Did you know that more than 100 types of outerwear have been designed since the mid-18th century? A number of them are related to their places of origin, such as the Afghan (sheepskin or goatskin, with a fleece lining and soft suede shell), Anorak (or ‘anoraq’ in Inuit), which was the Eskimo’s heavy weatherproof coat, and Basque (an even more obscure term – essentially a double-breasted knee-length coat with an A-shape silhouette for women). Some of them are named after their inventors, like the Burberry, referring to none other than Thomas Burberry, who came up with a waterproof gabardine, originally for farmers; the Chesterfield, a long, tailored men’s coat named after the Sixth Earl of Chesterfield, a British fashion icon in the first half of the 19th century, and the waist-length Eisenhower, with its U.S. military origins.
The list of historic references goes on, reflecting the evolution of outerwear. Changing in length, materials, components, and of course style, the coat developed to become a hallmark of the genders and, to some extent, the social classes too. In recent years, the democratization of fashion is more evident in the coat than in any other piece of clothing. This season sees some of most diverse outerwear selections yet.
The collar – fur-lined, notched, peaked, shawled, or in some cases, omitted – looks like style, but it developed from a practical function. When the wind picks up and you start shivering, the collar is what you turn up for a little more protection.
As to overall length, it’s all or nothing. Major brands are going either boldly cropped or gracefully long. Both make a great entrance, so it really depends on the occasion and personal preference. While full-length coats are often considered more elegant, this season’s jackets are more sumptuous than ever, thanks to the unexpected and innovative combination of materials.
In addition to the finest wool, mohair and cashmere, we see silk, tweed, jacquard, leather, suede and brocades used in combination with the traditional winter materials. The use of fur has been the most surprising element this season. So huge last year, this outerwear protagonist has taken a step back, often relegated to decorative details or as a lining that peeps out from the inside.
When it comes to colours, the rule book is thrown onto the fire, as all palettes deserve their place of honour in the winter wardrobe: sexy red, cosy brown and burnt orange warm things up, while jewel-toned purple, blue and green lend sophistication. Rather than white, go for beige, which matches everything, or the dustiest shade of grey. But if you do have to wear black, make it as texture-full and as dramatic as possible.
For more sartorial inspiration, visit our Fashion page.