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  • Writer's pictureSara Marsden-Shreeve

The Winter Coat: Your Practical Buying Guide

Woman in a Camel Wool Coat, The Winter Coat, Your Practical Guide, The Image Tree
A Great Coat is a Seasonal Wardrobe Staple

Edited September 2021

Well ladies, I think I'm safe in saying that the colder weather is now upon we're free to start dusting off our chunky knits and bed socks. Plus, it's inevitable that during our seasonal wardrobe re-jig we will unearth 'Old Faithful' (no not your other half), our slightly bobbly, over-worn but beloved, winter coat of seasons passed.

Some of you may think that it'll handle another year but some of you will know that it's time to bite the bullet and go for a newer model (still on coats hahaha) I know it's a biggy and can be pricey, but if you buy practically then you're less likely to waste money and find a coat you can rely on for eons to come.

So I'm going to give you a pre-shop checklist and practical hints and tips to help you find your holy grail and 'wardrobe staple' .


Step 1 - Be Practical

  • Functionality -Obviously warmth is a no brain-er but what else do you need your coat to do? Do you need a smart structured coat for work and socialising, a more relaxed hooded coat for dog walking and pot holing, or maybe a hybrid that does all of the above. Also consider potential coat hazards such as kids with felt tips, red wine stains and animal hair.

  • Practicality - Once you've sorted its purpose, the fabrics should be relative. Does it need to be waterproof, hooded, lightweight, warm, woolly, zipped, buttoned or washable. Do you need it to go over layers of jumpers?

  • If you wear a lot of thick knits, then you need a more lightweight, flexible, waterproof coat which allows for the thicker layering without adding bulk e.g a lighter parka or mac style. These can still be super stylish despite being a casual style. This season there's a lot of quilting going on which is fine but can be bulky so choose wisely.

If you're an 'on the move' kinda gal and like pockets, a hood and adjustable strings, then this style is a sure thing.

  • If you wear bulky knits to work but want a smart tailored coat then maybe swap your chunky knits for finer weaves and/or layer up with other tops, that way your coat fabric can be thicker and stiffer for added warmth.

  • Budget - Decide on an amount you want to spend and stick to it, but bear in mind that coats are a pricier garment so allow a bit of flexibility. Premium heavy fabrics will usually require dry cleaning and care too, so factor this cost in and obviously don't go sledging in it.

  • I would also comment here that the fabric quality is an extremely important factor and you do get what you pay for (usually). Many fabrics can bobble up and some may require a de-fuzz with a gadget every now and again. Also look for garments with a good lining where necessary and always check the buttons are substantial and well stitched. Even better, check they come with a spare sewn into the inside.

Blue is so versatile and this gorgeously stylish and versatile coat is not only on-trend with a nod to the military style, but a great fit and can be worn open too.

Step 2 - Which Colour?

There's a sea of colours to choose from out there, most of which will include the current seasons 'It Colour' but be warned fashionistas, 'Tangerine Dream' is hard to work into your wardrobe if you haven't got the confidence or the clothes to work with it.

  • Keep the colour a neutral one - this includes greys, browns, blues, blacks and other darker hues, that way you'll get more usage with various outfits. Have a look at your footwear and bags too that way you can get a feel for what's needed.

  • Neutral doesn't mean boring either, you can add pops of colour and interest using scarves and accessories to showcase your personality.

  • Still being practical I would say a darker colour is a lot easier to keep clean and does create a sleeker, slimmer you, but go with your personality as bright or light can make a great statement and put a smile on your face.

  • Ensure the colour is flattering -it is so important that the colour suits you! There's nothing worse than wearing a coat (ALL SEASON AND FOR MANY MORE) that sucks the living daylights out of your face. I know, it's easy for me to say (being a qualified colour consultant) but I will share a really helpful tip that will help...

  • So look for coats in similar colours and tones to the ones present in your hair or eyes, that way you can go for the right colours first and reduce your shopping time. Please don't feel you have to trot round the shops shoving your head into coat racks and grabbing passers-by though or I'll be getting letters!

  • If you like a pattern great, just make sure that it's workable with your current wardrobe. Neutral prints such as leopard are easy to apply. Also the size of the pattern matters, if you're petite keep the pattern dinky, if you're fuller figured or tall go for larger prints and textures.

A great all-rounder style if you like a bit of leopard. Faux fur is rife this season too, so fill your boots if you like texture.

Step 3 - What Style?

Right then, quick analysis, have a good look at your waist and hips in relation to each other and decide which you are most similar to below.

  • Shaped - If your waist is narrower and clearly defined from your hip then your coats need to emphasise your waist with a softer/ drapier fabric, fitted waistline or a belt. See bathrobe style, double breasted (if boobs not too generous) , wrap or anything tailored and darted.

  • Straight - If your waist has no definition and seems to be a similar width to your hips then your coats and jackets need to be structured and straight to follow your natural silhouette. So look for straighter styles like a duster, reefer or pea coat in any length and a good sturdy fabric where you can.

  • Semi-Straight -If your waist is somewhere in between the two descriptions above, then you need to go for semi fitted coats or straight coats with belts (heavier stiffer fabrics here). A little darting will help on heavier fabrics too so you don't lose your shape.

This style coat is great for shaped and stiff enough for semi-straight body shapes as mentioned earlier. It's reversible too so two colours for the price of one.

Other Body Parts To Consider

We are all so unique in proportions it would be impossible to cover all of our body foibles so I will just mention some of the important ones for the sake of winter coats. (For more info, check out my Body Confidence Service).

  • Boobs - Fuller busted - avoid thick/heavy stiff fabrics and high necklines. Softer fabrics, single breasted and lower necklines will work the best with your 'girls'.

  • If you want a little more oomph around your chest then bigger lapels, buttons and pockets around that area will do the trick.

  • Hips - If you're bottom heavy - coats that fit at the waist and kick out at the hips are great but make sure there's some interest to your shoulders (especially if they're narrow or tapered) to balance you out - wide collars, lapels and epaulettes etc.

  • Tums - if you carry a little flesh-age to your middle and want to detract some attention, then go for edge to edge styles, single breasted, A-line, coatigan or swing styles but make sure the hem sits quite low (thigh) sometimes called mid length.

What About Length?

  • Ensure your coat hem falls on a narrow part of your body, never let it sit on the widest part of your hips or calves, above or below is better.

  • A three-quarter coat is a good length and provides ample coverage from the elements. This hits a few inches above the knee.

  • If you're petite, try and avoid ankle length as you could look drowned in fabric.

  • Don't go too tight or too baggy, both can make you look larger than you are.

  • I would suggest padded, quilted or puffer style coats are kept to a neat design as they can add severe 'bulkage' to your silhouette , as will a chunky faux fur.


  • Hopefully, you're a bit better equipped now and can make a short checklist of things you need to look for and take it with you.

  • Department stores (online too) are a good place to start as they cover different brands and styles under one roof.

A double breasted jacket can help flatter your waist if you're shaped or semi straight as mentioned earlier.

  • If you have a favourite woolly knit you'll be donning this Winter, wear it when you shop for your coat, that way you can gauge the fit.

  • Don;t worry about the size, if it fits properly it doesn't matter, cut out the label if it offends. Due to certain cuts and fabrics you may have to go up a size anyway and as you know, brands vary a lot.

  • For the dedicated fashion followers out there, don't go too way out on trend, if you haven't got the disposable income, because some styles are not timeless and will soon be at the back of the wardrobe and in the charity bag next time round. Just food for thought is all...


Hope this has been helpful and hasn't left you with brain freeze! As a bonus, I've even included a link to my Pinterest board below that will give you some CURRENT visuals to help explain AND give you some ideas.

You can also join The Image Tree Family now and enjoy my CURRENT FREEBIE here

Do you need assistance personally with your coat search or require Holistic Image Support? Then check out my services and Style Journeys.

Or you can join my Private Facebook Group for Mind Body and Wardrobe Freedom with oodles of positive self image vibes to boot.


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