October 26 2009
Lucia van der Post
I wish the business of buying a winter coat weren’t something that had to be taken so seriously. It would be nice to approach it in the light-hearted, slightly frivolous way that one broaches the summer dress or the holiday top picked up from Zara. It would be good to be able to fall in love and buy it just because one so, so hotly desired it that nothing else mattered. But don’t even think about it. Speaking as one who once twirled around Bergdorf Goodman in a divine brown, princess-style coat with great fur cuffs and collar, feeling like a Romanov princess, I know the pitfalls. Egged on by a fashionista friend, I bought it, entranced by visions of troikas, snow and dark forests glinting in the frosty air. I failed to realise how much it weighed. I might as well have donned a suit of armour. It kept me warm all right, but it weighed my shoulders down so that I looked more like a bent-over Russian babushka than a Romanov princess. It was hard to stand upright in it. As for carrying or packing it – it took a whole suitcase all on its own.
So let me urge a serious consideration of all the things a winter coat usually has to do. It has to keep you warm and it has to do that while being comfortable to wear. The fabric should feel light and lovely so that you can snuggle into it, which is where the cheap coats usually fall down. It shouldn’t be too fitted – you never know how much you’re going to have to put on underneath it, global warming taking its time about arriving. It has to cover up quite a lot of you so that you can fling it on without a thought as to whether it matches the things underneath. And anyway, wide sleeves let in draughts, while big open collars make it a bit breezy round the neck. It should obviously be flattering, since it’s the first thing most of your friends, colleagues and acquaintances are going to see for about eight months of the year. And then of course you have to love it since you’re going to be seeing a lot of it.
Does anything, can anything, do all of that? They can, they can. And here are just a few that I’ve eyed up. First up: Fendi’s fabulous black and white knitted number with a fur collar (first picture). Light, easy to wear, covers up everything, elegant and ladylike, would go from day to night – perfect, except for the price of £1,680 from Browns. But just think of how often you’ll wear it and how much you’ll love it.
Marc by Marc Jacobs has a dead easy-to-wear black crackle coat (second picture), princess-style (loosish around the waist, so accommodating) and also ladylike; £1,060 from Selfridges. For drop-dead Lauren Bacall-style glamour, for swathing round one’s shoulders on dreary days, Lanvin’s black knit with a fox-fur collar (third picture) is unbeatable. £3,895 from Lanvin. For a completely different look – hip, cool, comfortable, glamorous and warm – look at Felipe Oliveira Baptista’s fur-trimmed oversized grey parka (fourth picture; £2,060 from Browns).
I’m not much of a fan of inexpensive coats because they usually disappoint, but the best one I’ve seen is a chic easy high-waisted grey-flannel Dolly Pleat front coat at Whistles (fifth picture) for just £145.