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.

How to choose a coat - gray belted coat |

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.

Belted winter coat with statement collar |

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.

wearing a bright blue jacket |

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.

favorite neutral coats as worn by 40+ women during New York Fashion Week |

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.

Wearing a purple jacket with colorful dress |

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?

favorite neutral coats as worn by 40+ women during New York Fashion Week |

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!

favorite neutral coats as worn by 40+ women during New York Fashion Week |

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.

pink coat |

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

Trendy 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.

Whether you let the belts hanging loose in a askew but chic look, tie them right at the center, or get creative with an off-center tie, belted coats and jackets are a classic piece.

Style tip: When belting short coats or jackets, make sure the jacket is well fitting and sleek. Any additional material will create a bulkier silhouette, which might not be the most flattering look.

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.

Shorter graphical coat |


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.


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.

Black worn with a mustard coat |

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.

Wearing sequins and stripes |

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.

More styles of coats

Cape Style

How to choose a coat - Cape coat |

Capes are still the rage this fall and instantly upgrade your look (from sheath dresses to your most distressed jeans). Take a glance at a capsule challenge I did around capes and ponchos for additional inspiration.

Style tip: Select a solid colored cape (such as a camel wool cape) and pair it with an all black bottom. The look is an easy color blocking scheme that looks minimalist and also elongates the frame.

The best coats for fall: cape styled coats |

Field/Utility Style and Parkas

Utility style jackets and parkas are the epitome of not overthinking your outerwear. If you’re looking to keep it casual, go with well fitting jeans or leggings that complement your coat or jacket of choice. A skin tone complimenting shade (the army green is one option), instantly gives off a casual chic look that is hard to miss.

Style tip: To amp up your look, pair your parka with select luxe pieces (like tailored slim/straight leg black pants and eye catching shoes).

The best coats for fall: chic neutral and olive parkas |

(Fake) fur

Tailored coat with (fake) fur collar |

Fur stoles, fur on shoes, fur on gloves, fur coats, fur was absolutely everywhere for fall. If you are feeling creative and experimental, select a bright and bold hue or go with a patterned look (such as the black and cream gem below).

Style tip: If you like the idea of fur but aren’t feeling too bold, go with a neutral shade (or the black and white stripes below) in a classic cut that will last you season after season.

The best coats for fall: stylish fur coats for Fall 2016 |


You see it often (especially when it comes to dresses and skirts), but jacquard coats and jackets are great fall transitional pieces. Jacquard pieces are fabulous in that they offer intricate and fascinating patterns (even on solid colored pieces)  and almost always offer a sleek look.

Style tip: Test out the metallic tones of the season by opting for a metallic jacquard coat.

The best coats for fall: Jacquard coats |

Menswear Inspired

An oversized or menswear inspired piece can (believe or not) make your look more polished. The classic cuts (and in many ways the neutral hues) have a way of pulling a look together with very minimal effort.

Style tip: With such classic and masculine cuts, do not be afraid to create a flattering contrast by selecting very feminine pieces to accompany your cut, or selecting a menswear inspired piece in fascinating prints and shades.

The best coats for fall: menswear inspiread and adrogynous styled coats |

Open Front

Is there anything easier than an open-front coat or jacket? No buttoning, no tying, no snapping, no additional effort to get it on. This ease naturally lends itself to the look. Whether you select a waterfall style, such as the Gerard Darel piece below, or go with an embellished look, such as the Topshop duster below, your options are pretty limitless in this style.

Style tip: If you select a waterfall style or heavily embellished piece, keep the look from being too bulky or busy by selecting a bulk-free top or dress to go under your coat.

The best coats for fall: chic open-front coats picks |


Another fall runway mainstay are puffer coats. Their name does an ample job of describing them–they’re puffy. From very matte to super shiny finishes, puffers are coming in all shapes, sizes, and lengths. On thing about them, they are definitely built for the cold, so keep that in mind as you go after the look (there are lighter versions on the market, but most are engineered for colder weather).

Style tip: Belt it and go for a monochromatic look if you want to keep the whole ensemble as figure flattering and lengthening as possible.

The best coats for fall: puffer coats and outerwear |


Sleeveless coats and jackets seem to be almost counterintuitive when thinking about keeping the chill away. However, achieving the sleeveless outerwear look while keeping warm is possible. The goal here is to make sure you select pieced underneath that do a great job of keeping you warm without adding bulk (think cashmere or thinner wool pieces)

Style tip: Embrace the sleeveless look by creating a new style every time you wear it. Think of your sleeves as an interchangeable aspect of your look. More so, you can dress up the look with luxe cashmere turtlenecks or opt for a dressed down sweater-like sleeve.

The best coats for fall: sleeveless wool coats |


Yes, the material and coat style reminiscent of the 70s was another runaway hit. What was enjoyable, however, were the diversity of styles, cuts, and shades that hit the runway.

Style tip: If you would like a boho-light look, go for a fringed suede coat in a black shade. The fringe isn’t as striking, but you still get a bit of the boho edge.

The best coats for Fall: chic suede and 70's inspired coats for Fall 2016|

What coats caught your eye? What type of fall outerwear do you need in your part of the world?


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 |

Photos by Denton Taylor