The Hunt: Lightweight Jackets

Brooks Brothers Cashmere Ruana.indexedSure, 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.

As I mentioned on Friday, the air is getting cooler here in NYC, so I thought I’d round up some fun, lightweight jackets. Unlike winter coats, these generally are not intended to wear a suit jacket beneath them — but you can always just throw a wrap on top of your suit and be nice and cozy (like the one pictured). Readers, what does your favorite fall jacket look like? How many do you own, and how often do you buy?

DKNY Double Breasted Short Trench Rebel RedThe trench coat is huge this fall. I’m liking this dark red one from DKNY (on sale at 6pm for $112 today (was $280)), but here are two other great options, both around $100: this trench with lace insets from Betsey Johnson, and this skater trench from ASOS. DKNY Double Breasted Short Trench
London Fog Coat, Tonal-Animal-Print Belted Trench CoatI feel like London Fog (Gallery as well) is one of those classic raincoat companies — they’re made well, they last for a thousand years, and they’re generally stylish.  This tonal animal-print belted trench (pictured) is on trend, but I’m also partial to this teal trench (fun!) and this classic beige trench.  The pictured trench is $169 at Macy’s (was $200). London Fog Coat, Tonal-Animal-Print Belted Trench Coat
Auden Denim JacketDenim may not be the first thing you think of for the office, but a flattering denim jacket can actually be a workhorse in the fall and spring.  Throw it on over sheath dresses and trousers to make them a bit edgier; add a wrap or scarf if you want to make it a bit more sophisticated.  This particular jacket is $128 at Anthropologie. Auden Denim Jacket
Pendleton Woolen Mills Scroll Along Boiled Wool JacketA fitted heavyweight blazer is a great option for the fall.  I’m liking this riding jacket from Pendleton; this riding jacket from Victoria’s Secret is also pretty cute.  The pictured jacket is $198. Pendleton Woolen Mills Scroll Along Boiled Wool Jacket
Ann Taylor Abstract Jacquard CoatSometimes you want to have a really great statement jacket — the one that isn’t your normal beige/black trench.  Ann Taylor has a number of cute ones right now; this abstract jacquard coat is my favorite.  (Another good option: this green felt coat from Anthropologie.) The Ann Taylor coat is $198. Abstract Jacquard Coat
Brooks Brothers Cashmere RuanaI encourage everyone to consider investing in a heavy wrap or ruana like this one from Brooks Brothers — I bought a similar heavy wool one at Henri Bendel’s years ago and continue to pull it out whenever the weather gets cold.  These are hard to find cheaply — and they’re certainly different than your $10 pashmina on the street — but a good wool or cashmere wrap will give you warmth on top of dresses, blazers, suits, even your other lightweight jackets.  This particular one comes in five colors, and is $498 at Brooks Brothers. Brooks Brothers Cashmere Ruana

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  1. AttiredAttorney :

    Threadjack: Is any retailer selling LINED pants in a TALL inseam anymore??? Sorry for the Ellen-esque caps, but I’m so frustrated! Trying to find a pair or classic work trousers in the $100-$150 range has been so much harder than I expected. Any tips or finds? Or am I just going to freeze to death this fall/winter?

    • Boden Wideleg Wool Trousers.

      • AttiredAttorney :

        Oh my goodness, this might be exactly what I needed! Thank you! I didn’t realize they made tall sizes.

    • I have a pair of tweed J Crew trousers (I think they’re the Hutton style?) that I bought two winters ago and they’re fully lined and a tall size. It might be worth using the online chat function on their website to see if this year’s style is still lined.

      • AttiredAttorney :

        Hmm, online it looks like the “Hutton” are no longer lined. Will try chatting and will report back.

      • AttiredAttorney :

        Response from J Crew: “Thanks for reaching out, I’m happy to assist. Our Tall Hutton trouser in pinstripe Super 120s are not lined. The Super 120s wool is some of the finest available for suiting, with a silky-smooth finish and a refined drape. It’s so soft and comfortable it doesn’t need a lining.”


    • I have two beautiful pair from Talbot’s I bought last year, one in camel and one in charcoal, both lined wool flannel. They don’t seem to have them now, but they were very heavy weight winter pants, so they might have them in a few weeks.

      • AttiredAttorney :

        The only issue I have with Talbots is that all their trousers seem so high-waisted – I feel like I look like I’m wearing a diaper with how “poochy” they are in the hip area. Any recommendations on a pant cut/style from Talbots?

    • lucy stone :

      Talbots. Not all are lined, but you can sort by length and then click through.

    • marketingchic :


    • AttiredAttorney :

      And to help answer my own question, I’m finding some lined pants at Nordstrom by Classiques Entier. They’re not “tall,” but they’re unhemmed with a generous 35 inseam. Slightly above my desired price of under $150, but not by much.

    • I think that a girlfriend just bought pants from Banana Republic that were lined. It is insane to me that J.Crew isn’t lining suits anymore!

    • Ann Taylor tropical wool trousers. They’re in the “suiting” section.

    • Ann Taylor tropical wool trousers. They’re in the suiting section. Not sure they’re extra warm, but they are lined. They’re pretty well-constructed overall.

  2. Can anyone recommend a good fleece jacket for less than $100? I tried on one at Eddie Bauer this weekend and it was thin and cut too much for a 22 year old. Then I tried on two at LL Bean and they were cut too much for 50 year olds. Granted, my body shape is a bit weird these days (and getting weirder by the day) but I at least need something I can put on even if it won’t zip soon. Anyone have a brand/style they like?

    • Diana Barry :

      Old Navy maternity. Very reasonably priced and they usually have something nice looking.

      I also bought a fleece vest in a men’s large from Patagonia and wore that throughout pregnancy.

      • Oddly, Old Navy doesn’t seem to be carrying fleece at all this year. Is it out of style? (Can’t see how it can be. Fleece is fleece.)

        • Carrie Preston :

          Hmm – I just ordered a couple of fleece zip up jackets from ON (same ones I get & replace every year, but they’re around $20 and cut cute) — maybe they just came out? You might want to check again – I just searched for “fleece” & don’t remember what section they filed it under.

    • Equity's Darling :

      I love the Patagonia Better Sweater Jacket, and their R1 Women’s Full Zip, though both are above your price range- you just missed their sale, which sucks because the R1 was selling for less than $100. See if you can find an outlet near where you live maybe? They have a few.

      • Maddie Ross :

        Try 6pm for the R1. I bought one there for less than $75 and I’ve seen them on there several times.

    • Lands End? They might trend more towards the LL Bean shape. REI carry a wide range of brands – their house brand is probably the most inexpensive.

      • I have one from Land’s End from a few years ago and it’s surprisingly great.

    • REI’s house brand is good stuff. I also have had good wear out of Columbia gear (and they have outlets).

    • I just got a furry zip-up one for $19.99 at Costco this weekend!

      • Ooh, I hadn’t thought of CostCo! Good call. I’ll have to try them. Thanks!

    • Last year Old Navy had a maternity winter coat. It was like 35 bucks but it was amazing! soft fleece inside, quite warm, and I wore it until I delivered. Highly recommend if they have it this season

    • After years of searching, I found this Janska coat in an airport somewhere.
      Love it! And the swing style means it works with any body type. It is super soft fleece. Perfect for those days that are not cold enough for wool. And it covers my big butt.

      I also have a lands End fleece parka – I don’t know of they still make that exact style, but it also was great. Just a little too sporty/casual to wear to the office. I still love it for weekends.

  3. Equity's Darling :

    I have a couple of trenches and lightweight wool coats that I wear for fall- a black trench, a creamy one, and my favourite herringbone light wool coat that’s belted and mid-thigh.

    I really love that BB wrap, are there really no cheaper alternatives? I’ve been looking for a heavier wrap/ruana for a while, and $500 is pretty steep…

    • You can get them for cheaper, but if you want wool as opposed to polyester or acrylic (and I would suggest wool for a myriad of reasons), you’re probably not going to pay less than $150 or $200. I would suggest taking a stroll around Etsy since there are a lot of amateur or small scale weavers who make beautiful wraps that you might be able to find for less than what a mainstream place would charge. This time of year the fall craft fairs start up too, and you might find something at one of those.

      • To follow up, I just went on Etsy and searched under “wool wrap handmade”, and there are a lot of options…some more suitable than others, but certainly lots to look at.

        • Equity's Darling :

          Thanks Nonny- I’ll look around Etsy and keep any eye out at the neighbourhood craft sale that’s in a few weeks:) Hope the pregnancy is still going well!

    • I got a cashmere-like one at Gap last winter on sale.

    • Like Kat, I bought a black lambswool ruana on a trip to Scotland about 10 years ago. I bought it thinking I would probably never wear it but it has become one of my go-to outerwear choices for all but the coldest months in the upper Midwest. It’s kind of dramatic and can be dressed up or down, and it’s especially great to travel with because you have your blanket with you on chilly planes and it also works as great bathrobe in cold hotel rooms. Amazingly versatile!

      • Yup, I have a white alpaca one that I bought in Lesotho, of all places. I love it to death even though it is pretty unconventional. I also have a rather large collection of wraps of various shapes and sizes which, if I’m not careful, can make me look like the artistic aunt, but I don’t necessarily think that is a bad thing.

    • I bought a cashmere wrap at BB last winter for about $160. Generally, right before the holidays they have a promo where each day a new category of items is ~40% off and scarves and wraps always get a day.

      NM Last Call also tends to have really nice wool/cashmere wraps for around $100-200. I’ve also seen wool ones by Portolano on Rue La La for around $30-$50. The only word of caution with those is they can really shed. I ordered one and sent it back because the shedding was just too much.

      • I should add that the NM Last Call wraps tend to appear a bit later in the season. I think in general if you want a deal on one of these, you just need to wait for them to go on clearance.

      • Equity's Darling :

        If I don’t find something before then, I’ll keep an eye out for the BB holiday sale, thanks!

  4. TO Lawyer :

    I just recently bought a couple fall jackets, although they’re more casual. A wool moto jacket (which actually looks great over work clothes) and also a really cute jacket with leather sleeves and a grey tweed body (my description is not doing it justice at all). I also have a grey trench and a lightweight cream coat. (Spoiler alert – I love jackets)

  5. anon in BigLaw :

    Does anyone have any tips for studying for a bar exam while working full time in BigLaw? I’m an associate and I’m taking the examination for business development reasons (i.e. the firm is asking me to take it, not because I am trying to relocate).

    • Killer Kitten Heels :

      I did this myself a few years ago, and here’s what I did:

      First, find out if your MBE score will transfer. Not having to sit for that day of the exam is a huge help.

      Get the firm to pay for Bar/Bri on demand, and start studying ASAP. Plan on doing half a lecture on video each weeknight, and 1-1.5 lectures a day on the weekends.

      Assuming you passed a different bar exam fairly recently, you shouldn’t need to do much in the way of “homework” other than a sample essay or two each week. (This is assuming you don’t need to retake the MBE – if you do need to retake the MBE, add in MBE practice questions to the “homework” list).

    • Anon for this :

      I’ve heard of my firm giving two weeks off before taking another exam. Certainly worth asking if you can do something similar.

    • I recently took and passed the bar in my new state while working full-time. First, you’ve got to throw the BarBri progress plan out the window – it will only worry you. I watched a video lecture every night and two (or three, depending on length) on weekends. Each day, I also spent about 15-20 minutes reviewing the previous night’s lectures. When I’d watched all of the lectures, I took the book of prior-year exams and took sample essays for each subject. Based on that, I figured out where I was weaker, and prioritized there. For the last two weeks before the exam, I had leave from work and I did two full exams a day, plus an extra essay or two on my weaker topics.

      I should caveat that I didn’t have to take the MBE, so I only had to focus on the essays.

    • anon in BigLaw :

      I couldn’t get back online yesterday, but thanks to all of you who responded.

    • I was working full-time (but not biglaw) when I took my second bar exam. I got the BarBri books and reviewed all the outlines. I started about 3-4 weeks before the exam, and did one section nightly most nights (does that work out? how many sections were there?), then reviewed the ones that I found more difficult in the last few days before the exam. I didn’t use the lectures at all, and didn’t really use the other reading material or practice tests. I studied very hard for my first exam and remembered a surprising amount of the information 4 years later when preparing for my second state. I did not study that hard for my second exam and I would not have been at all surprised to fail, but I passed.

  6. For those of you that use Paula’s Choice, do you use the Skin Balancing or Resist Anti-Aging? Any recommendations for one over the other? I have normal skin with the occasional blemish, but I’m more concerned with anti-aging than acne control.

    • I use the Skin Balancing line (only the face wash and toner though). Never tried the other one, but the Skin Balancing line works well for me. I have combination skin – mostly oily, sometimes dry, with some acne.

  7. Although I’ve been very disappointed in their clothes the last year or so, Nau ( still makes some of the best, most comfortable and long-lasting jackets I have ever owned. Mostly casual styling, but high quality and functional.

  8. Styling question! I bought a pair of dark red jeans from Talbots at their clearance outlet (for less than $20!). Wondering how I should wear them. They tend toward skinny in the ankle, so I can tuck them into a pair of tall boots. (If it matters, I’m a plus.)

    • Famouscait :

      I have a pair of medium burgundy pants (slim cut) that I wear with grey, black, cream, chambray, and a color that I’m going to describe as a goldish-mushroom.

      I’ve been afraid to venture outside these pretty basic pairings though, so I will also be looking for responses to this thread!

    • AttiredAttorney :

      Tucked into brown boots with an oversized, chunky knit cream sweater for errands, with a black top and black ballet flats or heels for going out, with a chambray or blue denim top, maybe even with a deep purple if you’re feeling adventurous!

    • lucy stone :

      Leopard ballet flats and a neutral sweater?

    • With an oatmeal or muted mustard sweater, a chunky statement necklace and tall boots or smoking loafers.

    • In addition to all the aforementioned neutrals and chambray, more colors to try with dark red – baby blue, button down in standard banker’s blue, pale pink (ballet pink?), bright cotton candy pink, deep rusty orange, print or striped tops in neutral colors (grey & white, b&w, black & tan), similar colored top for a monochromatic look.

      I really like navy wool jackets with dark red bottoms, and dark brown leather knee-high boots with dark red skinnies. I second muted mustard.

  9. Ciao, pues :

    Drycleaning question: I took a silk dress to the drycleaner and they did not remove the stain (likely wine, which had admittedly been sitting for a couple months). Should I have them clean it again? Ask for my money back? Not sure what the expectation is here…

    • Ask them to try again.
      Just this morning I was at the drycleaners with an embellished silk blouse that had very clear instructions: dry-clean with petroleum-based solvent only, no steam. 4 (four) people read the instructions and said that they would have to hand-wash it. Thanks, but if I wanted to hand-wash it I would have done it a home! So I left the shop quite peeved, and took the blouse with me.

    • oil in houston :

      be very careful if asking them to do it again. I’ve done this twice (on cotton) and both time it came with a stain around the stain …. just made things worse …. So check first with them if there is any risk, they won’t always warn you in advance

    • When this happened to me, I asked them to fix it, b/c they seemed to GRILL the stain into my sweater. Someone (I think Alan) had spilled a little RED wine on my mohair sweater, which was white, and when my cleaneing lady brought it to them I had had her SPECEIFICALLY show them the stain and ask them if they could get it out. The guy, who spoke Haitian, said that it would be NO PROBELEM, but when my cleaneing lady came back with it, the wine stain just got bigger (about the size of a quarter!!!!

      So I had the cleaneing lady go back and ask them to fix it by trying again. They tried again, but onley got it darker. They did NOT charge me but offered to “paint” it white. I said NO, and gave it to Good Will! FOOEY b/c I liked that sweater. It was bulky enough so that it did NOT show when I put on a few pound’s, but I could NOT walk around with a White Sweater with a stain on the front. FOOEY!!!

      Alan got me another sweater, but it was a CHEEP one from Century 21. FOOEY! I still have it but do NOT wear it b/c it reminds me of him and drinkeing. DOUBEL FOOEY!

  10. lucy stone :

    Does anyone have a current Talbots discount code?

  11. I love the green Anthro coat. Gorgeous.

    I was in there yesterday and also fell for this leather jacket (and leather jackets normally don’t do anything for me at all):

    • I just clicked through and I love, love, love this. And I think I love the shoes the model is wearing as much as the jacket.

    • Veronique :

      Love that jacket! My only hesitation is spending that much on a mixed leather and ponte jacket that may be too trendy to wear beyond a season or two. Any thoughts from the hive on how durable this trend might be?

  12. Looking for a classic light wool coat for fall. Mid-thigh or so, belted. I like classic chic so that it can be worn for years, but with a little interest. So maybe a beautiful color or a herringbone or houndstooth rather then just black. It seems every working woman in my city wears a simple version of this coat in black. Ideally, longer then my white doctor’s coat, but not full length.

    Any favorites that have stood the test of time for you? I may wait for the sales/post-season if a truly beautiful one strikes me (ex. cashmere) so I can get a better price.

    • And I can’t tolerate heavy wool well… itchy itchy itchy… so must be well lined, and often some blends and/or cashmere work better.

      Thanks guys.

    • I have a version of this in olive green

      It isn’t belted, but it does have a nice shape to it when buttoned

      • Thanks Mascot… I kind of need a belt or else I have no shape, although you made me realize there might be some A-line coats or perhaps very tailored/emphasized waist that could work.

        I think I need a bit longer of a coat to cover my white coat underneath though. This one would be too short.

  13. Lady Harriet :

    I have a short Land’s End trench that’s really great for slightly cool weather. (Winter here in Florida, fall or spring most other places.) It’s light pink, which makes me very happy. I had to size way, way down in it. I wear a 12, sometimes a 10 most places, and the coat is a 6P. I’m 5’4″, so the sleeves are a little short on me, but it was a serendipitous thrift store find for $2, so I’m not complaining!

  14. Veronique :

    I have a collection of 4 trench coats that have served me well for the past several years, including a classic brown London Fog, a lightweight (unlined) trenches in navy and grey with fun shapes/details, and my workhorse, a black Cole Haan trench with a removable wool liner that I wear at least 3 seasons of the year. Last week I finally found a black ponte motorcycle jacket that is heavy enough to wear alone or over a sweater for spring/fall but light enough to wear under a proper coat in the winter. I probably wouldn’t wear it to work, but it definitely fills a hole in my casual wardrobe.

    Now that I’m moving further South, I’ll probably invest in a few shorter/lighter coats or jackets, similar to the riding jackets or the Ann Taylor coat above, once they start going on clearance. I’d prefer something like this ( that buttons or zips all or most of the way up for additional warmth.

    • Veronique :

      Other lighter options:

      Quilted jacket such as:

      Shorter wool coat:

      Motorcycle jacket or bomber in leather, wool-blend, and/or tweed

  15. Any recommendations for a maternity trench coat?

    • Nope. My current plan is just to wear my existing one, unbuttoned. I refuse to spend money on outerwear that I’m only going to wear for 3 months…

  16. Calibrachoa :

    I ordered a burgundy snood coat from New Look and it should arrive some time this week… really looking forward to it since I really like New Look’s coats.

    But I think my main coverup for the fall/winter will be the lovely houndstooth wrap I discovered when I was back home rummaging through the closets. Mostly acrylic, but I am one of those poor souls who can’t wear wool, no matter how fine or what kind, without epic skin irritation :(

  17. The timing on this post is very fortuitous – I’ve been racking my brain for the past few days trying to make coat decisions. I recently lost weigh, and am now down multiple sizes. None of my current coats fit. I work in non-profit, so I’m trying to maximize my cost per wear, and I currently live in New England.

    If you were to buy 3-4 coats to last you throughout the year (mostly fall / winter), what would you get? I think I’ve settled on getting a classic trench, but I’ve been wondering if I should get one with a removable lining to make it more versatile? I also need a “omg i’m in a blizzard” coat, and then maybe a wool coat? I was contemplating one of the J Crew lady day or similar coats, but maybe I’d get more use out of peacoat and then wear the blizzard coat for the rest of the winter?

    • I have a lady day coat with Thinsulate lining and wore it a LOT when I lived in New England. There were only a handful of days each winter when it was too cold to wear it comfortably. I’d say I wore it most days from late Nov until April each year. Plus, after 4 winters or so it still looks great. Definitely a very good cost per wear investment.

      • Veronique :

        +1. My thinsulate lady day coats still looks good after 5 upper Midwest winters (ie similar to New England weather), though I rotate it with other coats. I don’t own any puffy coats. With the right scarf, gloves, hat and layering, my wool and wool/cashmere coats were just fine. I would definitely recommend a trench with a removable wool lining, which would allow you to wear it from spring through to fall. I would skip the peacoat because, in my experience, there are very few days where either a wool-lined trench or a proper winter coat wouldn’t suffice, with proper layering. I’ve found shorter coats work best as winter coats in more temperate regions. In case you couldn’t tell, layering is key!

    • Trench (or thinsulate lady day coat)+Oh shit blizzard jacket covers a lot of bases, but I would consider a somewhat casual jacket instead of another fancy wool one (not necessarily north face casual, but something thats doesn’t make me feel overdressed when paired with jeans). I bought an olive green army jacket kind of thing last year, very warm and lined with flannel, and I feel that not abusing my nice coats on weekends and casual days helps extend their life (which may not matter to you if you are still trying to lose weight, but just something to consider).

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