A coat is probably one of the biggest (and most costly) wardrobe purchases we, as fashionistas, make. Choosing the right coat is important and tricky business. Because a coat is the outer-most layer of your outfit the shape can make or break your look.
The most important thing to consider when shopping for a new coat is your body shape as your coat should fit perfectly. Invest in something classic and a color that works great with the items in your wardrobe. For the most universally flattering look, choose a coat that highlights the waist and is about knee length. Something nipped in at the waist is your best choice. If your coat is straight, try cinching it with a regular wide belt.
Most women are looking for clothing that makes them look thinner or taller. When buying a coat you should apply all the basic rules you use when choosing any other clothing item. First of all, be sure to try on many different styles and shapes before making a final decision. Consider buying a coat that's one size bigger, so that you can layer underneath it.
To enhance a petite figure try a three-quarter length coat. A garment that ends at the knee will emphasize the lower part of the leg and elongate the figure. To create an illusion of looking taller, go for an empire waist or a belted waistline. Steer clear of exaggerated details at the neckline, which will draw the eye upward. Avoid mid-calf coats as they will cut the silhouette and make you look even shorter. Be sure to pay attention to skirts or dresses that are longer than the coat-especially if they don't match.
Tall women can play with volume-coats with a fuller cut. Classic long coats or a trench look great. A cape can also flatter the tall figure as it enhances the look of a long leg. Pair with fitted pants or a slim pencil skirt.
A curvy figure is best suited for a coat that follows the contour of the body. This gives the illusion of being taller.
An empire style coat elongates the figure and camouflages a larger stomach. For a fuller figure try a knee length coat with simple lines.
Choose a coat that adds curves to a straight figure. Sharp tailored coats and strong shoulders will look totally amazing. A belt at the waist will add to your femininity. The placement of pockets will add volume and create the look of a curvier figure. Short coats, such as down jackets or simply tailored jackets, will also flatter boyish figures. Match with skinny jeans or mini-skirts.
If you have a small bust-line chose coats with interesting details on top. Go for a deep v-neckline and narrow lapels.
For narrow shoulders, take advantage of the fact that the military trend is so hot this season. It flatters the body shape by hugging to the shoulder's style and shape.
Fabric choices are the next thing to consider. Wool gives great protection against the elements-wind, snow, rain and frigid temperatures. Cashmere and shearling offer warmth along with a luxe feeling and look. The only down side is that they are more difficult to keep clean. Down is lightweight, low maintenance and warm. Polyfill is a good alternative if you are allergic to feathers.
Pay attention to the cut of the sleeve, as they are the key to a comfortable fit. Sleeves that are very large at the armholes and tighten down at the wrist and raglan sleeves (straight and all in one from the neckline down) offer more freedom when moving than those that are close fitting at shoulder level.
Remember the longer the length, the more formal a coat will appear. Shorter styles are great for everyday wear, but it is a floor-sweeping cut that looks elegant for evening. A three-quarter length cut is the most practical, as it can go anywhere, any time.
If you want to go with one of the hottest coat trends for winter 2011-2012, choose a toggle coat, cape, single or double breasted tailored coat, military style, luxe (with faux fur trim) or quilted with a furry hood or collar. Fur vests, either real or faux, also make a great statement.
No matter what coat you choose be sure to take good care of it. Coats are a big investment and meant to last more than one season. Be sure to clean it before it goes into storage. Throw a down coat in the dryer with a few tennis balls to fluff it up. Wool, cashmere, shearling or anything with fur needs to be professionally dry-cleaned.
Your best plan of attack when shopping for a new coat-make a statement! A blend of fashion, fit and practicality makes for the best choice. Have fun when you go out to "Shop It" for a new coat.
Jacquie Bennett, formerly of Milroy, writes from her new home in California. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.