By: Sharon Mosley
It’s like a great pair of shoes or a fabulous handbag. The perfect coat or jacket can instantly transform your wardrobe … even if you don’t have it all together underneath. It’s what’s on the outside that counts when it comes to choosing your outerwear. First impressions do make a difference.
But style is not the only criteria for finding that perfect coat. How a coat fits you, however, may be the best way to determine what coat to buy, according to Paula Reed, British fashion expert and author of “Style Clinic” (Harper Collins, $27.95). Before you start your coat caper searching for the perfect camel coat (this year’s must-have topper), take a few tips from Reed on finding the coat that fits your body:
— The most versatile coat for almost all figures is a narrow, figure-skimming, three-quarter length coat that hits right on or below the knee. “It is both modern and flattering,” she says. “Curvier figures look good in its figure-skimming sleekness. If you are big-bosomed, go for an open collar that is cut on the wide side. It will never look dated.”
— A soft, belted style is the next most versatile shape for most figures, according to the style expert. “It works as easily with jeans and trousers as dresses. Just make sure the fabric is supple enough to drape, not clump.”
— And if you’re tall, stick to a longer coat. “Anyone under 5 feet 7 inches should avoid floor-skimming styles or anything below mid-calf,” she says.
— Belts are a great figure enhancer unless you have substantial hips, says Reed. “A belted coat will give almost anyone an hourglass figure,” she adds. “But those who are short-waisted or wide in the middle look better in slim, tailored coats without a belt.”
— If you are curvy, accentuating the narrowest part of your body — your waist — will give you instant glamour, admits Reed. “Belted coats, whether they hit below the knee or mid-thigh, look good,” she says. “But a three-quarter length coat that skims the body will look even better. Short, boxy styles will make your curves look bulky. So will voluminous A-lines that drop from the shoulders.” Instead, Reed suggests choosing tailored, curve-friendly options.
— Be wary of thick, bulky fabrics. Steer clear of the puffy parkas if your body is not on the slim side. “If you don’t want to add extra poundage,” she says, “opt for unpadded versions.”
— If you’re petite, belted shapes that sit on or just above the knee will look great, says Reed. “Short coats will increase leg length.”
— Proportion is the most important facet of finding the perfect coat that flatters your body, adds Reed. “You must take time to assess how the bulk of a coat affects your figure,” she says. “It can do good things such as smoothing over problem areas or bad things such as adding width where you don’t need it. So try to be as objective as possible.”
Top 10 Coat Trends
“There’s no easier way to update your basic look than to slip on a coat with a little attitude,” says Reed.
Here are the top 10 ways to put some attitude in your outerwear wardrobe this fall and winter:
— The camel coat is one of fall’s top trends. Designers from New York to Paris paraded the classic color down their runways. The camel coat has long been a classic, and in the neutral color, it will work with everything in your wardrobe.
— The double-breasted coat is making a comeback. In the menswear silhouette, this staple is sleek and chic and promises to last you for years to come. Gray is a close-second favorite to camel.
— The military jackets and coats are commanding attention, too. Look for details that make these toppers stand out: embroideries, patch pockets, bold buttons and interesting stitching.
— The princess coat. Also known as a “skater” coat, these feminine-style coats dress up everything from jeans to dresses. Bows, satin seams and velvet trims add even more appeal.
— The anorak is one of your best bets for a casual coat with utility chic. Add more style with fur collars and cuffs. For colder climates, the quilted puffer coats are stylish options, too.
— The cape is another versatile fall favorite. In long or short versions, the cape is a great alternative to a traditional jacket or coat. It is also a perfect choice when a lightweight topper is more appropriate for the weather.
— Furry coats and jackets, even vests are more popular than ever this fall and winter. Whether you favor the real thing or prefer to fake it, there are plenty of ways to get cozy with fur this season. The newest look? Shaggy!
— Classic shearling is another option for the fur trend. Look for the suede-like textured coats in edgy shapes with leather trim on the sleeves and collars.
— The printed coat. If you’re looking for something a little different, there are plenty of printed coats and jackets to put some fun into your outerwear wardrobe this fall. Choose from leopard accents, glen plaids, velvet brocades and urban camouflage.
— The trench. You can’t miss this classic. It’s an essential wardrobe item, and it can work for day or night, tossed over jeans or a cocktail dress. A black satin trench is a favorite coat in my closet. It dresses up my denim days and is a great look over sequin dresses for special occasions.
For any coat caper this fall, search out the most versatile toppers you can find. You’ll wear them for seasons to come.
Sharon Mosley is a former fashion editor of the Arkansas Gazette in Little Rock and executive director of the Fashion Editors and Reporters Association. To find out more about Sharon Mosley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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