How to Buy a Great Winter Coat

How to Buy a Great Winter Coat | CorporetteHow can you find a great winter coat? Reader M asked us to “share some guidance and advice…”

I’m curious to hear what the readers say here, because despite a lot of poking around online, I haven’t found a lot of other articles talking about this.  Here’s what I know:

  • I read somewhere once that a wool/cashmere blend is better than a 100% cashmere coat — after looking at this Ask Men article it looks like it may be because cashmere is such a delicate fabric, which makes sense.
  • I’m still largely against down for the office, but at this point I think that’s my own issue, perhaps caused by memories of Kathleen Turner’s puffer coat in Romancing the Stone — the look is hugely popular.  Land’s End notes that down is technically the warmest insulator.
  • As noted at Style Bakery, J.Crew and Delia’s offer coats lined with insulation like Thinsulate.
  • As someone who went to college on Lake Michigan (where they sent around a shuttle for us to get to class when it hit 20 below with the windchill), the wind is often what gets you more than the “cold” — and underlayers (such as silk long johns) can be almost more important than the coat itself
  • I don’t care if it’s a medical myth that 80% of your body heat escapes through your head — I still recommend wearing a hat when it gets cold outside.
  • I’m a total wimp, but I wear gloves the second it’s vaguely acceptable — when I go for a run or a walk I’ll often be in a t-shirt and gloves.  Yes it looks dumb, but I hate hangnails, raggedy cuticles, and other dry-winter-hand problems.
  • In terms of style, as the WSJ advises, bear in mind where most of your skirts and pants hit you; I have also made the argument that a winter coat should be big enough to fit a suit blazer (or very thick sweater) beneath, comfortably. (So watch out in July when you find that amazing coat that fits you like a glove… with bare arms.)

Finally, for my $.02, consider your coat an investment, and spend accordingly — I’d rather have one $800 coat that lasts me five years, rather than eight $100 coats that last me a year each.  (PARTICULARLY considering that it’s not uncommon, at all, to find $1000 Cinzia Rocca coats or $800+ Brooks Brothers coats on great sales, bringing prices down to $250 or less (at BB, there was one around this time last year, and I’m stalking the website again.)  This view is also formed by NYC practicalities, where closet space is limited so it doesn’t make SENSE to have eight winter coats.

I’m curious, though, readers — what rules of thumb do you follow when you’re hunting for a new winter coat? How long do you expect a winter coat to last?  What is your ideal style of coat, if you could only buy one?

(Pictured above: Cinzia Rocca Due Stand Collar Wool Blend Coat, on a baby sale at Nordstrom for 25% off.)

The Hunt: Wool Coats

Reiss Leo Fit and Flare CoatSure, we all know what basics professional women are supposed to have in their closets, but if you’re buying one for the first time or replacing one you’ve worn into the ground, it can be a pain to find exactly the right incarnation in stores. In “The Hunt,” we search the stores for a basic item that every woman should have.

I have always done my winter coat shopping in January (if not later) because of all the deals that you can get. Coats in particular are generally classic pieces, and considering the amount of wear you may get from it (wearing it several days a week, for months, for several years — at least) I’ve always seen it as a justifiable “splurge” item. For today’s Hunt, I thought we’d look for wool coats that you could fit a blazer beneath. The trick here is to get something several sizes larger than what you normally get — if you’re a size 4, consider looking at 6s and 8s. Readers, have you bought any great wool coats lately? Do you wear blazers beneath your coats, or do you have another system (e.g., keeping your blazers at the office)? [Read more…]

Navy Skirts… and Tights?

1What color tights do you wear with a navy suit? Reader B wonders…

I’m a skirt suit kinda girl, in part because I prefer to commute in flats and then switch to heels at the office. (Since I’m short, most of my suit pants are hemmed for heels.) Winter isn’t a problem for my black and grey suits; I just trade the hose for black tights. (Side note: the Commando tights you recommended are now my absolute favorites.)

Here’s the issue: two of my favorite skirt suits are navy or navy pinstripe (similar to this J. Crew and this Banana Republic). Pairing navy tights with a navy suit seems crazy monochromatic, and most of the heather or grey tights I’ve seen feel a bit casual for the office. So I end up wearing plain old hose, and my legs freeze on the way to work.

Hmmn.  Great question — this is actually the combo that led me, many moons ago, to wear purple fishnets to work (pictured, in a random picture I happened to take that day – navy sweater, navy wool skirt, purple fishnets, purple shoes), although the last time we took a poll on fishnets at the office readers were really against ‘em.  (Although, if you want, you can get a pair of purple fishnets here, or a crochet set here.) Poking around a bit online, here are a few more ideas: [Read more…]

The Hunt: Raincoats & Lightweight Jackets

Jones New York Trench CoatSure, we all know what basics professional women are supposed to have in their closets, but if you’re buying one for the first time or replacing one you’ve worn into the ground, it can be a pain to find exactly the right incarnation in stores. In “The Hunt,” we search the stores for a basic item that every woman should have.

With the first day of spring almost here (I believe it’s tomorrow, March 20!) everybody needs a lightweight jacket. Here in NYC it rains so much that I’m always looking for a great rain coat to serve as my lightweight jacket, but I hate double-breasted jackets. Here’s my case against them: not only do they usually look stupid when worn open, they often have to be fitted so close to your body to look good that it’s hard to fit a blazer under there — which for me is always an essential. So I thought I’d round up some jackets out there that, in addition to being lightweight, possibly weatherproof (or at least weather-friendly), can also possibly fit a blazer beneath them. Readers, have you recently bought a rain coat? What do you look for in a great one?

[Read more…]

Navigating a New York Winter with Style and Grace

How to Dress Professionally For a New York Winter | CorporetteReader B has some good questions about navigating a New York winter:

I work for a global financial firm and will be heading to Manhattan for a week-long business trip in mid-January out of our NY offices. As a lifelong Southern California Girl, I am totally clueless how to navigate the weather and still look professional?

I’ve seen your posts on individual aspects (footwear, coats, bring a pashmina, etc) but was hoping you might have an overall take on how to travel for work in a cold climate for the uninitiated, such as:

  • Will my Hunter wellies + warm socks be enough to get me from the hotel to the office to dinner?
  • Can I strut down the sidewalks in my kitten heel boots or will they get ruined?
  • Is my thin wool coat over my suit jacket enough or should I splurge on a down coat? (I noticed Overstock had some good looking coats and since this trip is a regular part of my new position, I don’t mind spending money on a few investment items.)
  • How do most people in NY handle the office to dinner? Do I need to tote any sort of change of clothes with me?

I’m interested to hear what the readers say on this one.  (Pictured: Slush, originally uploaded to Flickr by holly_northrop.) First, I would say this really depends on your trip.  If you’re going to be either a) working closely with senior executives from your firm or b) meeting clients, then I would axe the Hunter wellies unless they’re a basic black.  They’re fine for a commute to and from the office, but I wouldn’t want to be sitting around at dinner with VIPs while wearing them.  (I have a sad, sad story about wearing Uggs to dinner with my senior partner and a client, but we shall have to save that for another day.  But really, talk about huge regrets.) [Read more…]

When and How To Wear Hats

Kate Hepburn, "Bringing Up Baby"Reader E writes to us with a request for an accessories post on hats:

I would love to see a post on how to wear hats, not winter hats, but some of the more structured 50’s-esque hats that seem to be everywhere. I imagine they aren’t appropriate for a conservative office environment but where exactly are they okay to where? Only outside? I love these hats and would like to incorporate them into my wardrobe but I’m just not sure how.

To be honest, whenever I think of hats I think of one of my favorite movies, “Bringing Up Baby,” in which Kate Hepburn wears a lot of, um, interesting hats. Oh, and I think of that show “Blossom,” also. But let’s not let my mild dislike of hats (except for comic relief) stand in our way.

That said — some of my friends look great in hats, and celebrities do seem to wear them a lot.  The key to wearing them does seem to be integrating them into your outfit as an essential component.  This isn’t going to be like a purse that you can wear with everything — you have to think about your outfit’s proportions, and colors, and the general “statement” you hope to make with it (as well as whether the hat looks attractive on you given your facial features in general).  You may want to start with a cowboy hat or a fedora, as those seem to be the styles I see most — and then work your way up to something a bit more unique or with vintage appeal.  Another popular look these days is the headband-so-large-it-could-be-a-hat, similar to the peacock one below — that might also be a dip your toe into the waters of headwear.

Volcom - Frankie Fedora (Black) - Hats

Volcom - Frankie Fedora (Black) - Hats, available at Zappos for $38

Raffia Crochet Cowboy Hat

Raffia Crochet Cowboy Hat, available at ShopBop.com for $49 (was $50)

Peacock Feather Headband with Polka Dots and White Goose Feathers

Peacock Feather Headband with Polka Dots and White Goose Feathers, available at Etsy from seller intothelookinglass for $12.50.

As for WHEN, I would limit wearing a hat to your off hours — I doubt I’d bring one anywhere near an office (but maybe that’s just me?).  I seem to see them a lot when worn at parties and BBQs, or Sunday brunch kind of events — where you’re still casual, but want your outfit to look deliberate.

Readers, what are your thoughts on hats? How do you wear them, or choose one that fits best with your style and face? Would you ever wear one anywhere near the office (not counting winter hats)?
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