x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

When it comes to a winter coat, forget whimsy and fleeting trends

Keep in mind a winter coat is the closest thing in fashion to architecture, so get it right.

Burberry Autumn/Winter 2012 show at London Fashion Week. WireImage
Burberry Autumn/Winter 2012 show at London Fashion Week. WireImage

The hottest temperature ever recorded on Earth was in El Azizia, Libya, where 136°F (58°C) was reached on September 13, 1922. Considering we live in a climate that could give that a run for its money on a good day, it would seem rather half-witted to talk about winter coats, never mind invest in one. Yet, when living in the UAE, what we tend to forget is how much travel to a colder climate we have to do; finding ourselves with either nothing suitable to wear or - as I found last winter - sporting something neglected, like an old hat.

You see, buying a coat is a serious business, and one most of us neglect while living in a hot climate. A long-term purchase such as this should be as well thought out as selecting your bag - as it is something you will probably hold on to for a few years. Then, of course, there is the cost. We need to spend as much on a coat as we can possibly afford, which again can make it even easier to ignore when other purchases seem more pressing.

So what exactly do we need from a coat? First and foremost, forget a whimsical buy or even one that pulls on the heartstrings, because I can almost guarantee you will tire of it. Think practically: it has to keep you warm. I have bought many a Vivienne Westwood coat in my time with big (albeit beautiful) gaping sleeves and giant open pleats. They looked wonderful, but kept me about as warm as a holey T-shirt. I know it's dreadfully boring but it should also be comfortable; there is nothing worse than sleeves that are bursting at the seams. Stay clear of anything tight. Instead, go for a size or even two sizes larger, for coats give a much better line if they are slightly looser. We tend to forget that most of us like to throw on the layers in a colder climate, so take this into consideration.

The key to a perfect fit is for the arm seams to hit exactly at the edge of your shoulder. You should be able to lift your arms easily above your head and cross your hands over your chest comfortably without any strain. Think about the length. A good coat should hit around mid-calf at the very least so that you don't need to worry about matching the outfit underneath. Select durable fabrics like cashmere and alpaca-wool blends, and keep your eye out for flaws in basic construction such as ill-fitting seams, dangling threads, uneven hems, or cheap or exposed lining. Tread lightly around the trends as you don't want to do anything groundbreaking here (unless of course you can afford a new coat every season). Embellishment is a good starting point for the forthcoming season; Victorian lace, Baroque-style embroidery, cloaks, capes and trims adorned the Winter collections of Mulberry, Dolce & Gabbana, and Valentino, and can be given a nod easily.

Bottega Veneta, Lanvin, Donna Karan and Hermès continued with the feminine aesthetic, if not from a slightly different angle, by honing in on a more bourgeois 1950s shape characteristic of a female lead from a Hitchcock movie. Think strong, clean lines in a monochrome colour spectrum, perfectly polished from head to toe.

If you are after something to contrast, the military trend offers a slightly more androgynous tone, although accents rather than the full look are advisable in terms of gaining longevity. Look to Jason Wu, Moschino Cheap & Chic and Chloé for inspiration.

Those of you who have spent the last few seasons streamlining your wardrobe towards an unforgiving climate will understand how hard it is to plan a wardrobe for all seasons, but keep in mind a winter coat is the closest thing in fashion to architecture, so get it right.

ktrotter@thenational.ae

 

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