How to choose a coat – a complete guide for buying the right coat for your style this season!

by Sylvia

How to choose a coat |

As the weather cools down in the Northern hemisphere it’s time to think about womens winter coats!

A great coat is an essential element of your style in cold weather and it’s one of the most important buying decisions you will make this season. A good coat can truly elevate your style. 

It can set your style mood or even pull your look together on a day that you don’t really feel like dressing up so much.

A good coat will make an entrance and leave an impression. Plus, you will wear it many times over the season. Enough good reasons to buy a really good one! Let’s explore how to choose a coat and select the right one for your style!

What are the essential coats for your wardrobe?

The essential coats will be different for each person as we all have different style personalities, lifestyles and comfort levels. You also need to determine if you want to have multiple coats or go for a one coat suits everything solution.

Ideally though, you will have multiple coats in your wardrobe as it’s difficult to find a coat that would be ideal for all situations.

There are some great coat trends for fall 2018, including the beautiful plaid coats in this round-up of the best fall 2018 trends.

Here are my suggestions for a coat wardrobe:

  1. One regular coat that you wear during the day and would be your most regular coat. Ideal length is around knee-height or mid thigh. This can be a dressy or casual coat depending on your style personality.
  2. A super chic coat that would be great for the evening or dressy occasions.
  3. A more casual coat for the weekends. Usually this one will be shorter.
  4. A warm parka or short pea coat.
  5. A raincoat or trenchcoat.

1, 2 and 3 could be combined as well as 3 and 4 if your budget is limited or you prefer a smaller coat wardrobe.

The trench coat makes almost every essential items list by celebrity stylists since it’s just so timeless. This coat could last you a long time and is great for those in-between seasons.

If you are like me you may want to add one really current and fashionable coat which you could use for either your number 1 or 2 coat.

Some questions to ask yourself when buying a coat

Do I want something timeless or trendy?

The smaller your budget the wiser it is to choose a coat that is more timeless and classic.

Am I happy to invest in quality?

A good coat can last you several years so it is often worth it to buy one of great quality. You may choose to go for lower quality when it comes to very fashionable coats. To determine the quality, check the lining and finishes of the coat. They are usually good indicators.

How practical does my coat need to be? will I be sitting a lot while wearing it? Will I ride a bike? Or will this coat mainly be for evenings out and walking?

Clearly, have the function of the coat in mind when you buy one. It’s very important to have coats that make you feel comfortable and do their job well. When you have a lot of evening events, it’s good to have at least one good 3 quarter coat that will fit well over your dresses.

How thick does the coat need to be? Do I get cold easily? Will I be wearing it a lot outside? Or will it mainly be used in already heated trains or buses?

Similar to the question above, but really consider the thickness of the coat here.

What will I wear underneath? Will it have to accommodate bulky sweaters? (very trendy this season) Will it cover my longer skirts? Can I still wear it with a lighter jacket or blazer underneath?

Be sure to have at least one coat that easily accommodates a jacket underneath. Although it’s not necessary that your skirts are completely covered these days, you may still like to have one long coat that does as it’s a very clean and stylish look.

Do I want to make a statement or blend in? Do I dare to take a risk with a color or pattern?

Although it’s good to always have one black or very neutral coat, you don’t need three of those. I have often expressed my wish for more colorful and unusual coats on this site. Even if you are normally a neutrals person, a colored coat would make a really good addition and fit well with all your neutral outfits. We need to brighten up those dark streets in winter ladies!

What shape of coat should you go for?

When choosing a coat it’s good to consider your body type. Try to determine where the bulk of the coat is and how that affects your figure.

Almost straight coat

Vince Camuto plaid jacket – Ralph Lauren wool blend – Marks and Spencer red funnel neck

Ideal for daytime especially the shorter versions. Still very chic and can be dressed up for a special occasion too.

Tailored coat for dressy days and evening

Mango military coat – Double breasted checked coat – Hearts and Roses coat

Dressy coats are usually more tailored. They can have a straight or a-shape silhouette. The sightly tailored coats that skims the body is one of the most versatile of coats that will suit most body type is the three quarter slightly tailored coat.

Opt for a fabric that is not too thick to maintain a sleek clean line and make sure your coat closely follows the contours of your body. You may want to go for a coat with a flared skirt for added drama, or perhaps take inspiration from tailored menswear. If you love the menswear-inspired coats which are very on-trend now, there are more below for you!

Menswear-inspired coats

Straight coats for women - How to choose a coat |

Mural plaid blazerMural oversized midiKensie plaid coat

Still very popular this season, this coat is wider and more bulky. It’s a more trendy option, but also very comfortable that will make it easier to accommodate the bulky sweaters that are very much on trend this season.

This coat can make you look boxy through, so if you are shorter or curvy you may want to go for a more tailored coat.

Belted coat

Coats for women over 40 - How to choose a coat |

Vince Camuto belted navy coat –  Tahari belted pink coat – H&M belted coat

Belted coats are chic and comfortable and often very figure flattering on many women. Apple shaped women may want to opt for a slim tailored coat without a belt that creates a similar effect but will often look better.

Long coat

Long coats - How to choose a coat |

M&S longline coat – M&S long black coat – M&S linen belted coat

If you are taller, you can also opt for longer coats, which are currently very fashionable and can add drama to your look. They are slightly tailored in the waist and create a long lean line. Shorter women should be careful with this coat as it can overwhelm them. They often look better with a shorter coat.

There is more advice here on how to dress if you’re petite.

Short coats

How to choose a coat |

Mural color block coat – M&S gray coat – M&S checked open front coat

Short coats are very practical and can be very hip. Choose something that is slightly tailored or has a bit of an edge.


Chic parka - How to choose a coat |

Gallery black puffer jacket – Bernard feather fill jacket – Bernardo bib parka

Practical and handy for weekends and great for keeping you warm, but be mindful that puffy thick parkas will add bulk. The most flattering parkas are usually tailored at the waist.

Leather coat

Leather coat - How to choose a coat |

Levis leather jacket – Lamarque burgundy jacket – Black NYC jacket

A leather coat is a great addition to your coat wardrobe. Great to make a classic outfit more edgy or practical for the weekends. A great advantage is that you can wear a light leather coat both indoors as well as on warmer fall or winter days.

If you already have a black biker in your closet, you could look for a different color, such as burgundy, navy or olive. Take a look here at the most on-trend colors for fall 2018.

Trench coat

Trench coat - How to choose a coat |

Mural trench plaid coat – Ralph Lauren trench – Ralph Lauren trench coat

The classic trench is always chic and is frequently recommended as an essential wardrobe piece by many stylists.

It never goes out of a style and you can’t go wrong with the standard three quarter camel version but shorter versions are very practical and chic too. Go for a well-tailored cut that fits your body well without too many embellishments, but make sure it has a belt.

A trench coat is one of the best pieces to transition your closet from summer to fall.


Quilted jackets - How to choose a coat |

Ralph Lauren quilted jacket – Barbour quilted – Barbour quilted

A quilted jacket can be a shorter, less bulky option instead of a parka. A great option for a winter walk!

Which colors should you choose?

It’s always good to have at least one neutral coat in your wardrobe or perhaps two. A black or dark navy coat is very practical in climates where the weather is wet or unpredictable. Be sure to have a good assortment of brighter colored or light scarves though to brighten up your face.

I also love the look and sophistication of a cream or light colored coat. Very chic for both the day and evening.

I would definitely encourage you to add a colored coat as well. Choose one in a color that suits you well. They are much easier to wear than you might imagine and they will make lots of impact on your style.

How do I fit a coat?

You will want to buy a high-quality coat that will last you several seasons, therefore a perfect fit is crucial! Here are some pointers to get it right.

  • Be sure to get a good fit from the shoulders. It should hang straight down.
  • Make sure there is enough room through the armholes.
  • Make sure that any seams, pleats closures or pockets lie flat and that the hem is even.
  • Coats with full arm lengths should cover the wrists.
  • Close the coat completely and make sure it does not pull anywhere.
  • Make sure you can move around in your coat comfortably. Walk a bit and sit down and ensure that the fit and weight suits you.

Which coat(s) should you buy this season?

Which coat is right for you depends on all the points we have discussed above, but here are some of my favorites. (RSS readers, please click through to the website to see the options).

I hope this article answered all or most of your questions on how to choose a coat. If you are looking for one right now then happy shopping!

How do you choose a coat? Which coats do you (wish you) have in your wardrobe?


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How to choose a coat |

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Aileen

Fantastic ideas for buying the right coat, especially when there are so many great styles around at the moment. I just bought a new coat; it’s purple and a classic style. I did try on a ‘mens’ style which is wide across the shoulders and narrower at the bottom, but because I am A shaped, with narrow shoulders and wide hips, it was too wide across the shoulders and tight across the hips.
It’s great to have a good guide like yours, Sylvia to help identify the right coat to buy.


2 Sylvia

Purple is fabulous Aileen. Good that you chose a model that suits your body type! Feel free to upload to Facebook and show it off!


3 Greetje Kamminga

Terrific post Sylvia. It gives good pointers.
Finding a coat “with enough room through the armholes” is quite a challenge. Apart from the wide boxy coats.
I have gone mad in Italy so I have added to my vast collection: a fitted longer black coat (great with all scarves and covering every skirt/dress) and a bright pink wide coat. I particularly like the latter as I love bright colours. I am going to brighten up the streets in The Netherlands.


4 Sylvia

Yes it is but very important if you like to wear jackets and blazers like you do. I look forward to seeing your new coats!


5 Mat

I absolutely agree with all your criteria … (getting sleeves long enough is quite a challenge, especially in latin countries, no need to be specially tall).
As an urban biker, I am fond of long, rather wide coats and fortunately they seem to have a come-back these days. Why? Not only they keep me warm, but also they perfectly conceal mini-skirts pushed up over my hips while riding. (The only point is not to forget getting them down before I take off the coat ;-). Sometimes I need to sew complementary buttons on the coat to make sure it will cover my legs all the long.
Another great item for winterly urban biking are down-coats (I perfectly understand you don’t have these in Singapour ;-). More and more brands (Uniqlo to start with) have them in different lengths. For biking, the longer the better.


6 Sylvia

Haha I can just see it in front of me Mat. You taking off your coat and your mini skirt barely covering your bum! No we don’t need any kind of coat here, but this article was written for the Northern hemisphere and a down coat is an absolute must. I put them in the parka category here, but yes a long down coat is an option too.


7 Mat

Another criteria to be considered when buying a coat is travelling. If you hate checking in your luggage, you will need a “one-in-all” coat solution: tolerable for business, warm enough for waiting for your train in the snow at 6 AM in Grenoble, riding a bike through Manhattan, and possibly foldable for warm afternoons …
Ok, a black long down coat is not what will give your look the ultimate stylish touch – but it won`t destroy your look neither, and it’s just so versatile …


8 Sylvia

Yes very true Mat. Thanks for the great feedback!


9 Rebecca

Excellent post with tons of information on choosing the right coat. In NY we had the worst winter and I wound up wearing my puffy coat all the time. It was depressing and I am on the hunt for a nice alternative. Many coats are just too light when it goes down to the freezing temperatures but you have given me some great ideas.


10 Sylvia

Yes it’s great to have an alternative to your down coat. Happy coat hunting Rebecca!


11 Sabina @Oceanblue Style

Great tips Silvia! Excellent post with useful information to make a choice. Basically I got two fabulous coats I love. And found them by coincidence: both red. One is quite conservative but fancy because of the color, the other has got different texture so more casual. Happy weekend. Sabina @Oceanblue Style


12 Lady j

I am glad you did this article. A right coat can make or break your outfit in winter. When it is cold outside you need a coat that keeps you warm I have a coat wardrobe. I got black full length mink. I got a white gray fur for special occasions. I got black wool coat. I got winter white wool coat, green trench coat. I got red wool coat for eighteen dollars from metrostyle online during Thanksgiving 2016. I didn’t wear a red coat until winter 2017.



This post came Just in time for cooler weather.. Thank you slyvia.


14 Liz Hands

So glad it was useful Cindy. Don’t forget to tell us if you invest in a new coat!


15 maria

Can anybody suggests me how bigger size i should choose for looking elegant in coats if my size is 30.size 32 or 34?


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