Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Hunt For: The Perfect Winter Coat

If you count college, I have now spent nearly a decade of my life surviving Northeast winters. I come from the West originally, land of sunshine, so you can imagine how clueless I was about dressing for the cold when I was a freshman in college. My first winter coat was this ugly mustard yellow parka with down filling and a gray fur lining around the hood. It kept me warm but did nothing for me style wise.

Somewhere along the way I learned you don't have to look like Nanook the Eskimo to stay warm. My second major winter coat was a head to ankle black wool coat with a hood that fell down around the shoulders. Very warm. I thought it was a sexy coat at the time--picture Whitney Houston in the Bodyguard - but really I just looked like an Ewok.

Some Basic Tips
Anyhow, I learned a few things:
1. The coat doesn't have to come down to your ankles to keep you warm. That's what pants and tights are for.
2. It doesn't have to be bulky to keep you warm. That's what layers are for.
3. You don't need a hood. That's what hats and scarves are for.
3. It's not just for covering you up. It should make you feel stylish or attractive when you wear it so it should have so shape or flatter your figure. I hate those coats that make women look like wool columns with feet sticking out the bottom.
4. A coat is an investment - it's worth spending the extra money to get a good wool blend or lining that feels great against your skin.

This fall, one of my goals was to find another winter coat. So I scoured the Internet and stores around town for some finds. I'm not a slave to fashion, but I also wanted to find a coat that was fashion forward in some ways...not just like every other boring coat.

When To Start Looking
The fall lines start coming in in August, so by now, the hottest coats are sold out or near sold out, but the department store coat sections are still well-stocked. If you wait until December, the selections will be decimated and only gigantic sizes remaining....but truth be told, the first winter I moved back to NYC, I made the mistake of waiting until November to look for a coat, and I did manage to find one I love...so there's hope.

Where to Look and How Much
Department stores are a good one-stop shop for coats. Bloomingdales has some good staples -like Burberry, Cole Haan, Searle, and the great Canadian brands, Soia & Kyo and Mackage. The good coats are around $800-1000. Saks has a great selection too. That's where I bought my last two coats.

If you have a couple thousand to spend, you could go to Bergdorf's or any of the designer boutiques. Rick Owens, Jill Sander, Aquasqutum (pictured above) and Stella McCartney had some great coats this season, but priced at $1600-$3000, they were more than I wanted to spend.

On Sunday, walking around Soho, I noticed stores like Anthropologie and other small boutiques, like Ina or Purdy Girl had cute coats in the $300-$500 range.

Certain brands are known for their coats, so it can also be easier to go straight to the source: Searle and Burberry have stores in town with really extensive selections.

I have done the thing where I buy a coat for under $200 and I like it for maybe a couple months - but then the stiffness of the material or the trendiness or the lack of warmth - something makes it so I don't wear it for more than one season. But if that's what you need, there are coats galore at BR, Club Monaco, etc....

Use the Power of the Internet

Traipsing around town for a coat is exhausting. But now that we have the Internet, you can do a lot of your homework beforehand. I created a "lookbook" of jpgs of coats from different designer and shopping sites to get a sense of the silhouettes and styles I was most attracted to.

So Did I Find It?
Yes! I found my perfect coat at Nanette Lepore--feminine, unique, classic, yet girly. It was my first choice among "lookbook" images, so all I had to do was go in and try it on. Luckily, they still had one coat left in my size. The entire transaction from the time entered the store to payment took maybe 5 minutes. Yay! I'm glad this hunt was more successful than my hunt for a lamp...

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