Closet

How to buy a coat: Expert style tips

Owen Bruce Author: Elle Canada Credits: Owen Bruce

Closet

How to buy a coat: Expert style tips

Like most things worth investing our time and money in, shopping for a winter coat requires a well thought-out game plan. Past wardrobe precedent helps, too, when determining the next right fit for you. “What you should be shopping for really depends on where your coat's closet already at,” says Alice Whittick, general manager of Misch Boutique in Vancouver’s South Granville neighbourhood.

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“I think selection is really important when it comes to coats. It’s hard to find one coat that fits all the marks,” she adds, citing the weather, your outfit, mood that morning all as game-changing factors. We asked Whittick to list her expert style tips on shopping for the perfect coat—or several—this winter.

How to buy a coat: Build a wardrobe of your favourite pieces

The formula for selecting the perfect coat is actually pretty foolproof. “I always think something classic with a bit of a twist ,” she says, “If it’s too basic, it’s not interesting, and if it’s not interesting, you’re going to want to replace it next season.” For those standout details, think a classic coat in an unusual fabric, or choose the charcoal grey option instead of black.

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Funny enough, being on-trend has very little to do with determining the perfect coat. “I think that the intangible love factor is a way more important consideration when it comes to shopping for a coat,” Whittick concedes. “The ideal closet takes fives years to build, it’s something that you work on , you contribute to.” While this may mean saving up for the coat you absolutely love, the payoff is worth it long-term. “If you love something and you didn’t maybe invest in it all that well, and you have to replace it next year, I personally think that’s really heartbreaking.”

More style tips on shopping for the perfect coat on the next page...
buy-winter-coat-2.jpgHow to buy a coat: Choosing the right colour
Canadian winters are many things, but in most cases, they’re not as colourful and vibrant as we are. “I think Canadian women, our colour palette is really neutral and it’s just a huge function of our weather,” says Whittick, who muses that the colour scheme in our closets—scales of grey, forest green and navy—mirror that of our landscape.

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“What’s a really nice way to bring in a piece of colour is in one accessory in the outfit—a red handbag, a bright coloured or printed scarf, or maybe you do need a statement coat,” she asserts. Her colour scheme for building a coat wardrobe? “For your first three, do one that’s warmer in the dark neutral, one that’s medium-weight in a dark neutral and one that you’re going to love,” she says whether that’s charcoal, navy, olive green or black. “For the most part, when you’re working in the dark neutral palette, everything goes with everything. Black and navy is the number one colour palette for the coat."

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How to buy a coat: Tailor your length

“Mid-thigh is kind of the most versatile length,” says Whittick, “But if you always wear knee-length everything, it makes sense to bring your coat a little bit longer.” Consider your day-to-day wardrobe. If you’re always wearing pants, “You can kind of do any length of coat that you want, as long as it’s covering your butt.” Think in terms of finding a cut and structure that you love, and not necessarily that will or will not suit your height. “ I love the way that Mary-Kate and Ashley play with volume even though they’re petite.”

Style tips on finding the right fit and menswear coat this season.... buy-winter-coat-2.jpg How to buy a coat: Match your personal style
Good news to make us all shop easier: “There’s no such things as rules,” Whittick declares. “It has so much to do with the personality of the woman.” And the way that we dress ourselves is a reflection of who we are—and so are our closets. “If your style is more classic or more preppy, you’re going to choose a totally different kind of coat than if your style is very modern, very graphic and very statement. I think that plays a bigger role than body type.”

More blessed news: “Coats aren’t really about showing your body, ultimately they’re about keeping you warm and fitting the clothes underneath it.”

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However, in terms of what’s on trend this season: “It's all menswear — menswear, menswear, menswear,” proclaims Whittick, pointing to the myriad of tweed and classic lapels that were everywhere from Isabel Marant to Tommy Hilfiger this season.

How to buy a coat: Select the right fit

Again, this is ultimately about personal choice. “I think you really have to know ahead of time whether you want something with a fitted sleeve that’s going to make you look really slim, or something with a looser armhole,” she says. Practically speaking, a more voluminous sleeve is more conducive to those chunky knit sweaters you love this time of year. “But a fitted-sleeved coat in a lot of ways is timeless, so I think it really is one of those debates that you want to have to a certain extent sorted out before you go shopping.”

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Understandably, the size debate is huge. “If you’re a size small, you’re probably a standard size four, and some girls buy a coat big so they can wear stuff underneath it,” explains Whittick. “For me, I think I’d rather buy a different cut that can accommodate what I’m wearing underneath so the shoulder seam doesn’t come so far over. If it’s a fitted sleeve coat, I’d rather see it worn fitted and structure your outfit underneath appropriately.”

But only if that’s your style, of course.

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Closet

How to buy a coat: Expert style tips