Sunday, 23 October 2011

today i love... basics

5. Coats

As the nights draw in and temperatures drop, it seems only fitting to dedicate another basics post to what is perhaps the number one essential for surviving winter in Britain: the coat. And given that the last two winters have been the coldest for some years, with several days' worth of snow grinding our transport system to a halt, I'd say the coat is definitely an item you should dedicate some time and money to this season. As someone who spent literally the coldest weekend ever in Paris last December and nearly lost my fingers after shivering for 11 hours on the Eurostar trying to get home, I'm somewhat an advocate of a very warm coat. Let's face it: winter is no time for breezy trench coats, flimsy capes or even the failsafe leather jacket. What we need is lots of thick wool, sheepskin and fur to wrap ourselves firmly up in. Casting my mind back to this time last year reminds me that I was absolutely obsessed with Burberry's A/W'10 show and the influx of fantastically huge khaki aviator jackets that it spawned. My own sheepskin fellow (see it here) saw me through a lot of cold times last year and I was completely in love with it, even willing the temperatures to drop so that it would be cold enough to warrant wearing it.

This year, however, I'm not feeling any particular coat love. I'm more about the knitwear at the moment, as my outfit pictures will attest. There isn't really one standout coat style that I'm coveting. As with the aviator jacket, while I was desperately hunting the perfect fur coat last winter, now I'm not feeling overly partial to one of those either. I have to say, though, that seeing pictures of Carolina Engman and Rumi Neely in leather-sleeved coats has certainly piqued my desire for a similar piece of outerwear, so perhaps a coat with a contrasting sleeve will be my winter purchase this year. While the jury may still be out, I do have certain stringent conditions to adhere to...

1) Warmth. Sounds obvious, yes. But many of my seemingly thick, cosy woollen coats actually don't keep out the cold all that well. That is the main bonus of my sheepskin aviator: it is very, very warm. So, cropped sleeves are never a good idea (gloves + bare wrists just looks odd), and make sure the fit is nice and snug, too. Wear it around the house for a couple of hours and make sure you feel uncomfortably warm.
2) Colour. Should be black, navy or grey, in my opinion. Even camel, which was all the rage last year, doesn't seem quite up-to-date anymore. While I usually advocate following seasonal trends, with an investment buy such as a coat I'd stick to classic, solid dark colours. The same doesn't apply to fur, of course, but I'd still stick to black, brown or cream here.
3) Versatility. I'm all for stocking up on statement shirts, knits and shoes, but a coat really does need to go with everything. Again, it sounds obvious, but in the past I've fallen into the pitfall of buying a coat which just doesn't look right with quite a lot of my clothes and therefore only gets worn once in a blue moon. Go for a classic shape, minimal design detail (no patterns or quirky buttons) and try it on with everything before committing.

So there we have it. Below I've picked my favourite failsafe coats from the high street for your perusal pleasure. It's not rocket science, but putting a little bit of thought into your winter coat purchase could mean the difference between an impulsive splurge which gathers dust at the back of your wardrobe, and the sound investment which forms the basis of your entire cold weather arsenal.


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