The Hunt: Wool Coats for Work

coats for work

2017 Update: Check out our latest roundup of winter coats that work as hard as you do!

Sure, 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.

After the weekend we’ve had (thank you Jonas), it may seem a bit silly to talk about professional-looking coats — after all, when it’s freezing, nasty and disgusting outside, being warm and dry are the primary considerations. Particularly when working from home is easier than ever, if you make it into the office at all, no one should be judging you for blizzard attire like an expedition coat and Sorels. But it isn’t blizzarding every day in the winter, and I still think a wool coat (or, fine, even a slim-fit puffer coat like some of the ones we featured on our roundup of washable coats for CorporetteMoms) does look more professional.  Shop for a winter coat that covers your thighs (for warmth, as well as the most versatility — nothing looks quite so silly as a peacoat and skirt), and be sure to size up if you need to to accommodate a sweater or blazer beneath your coat. (Other great layers: silk turtlenecks and long johns can add serious warmth without bulk, and there are so many puffer/fleece vests that I’m kind of tempted to try them under my winter coat on really cold days.) I’ve always looked for a wool/cashmere blend as the best (the cashmere makes it warm; the wool makes it durable), but I’ve also heard great things about alpaca’s warmth; these days you can find technical enhancements to wool like Lands’ End (pictured after the jump; it’s good to 10 below!!) or lined with thinsulate, like some J.Crew and LL Bean coats.  Ladies, what coats are you wearing this winter? How many do you have; which ones do you think are the most professional-looking, which are the warmest, and so forth? Have you recently bought any coats you love? 

First, a roundup of some special interest coats:

(If you’re interested in previous discussions, here’s our roundups from 2013 and 2009.)

winter wool coat lands endReaders turned me on to Lands’ End coats years ago, and I have to say every one I’ve gotten has been warm, well made, and super affordable. (This $33 Primaloft jacket is my go-to for weekend wear.)  This luxe car coat looks a bit more dressy than their down options, though, and at $199 it’s one of the most affordable options.  (You can certainly buy cheaper coats — but it’s hard to find a budget coat that is actually warm.)  Along similar lines, LL Bean has had this Polo coat around for years; right now it’s $189-$259.  The pictured coat comes in five colors, with size options for petite, tall, plus, and regular sizes 2-16. For $20 more ($219) you can get the “warmer” option, which is recommended for wear from -10º to +15º Fahrenheit (the basic option is only good from +5º to +25º Fahrenheit).  Pictured: Women’s Luxe Wool Car Coat
wool cashmere coatIf you’re looking for a more fashionable coat, I’d start by checking out the Helene Berman line of coats that Nordstrom carries.  They’re colorful, of-the-moment shapes, and it’s hard to find a more affordable wool/cashmere blend.  The pictured coat is on sale; it was $348 but is now marked to $260; it’s available in teal and orange, sizes XS-XL; this light blue coat is also cute, a wool/cashmere blend, and on sale. Pictured:  Helene Berman Shaped Wool Blend Coat
winter coat patagonia 3 in 1I was surprised to see numerous commenters mention this coat in a recent(ish) discussion on their best splurges — it looks great for the city and beyond. I like that it has a sleek look about it that is still bundled up, and I like that Patagonia is such a stalwart in environmentally/animal friendly products.  (Also similar: this North Face 3 in 1 coat.  Along these lines: if you’re into outdoor activities but don’t want the bulk, this Outdoor Research parka is on a great sale; the WSJ featured it in December in its article on the Warmest Winter Coats.) The pictured parka is $529 at Nordstrom, available in black and gray; a few sites (CampSaver, Rugged Outdoors) have an oxblood/pink version on sale for as low as $370; Nordstrom has a similar 3-in-1 Patagonia coat for $370. Pictured:  Patagonia ‘Tres’ Waterproof 3-in-1 Parka
winter coat cinzia roccaIf you pay attention to the flash sale sites, you can sometimes find sales on Cinzia Rocca coats — I got one at Ideeli years ago for what seemed like a steal. Full price, the coats are over $1000; Nordstrom has some on sale right now, including this fabulous dark red number, marked from $1195 to $799.  Pricey, to be sure, but the coats are warm, well made, and stylish. (Another good name to know in this price range: Fleurette, which I’ve drooled over for years now; this car coat is 40% off at Nordstrom.)  The pictured coat is available in regular and petite sizes, in plum, black and sand, sizes 2-16, for $799. Cinzia Rocca DUE
Funnel Collar Wool Blend Long Coat
winter coat burberryYou can’t really do a roundup of coats without talking about Burberry, even if they are most well known for their trenches.  I love the military vibe to this wool and cashmere blend; the high neck also looks like it would keep you nice and toasty.  It’s $1,495 at Nordstrom, available in sizes 4-14.  Burberry London ‘Basingstoke’ Wool & Cashmere Coat

Like this feature? Check out other recent installments!

coats workwear



  1. Resume Question. If my university has recently changed its name since I attended 10 years ago do I write something like this:

    Excellent College (now Excellent University), City, STATE 1990‐1994

    Also… recently bought a Mackage jacket to replace my old one and I am SO disappointed in the quality. It was better quality (thicker, better lining) 5 years ago. This new one will be returned.

    • lost academic :

      I think I’d go with the current name to avoid confusion, and it’s a minor enough change if it’s college –> uni.

    • I was told that you use the name when you attended/that is on your degree. My undergrad changed name while I attended, so they made a big deal about it then (especially for those of us who entered with college and left with university).

  2. Rosa has the most beautiful WOOL North Face coat that I have NOT seen anywhere. Rosa forgot where she got it, and it is NOT currently being sold I think. FOOEY! Does the HIVE know where NORTH FACE’s complete inventory is? Is it on the WEB? I do NOT think they make this coat anymore — it is long enough to cover her tuchus but it also has a VERY high collar and HOOD that keep’s out the cold. She need’s that when she get’s out to take her kid’s to play date’s. I looked at Macy’s and they did NOT have anything like it and the sale’s girl was RUDE when I tried to expleain it to her. If anyone in the HIVE know’s which NORTH FACE I am talkeing about, let us know, b/c I would LOVE to buy one for me so that I will NOT freeze my tuchus off walkeing to work. FOOEY!

  3. I just bought this Catherine Malandrino coat from Bluefly and I am in loooooooooooooove. Highly recommend it. It’s not as poofy as it looks in some of the photos, but looks very flattering both buttoned and unbuttoned. Leaving the fur collar off most of the time for professional purposes.

  4. Anonymous :

    Well, the Patagonia tres in one isn’t a wool coal, it’s down and a waterproof shell, but it’s pretty much the only coat I wear all winter. I live in Canada, function beats form when it’s -20C and I have a 30 minute walk on my commute.

    • Perhaps of interest to those concerned about down – it also comes in a version with synthetic fill (the Stormdrift) parka, which is equally toasty. I think it’s pretty much the best choice for a relatively professional-looking compromise for truly cold weather.

  5. Can someone give me a primer on leasing a car? I’ve only ever had a car once (7-ish yrs ago) for a clerkship in a small city and then have spent the rest of my time in Manhattan. Now I’m moving out and need a car in about a week. I already know what I want (Mazda), but can’t decide whether to lease or buy. Obviously financially, long term, buying is better. BUT my question — can you negotiate a lease, or is it just x months at y/month. Last time I looked for a car, some dealer (can’t remember which one) blew me off and said — leases are set by the manufacturer, there’s nothing we can do to alter/lower it. While he was willing to negotiate on selling the car. Is that accurate or was he just feeding me a line?

    Can someone give me the basics of the leasing process?

    • Your monthly payment with a lease is determined by three things: the purchase price of the car, the money factor, and the residual value. The money factor and the residual value are set by the financing company and dealers usually can’t do anything about them. But they can negotiate on the purchase price of the car. I would check out TrueCar and get a sense of what a good price would be for the car, and then try to negotiate from there. The salesperson you’re working with might try to stall and not give you these figures, but call ahead and make them give you the numbers before you show up at the dealership in person.

      Also, I had once instance where the dealership would absolutely not negotiate the lease price, but they were offering a special advertised price and would not go below that. I did some research and figured out that the lease price was actually very good and went ahead with it, even though they wouldn’t come down below their advertised special.

  6. I alternate between three, depending on temperature and precipitation – (1) a more-casual Burberry quilted short jacket (ubiquitous in my office), (2) a knee-length wool Burberry that makes me feel like Sherlock when I’m walking – no, strutting – around the city, and (3) a knee-length puffer.

    Both Burberrys are excellent at wind blocking despite not being super bulky — always nice when the higher price tag is actually justified by functional quality rather than brand name/design alone!

    I disagree with “nothing looks quite so silly as a peacoat and skirt” — it may not be the most streamlined or glamorous look, but I definitely wouldn’t call it silly, and wouldn’t think it looked unprofessional whatsoever.

  7. Speaking of wool coats.. I’m looking for a wool coat with a hood. I’ve really only seen duffle coats that satisfy this description and I’m not a fan of the look of the toggle close.

    Jcrew currently has one but I was hoping to find one on sale and this JCrew one is not on sale yet. I’ve literally ordered every hooded peacoat on the Macy’s website.. and from that I found that most of them are poor excuses for coats. They were much too light.

    • I’d try Pendleton if you like classic styles. They are not trendy, but great quality and they have sales going on now.

    • Wildkitten :

      The toggle close is often on top of a zipper close, if that would suit your needs.

      • yeah i just don’t like the look of the toggles.

        Thanks for the pendleton recommendation! I didn’t think of that and I’m liking what i see so far

  8. I wear a knee length red wool coat all winter. I’ve found that, much like luggage, having a bring coat makes it easier to find on the racks at conferences and in work cloakrooms. One of my friends wears a white coat and ours are the only two that definitely won’t be mistaken for someone else’s and worn home by accident.

  9. Student12580 :

    Here’s a bit of a strange situation.

    I’m a graduating senior in college so I’ve been applying to a lot of positions on the school job board. Without realizing it, I applied to two posts by the same company.

    I got the first interview but some of the materials the recruiter gave me and a questionnaire they wanted me to complete were red flags in terms of the questions asked and I took myself out of the process.

    I then accidentally accepted an interview for the second position. When I realized it was a similar job to above, I decline the interview. 1) Is that rude? There was ample notice.

    The interviewer just emailed me back saying “I’m not sure what you’ve read maybe I can address some concerns for future candidates”. This makes it seem as if this is a common problem for this company. 2) Should I reply? Is it worth it for me? What should I say if I don’t wish to respond?


    • Not sure if this will get bounced since it’s off-topic (in which case, repost onto the next thread).

      What were the red flags in the questionnaire? I don’t think the interviewer’s questions are based on you applying twice, other than she might have seen that you turned down the interview two times (so you REALLY weren’t interested in the interview). Can you let her know why the questions were red-flags in a way that won’t ruffle feathers, e.g., “I thought this was primarily a chocolate spout manufacturing job, but the questionnaire made me realize that this job is focused on chocolate teapots, which is not actually my area of specialty or interest.”

      If there’s anything you can do on your end to try to screen out this type of job in the future — and better keep track of where you’ve applied — it may be good to do so. It doesn’t sound like you want this job, but if you did, a second application to an unrelated job (or a dupe for the same job) could be a turn-off for an employer. Good luck in your search!

      • Anonymous :

        Well they offered me the second interview after I declined the first, so I don’t think they blame me.

        The questions in the questionnaire were . . . borderline illegal or at the least very nosy. I am not at all in a desperate position and I felt uncomfortable enough to decline.

        I thought this employer must have bad reviews on glass door or somewhere else online – which is why they assumed that was why I canceled the interview.

        • lost academic :

          Can you go into any more detail about these questions?

          If you feel like investing the time, you can always get the information from the recruiter and use it to keep your friends informed. I know I’m very curious!

          • Anonymous :

            OP here:

            Hmm I don’t remember exactly. One part was definitely a personality test you had to”pass”, questions about your family life / who you lived with.

            It’s basically a bad sales job theyre trying to pass off as something else. Which I know is normal, but still. I don’t think I can tell the recruiter the job seemed sketchy +the company seemed disorganized, so I’ll just say it wasn’t what I’m looking for.

          • lost academic :

            OP – sounds like you’re right not to waste your time. Sounds like a couple of companies I remember back in the day recruiting high school seniors instead.

      • Anonymous :

        Chocolate teapot… you must be a Brit as all my husbands colleagues use this example :)

  10. I have had my LLBean “Classic Lambswool Duffle Coat” for 2 years. HIGHLY recommend it. I absolutely love that a plus size coat doesn’t have to look unprofessional.
    The coat falls mid thigh on me and I’m 5’6″. I got a size up so I could wear sweaters underneath, and it still doesn’t look bulky at all. It is very warm because it has a thin layer of Thinsulate. I wore it last week in Chicago when it was +3 deg with a windchill of -7 deg, and it kept me plenty warm.
    I also really like the colors it comes in. I have it in the navy, but I’ve always kind of regretted not getting the plum color because it’s so pretty.

  11. Chicago coats for work :

    I have a couple wool knee length coats (black, navy) in classic styles/wool blends which I wear until it gets into the 20’s. Then I break out my relatively sleek, knee length puffer that is the most stylish one I could find, with a great hourglass shape and a wonderful high neck that is flattering. It took me a year to find that puffer… When I wear it with my knee high La Candienne’s, I feel like a superhero.

    And when it goes in the teens and below, I wear my full length shearing that also has a fitted shape with a fuller bottom and a wonderful hood that can be hidden as a muff around your neck, if you prefer.

    I wear tights under everything, light layers on top, and scarves all day.

  12. Living in SW Michigan, I own a lot of coats ranging from down coats, to pea coats, to car length, to fake fur, to long wool coats. I recently bought this beautiful long wool coat from Talbots at 65% off. Love the color Aster.

  13. And if you are ready to invest in a classic coat, there’s MaxMara camel cashmere….

  14. Thanks for these formal coats, they are good for office environments.

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