proud of your nipped-in waist, or if you want to create curves. But beware - you'll have to fasten your belt every time you put your coat on, and undo it every time you take it off if you want the full effect. Belted coats are almost an outfit in themselves, and are brilliant if you need to look neat and tidy at all times. Still, it's worth trying the coat without the belt, just to see if it still looks alright. There'll come a time you want to sling it on in a hurry!
Can you cope with 'fancy' sleeves
It's quite popular at the moment to give coats cropped 'bracelet' sleeves, or to gather them at the wrists or flare them out for a cape effect. This looks good, but it can have affect how well your coat actually does its job. Beware fussy details on the sleeves that might leave you cold, restricted or unable to wear anything longer than 3/4 sleeve underneath.
What's your hair like?
This may seem like a ridiculous consideration, but now I know why my mother would never buy me a black coat as a child. I have long, thick blonde hair and not a day goes by that I don't have to pull dozens of fair hairs off my black coat. It's not exactly a huge chore, but it's worth bearing in mind. If you're very fair, hairs will get all over a dark coat quickly, and vice versa. Also, if you wear your hair down all the time, beware of a coat with a fussy neckline, shoulder detail or buttons, or a hood - anything that your hair can get caught in, basically!
Do you want to wear a scarf?
I know loads of people who consider scarves part and parcel of their winter wardrobe, thus they're best off picking a coat with a simple v-neck cut and wide lapels, so a scarf can sit comfortably inside the neckline. However, I'm not a huge scarf person, so I usually go for high necks or funnel neck styles. There'll come a day when it's so chilly you want your whole neck covered with something, so ensure your coat does this, or accomodates something that will!