Tips to choosing the right overcoat

Tips to choosing the right overcoat

Q.I recently moved up from Louisiana and now work in Fayetteville. I’ve already seen some 40 degree mornings and know it’ll get worse. What type of business coat should I buy for the Winter when apparently it can go down into the 20s? 

A. You are smart to consider the importance of continuing your professional look to your overcoat. And you do need to know that shopping for an overcoat (or topcoat) is different in many ways from other clothes shopping. You have to consider which elements are essential to arriving at just the right coat for you. What is the right fabric, the right cut, the right fit, the right color, as well as where to find this perfect garment at a price you can afford? 

FABRIC – An overcoat is supposed to keep you warm while looking classically well-dressed. Therefore, you want one made of 100% wool or a blend of wool and cashmere. Avoid all- cashmere because it’s too light, not as warm, more perishable, and costs a lot more than wool. 

CUT – Trim-fitting coats are the current look, with a slight nip at the waist. Your choices are single- or double-breasted, or belted. Double-breasted is warmer; single-breasted is more versatile; belted is less dressy. Try all three on to see which is most flattering and most logical for you. 

FIT – Don’t buy a coat that is too long; buy a slim overcoat that goes to the knee or only a couple of inches past the knee. Too short is too casual, and too long is stodgy and dated.

COLOR – Overcoats (and the slightly lighter-weight topcoats) should be one of three solid colors – navy, charcoal gray, or camel – or a handsome tweed in a subtle combination of various lighter colors. Since it is your first coat, I suggest avoiding the somewhat too-dressy black coat.

WHERE TO SHOP – An overcoat is a classic item, designed to last for many years. Don’t skimp. Go to the best upscale store you can afford and be prepared to spend more than you might expect. Or, if shopping in a fine second-hand or vintage store, then plan to spend more on tailoring. This is an investment piece, worth the extra expense.  

HOW TO SHOP – Be sure to try the coats on when you are wearing a suit jacket, a blazer, or a sport jacket. That is, try them on over a jacket. No matter what you have read or what the salesperson tells you to the contrary, your overcoat or topcoat should be the same size as your suit, not the next size larger.

  • Shoulders should fit smoothly over the jacket’s shoulder with no wrinkles.
  • Unlike when buying a suit, the sleeve should cover the shirt’s and the jacket’s sleeve; it should come to the base of the thumb.
  • When buttoned, the silhouette should be somewhat slim, but not tight.

Wearing an overcoat is a grown-up endeavor that should be business-appropriate. Do it right. You might add a real hat (a fedora), a scarf, and leather gloves. Don’t add unnecessary accessories, such as a boutonniere, a velvet collar, or a pocket square.  

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