Wednesday, November 19, 2014

How to Choose a Winter Coat to Wear With Black

This is a project I'm working on in my own wardrobe right now, and I understand from comments and emails that I'm not alone! I personally have decided that I'd like to get a longer, straight, NOT double-breasted, possibly concealed button wool coat. 

For our entertainment here, I pretend that I've either completely lost my mind, or won the lottery (which I have NEVER played), and I've indulged in some absolutely exquisite coats. Even if you'd never consider buying a coat this expensive, they're always worth looking at in stores in order to be better educated about quality fabrics and construction. That way, when you get around to buying your own more moderately priced coat, you can try to come as close as possible to replicating the materials and workmanship of the couture and near-couture brands. Dreaming is always good!

  • Coat Categories
I tried to choose a range of possible candidates for my new coat, so I created 6 categories of coats and chose a representative from each. My categories are (1) patterned, (2) bright, (3) a shade or tone of my neutral color, (4) textured, (5) pastel, and (6) a complementary neutral.
Houndstooth coat – Saint Laurent, turquoise coat – Balenciaga, grey coat – Valentino, tweed coat – Fenn Wright Manson, rose coatMaison Martin Margiela, camel hair coat – Max Mara

In order to have a base upon which to build hypothetical outfits for my coats, I chose an outfit which is typical of what I wear this time of year. I have to give a big recommendation for these boots - I bought them about a month ago, and was able to wear them for a long walking day right out of the box! The come in 5 widths, and seven colors, and they are snazzy looking, too...

Black cabled turtleneck – Uniqlo, boyfriend jeans – Rag and Bone, ankle boots – Munro

  • The Patterned Coat
I considered a flowered coat, but just couldn't find one I adored. But this category can include flowers, paisleys, dots - anything that's more patterned than a tweed. This coat appeals partly because of the meticulous matching of the plaids... A simple beret, a neck warmer that will tuck inside the lapels of the coat, and gloves with a big of shimmer and gleam will finish your outfit without distracting from the coat itself.

And I'm showing earrings with all of these ensembles - I'm a BIG believer in the power of earrings! For cold weather, earrings should be small and set very close to your ear. A big or dangly earring is just an invitation to snagged scarves and hair caught in the earrings when the wind blows. Plus, having a large metal ANYTHING attached to your body will just carry cold onto your flesh...

Houndstooth coat – Saint Laurent, hat – Stine Goya, cable knit collar – Hortensia Handmade, gloves – Dents, black cabled turtleneck – Uniqlo, boyfriend jeans – Rag and Bone, pearl stud earrings – Allurez, ankle boots – Munro

  • The Bright Coat
A brightly colored coat seems obvious for me in the dead of winter - many of us get really tired of seeing a sea of black and grey all the time! This turquoise color was so beautiful, with a touch of paisley and some pretty earrings... I experimented with colored hats and gloves, but it was very difficult to find things that blended nicely, and it quickly became too much color. Grounded with a snappy black hat and classic gloves, the turquoise stands quite well on its own.

If you're trying to find a scarf with particular colors or patterns, don't forget to keep checking  They have literally hundreds of scarves! Things churn in and out of this site with blinding frequency, but some extraordinary object show up there, at sometimes pennies on the original retail dollar. And some of it's just fun to look at...

turquoise coat – Balenciaga, hat – Ermanno Scervino,  scarf – Manifatture Alto Biellese 1948, gloves – Apt. 9, black cabled turtleneck – Uniqlo, boyfriend jeans – Rag and Bone, diamond and blue topaz earrings – Allurez, ankle boots – Munro

  • The Shade or Tone of my Neutral Coat
Since my neutral is black, in this case I could choose anything from the palest pearl grey to the deepest charcoal. I liked the classic cut of this coat, and the middle-range grey of it. But you have to admit, it's the teal accessories that really stand out here! With a neutral coat like this, literally any color accessories might be possible - imagine yellow? hot pink? violet... mmm violet...

grey coat – Valentino, hat – Suzanne Bettley,  scarf – Radical Chic,cashmere gloves – Loro Piana, black cabled turtleneck – Uniqlo, boyfriend jeans – Rag and Bone, earrings – Sian Bostwick Jewellery, ankle boots – Munro

  • The Textured Coat
I love tweed, and this would be a grand coat for wearing in the urban much of winter in Chicago! As lovely as many other coats are, you have to be cognizant of where your coat will be, and what it will have to endure. If you're going to encounter a lot of dripping unidentified city gunk, you have to consider that you need a coat that won't show spots easily, and that you can eventually replace without enormous financial and emotional remorse. Therefore, this is probably the coat I will get.

But it doesn't have to be dull - the colors in ANY tweed lend themselves to patterned accessories that keep the cold-weather life lively.

tweed coat – Fenn Wright Manson, black hat – Claudia Schulz Hats - sold out on Boticca,  scarf – Etro, gloves – Missoni, black cabled turtleneck – Uniqlo, boyfriend jeans – Rag and Bone, black quartz and white sapphire earrings – Kalan, ankle boots – Munro

  •  The Pastel Coat
This would definitely have to be a second coat for me, and something that I only wore when I was going to be taking a car, rather than a cab, or mass transit. (yes, a cab is a car, but it's often a filthy one; when I say car, I really mean "a car belonging to someone I know"). 

If you live in an area where the concerns of winter dirtiness aren't as much of a problem, a coat in a soft, flattering color can be a great way to stand out in a crowd and cheer up everyone who sees you. That's worth something when the temperature is below zero!

rose coat – Maison Martin Margiela, black cashmere beret – Cash Ca, scarf – Emilio Pucci , gloves – Agnelle, black cabled turtleneck – Uniqlo, boyfriend jeans – Rag and Bone, morganite earrings – Allurez, ankle boots – Munro

  • The Complementary Neutral Coat
If you're afraid that wearing a coat in your primary neutral is going to make you look too monotone, you can always choose a complementary neutral - your second "core" color is a good way to go. For me that would be grey, which we've already covered, so I chose this delicious camel hair coat with the snuggly collar...

The great thing about choosing your second neutral as your winter coat color is that any and all accessories you buy to go with you coat will also go with all kinds of other things already in your wardrobe!

And you should visit the jeweler who made these earrings - they use a technique for making jewelry that I've never before seen. I so admire people who think of new and beautiful ways to make small and simple things that can become a part of someone's life....

camel hair coat – Max Mara, hat – Claudia Schulz Hats, Jacobean floral scarf – Halcyon Days, gloves – Dsquared2, black cabled turtleneck – Uniqlo, boyfriend jeans – Rag and Bone, black and gold earrings – Arata Fuchi, ankle boots – Munro

While I was pretty sure, going into this exercise, that I would probably choose a tweed coat, looking at all of these attractive options convinced me that my initial choice was right on target. I'd really be interested in doing this exercise with a couple of other neutral colors - is anyone interested? What colors?


Beara Beara


  1. How about either olive green or winter white? (or maybe red?)

    I really covet a pale pink coat. ~another dreamy sigh~

  2. Wonderful post. I love it when you show a complete outfit. I find the multiples mind-boggling. The tweed coat reminded me of my mother. She bought a Harris tweed coat in the 40's and it wore like iron. She had it for more than 25 years and it was still going strong. I managed the business of a small Scottish woolens importer here in Canada for some years,and if you can get a tweed from Scotland, it will last decades. Harris tweed is, in my humble opinion, one of the BEST. And they never go out of style.
    LmC - Canada

  3. Hi Janice, I'd love to see some warm colours like taupe, tan, chocolate and olive. Keep on being awesome!
    Molly from London

  4. I love this. I too have been considering a second coat, as my camel one has a few years hard work behind it. I would also second Molly's request, with a warm coloured outfit, like yesterday's (so lovely).
    My quandry is that the accessorizing the coat is often completely at odds with what oneis wearing underneath! It is like wearing two outfits, one of which is peeled off once you have arrived. Thank you for the tips...

  5. I have a red pea-coat that cheers me up every time I wear it (usually over navy or denim). Another thing to consider is that you can very easily change the buttons on a coat for a better fit with your style. My pea-coat came with very traditional faux-tortiseshell buttons - totally not me! I replaced them with fun white buttons that really "pop" on the red.

  6. Could you please do this with red? I have a red winter coat that I love, and I would like to find new ways to wear it and make it even more beautiful. Thanks!

  7. Hi Janice, another helpful, lovely and timely post. Thank you. I have a request...related not to coats, but to jewelry. I am wondering if you would be willing to help me see how to wear my fine jewelry...I have very little costume jewelry because my hubby likes to buy me nice things (a very pleasant problem to have!); however, current trends are more toward large statement pieces, and I feel that my small but beautiful things get kind of swallowed up. I have planned my wardrobe around your "Starting from Scratch" series, utilizing the black, white, grey, cobalt and red plan. Thank you so much!

    1. I was just at a Stella & Dot party (home shopping party for jewelry in case you are not familiar) and the salesperson said that the trend now is to wear your "delicate" jewelry layered with a bolder statement piece. Perhaps you could pick up a costume piece or two at a discount store and see how you like the look. I will admit to not having tried this yet :-)

      And how lovely to have a husband who likes to buy you nice things!

    2. Thank you, Amy,how interesting! I will see if I can find some inspiration on their website. And yes, it is fun to be spoiled :-)

  8. Hi Janice,

    Have you considered having your coat made for you by a small local tailor? We have quite a few here in Vancouver and are quite reasonable. This would work best after you have tried on many coats and have decided your colour etc. Many of our tailors are immigrants from SE Asia and are very talented.

    Deb from Vancouver

  9. Na-vy and grey! Na-vy and grey! Na-vy and grey! (I feel like a cheerleader...)

  10. Interesting that you would post this because this was the quandary I have been in for the past several years--be practical and get a black coat or splurge with blue, one of my "happy" accent colors. I already have a practical "polar vortex" coat, so I was looking for that 2nd coat that could be used for the majority of the cold months. Unlike you, I do not have to worry about city grime nor the need to wear it every day (I'm retired) so I went with a cobalt blue Pendleton and I couldn't be happier. It coordinates well with so much of my wardrobe (which, thanks to you , has improved considerably!) and I have received so many compliments on how nice I look. Sometimes splurging is so beneficial for your mental health!

  11. That camel coat is scrumptious!! Love it so much!

  12. Hi Janice

    Another interesting post, though I don't think I can justify buying a new coat until next year. Having said that, I was intrigued enough to click onto the link to the tweed coat and i received an error message 404 not found. I don't know if the problem is just my end, however if you can fix it I may very well be tempted!

    1. Dear Sue,
      House of Fraser has been having problems with their website, and the 404 message is what I'm usually seeing. I will contact them to let them know that it's STILL not working well.
      It's a great coat; I can't really justify it until at least the new year, but I am tempted....
      thanks for letting me know!

  13. Ooh, what luscious coats (and outfits). I'd snap up any one of those (except the camel which wouldn't suit).

    Strangely enough I was in an outfit just like yours today - with the addition of a black and white leopard print scarf and a chocolate brown wrap coat. I'd had lots of compliments and years of use out of my main winter coat which is a deep fuchsia colour. It is heading towards the end of its life, but I'm not sure if I'm going to be able to replace it as it has a zip as well as toggles, a detachable hood and it's made of heavy wool and cashmere fabric. The coats I see over here generally just aren't that warm and have lots of acrylic or polyester in the fabric.

  14. Up until last year I was the neutral coat and bright accessories person. In fact the grey and turquoise up above is a lot like my favorite combo last year. But I've added a plaid peacoat to my closet and I'm finding it a lot more limiting because even a subtle plaid is a lot of design and although the colors are a rather subdued grey/burgundy/slate blue they are less neutral than I'm used to and none of my many scarves seems to want to play nice with all the colors. I think I need to step away from the brilliantly colored accessories I've collected and go with something more subdued. Sort of makes me sad as I love my happy scarves.

    1. STOP!!!! Don't even move away from things you love! You might need ONE set of accessories to play nicely with your plaid peacoat, but you should hold onto the accessories until you're back in a neutral coat. For many of us, having two winter coats is NOT an extravagance - especially this winter.
      Hold onto the love!

    2. The happy scarves will stay with the long grey coat (worn to keep my legs warm when I'm wearing skirts). I just need to figure out a color that plays nice with the shorter plaid jacket.

  15. Navy please!
    Thanks for another terrific post. Ann

  16. Hi Janice,
    For price and quality have a look at the Marks and Spencer website and specifically the Autograph range. (Many people in the UK only buy from M&S.) Delivery is fast and returns are easy. The sizing can confuse Americans. A UK 16 is an American 12.
    Some things can be hideous but some things are excellent quality and fabulous basics, especially coats and jackets.(Autograph is at their high end but I don't finde the other ranges look any good on.)

  17. I second the requests for green (dark or olive) and red, please

  18. How about a casual winter coat post for those of us who live in jeans? :-)

    1. One word: duffle coat. Tmeless, jaunty and absolutely marvelous with jeans. Gloverall if you can handle the price, LL Bean for a reasonable one lined in Thinsulate that comes in red as well as neutrals and French brands like Bord à bord and Amor Lux for that je ne sais quoi!

  19. Yesterday I was at the Sally Ann with my DIL who loves to "upcycle" dated knits into cool, current looks. Anyway, we found a MaxMara vicuna-coloured cashmere coat for $18- and in my size. But on close inspection the collar and neck area was dotted with tiny moth holes. THAT is why pending thousands on a wool coat is a mug's game. (I'm battling moths and though beat them back, am leery of wool coats, caviar for the SOBs.) So either you have to be sure you can keep them away or face this damage.

  20. Thank you, your blog makes my life easier! I was almost in depression about the choise of my winter accesories. Wonderful!

  21. I decided on a textured coat fter reading your post. I can be monochromatic and wear my snow leopard scarf on "serious" work days; and I can jazz it up with a bright patterned scarf on casual days.. Thanks, Janice! I always enjoy your posts.