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What’s new in coats this fall: Pump up the volume

A CAPED SILHOUETTE: MGM coat, $725, Holt Renfrew Private Brand turtleneck, $240 at Holt Renfrew ( Hermès enamel bangles, $415 to $925, over-the-knee boots, $2,850 through .

Babar Khan/The Globe and Mail

Now that the month-long marathon of Spring 2013 fashion shows has ended, the reality of fall returns. And with it comes the question of whether your outerwear needs an update. The answer is probably yes.

Silhouettes have advanced significantly enough this season that what's in your closet may no longer feel au courant. According to Avril Graham, the executive fashion and beauty editor at Harper's Bazaar, "This season, if want to be ahead of the curve, you're buying volume," along with "evening coats for day, brocade or lavish fabrics and coats that play with colour and print."

Graham notes that designers have long been interested in making subtle tweaks to outerwear proportions – emphasizing the shoulder or dropping the shoulder, replacing a peaked lapel with a shawl collar or putting shortened sleeves on an opera-length coat. But as she sees it, this play with shape is taking on "more modern permutations" right now.

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And modern, by today's definition, means stricter design. By way of example, Pink Tartan designer Kim Newport-Mimran e-mailed side-by-side photos of her perennially popular equestrian-inspired coat and the new one she's showing this fall. Instead of an hourglass shape, she's gone boxy, releasing the nipped waist in order to achieve a smooth, elongated, more mannish line.

The coat, which loosely echoes a similarly squared-off style developed by Phoebe Philo at Céline, is available in grey flannel and camel hair and has been the line's top-selling item so far this fall. "This is definitely trending right now."

Still, the silhouette has staying power, as Jackie O'Brien, the owner of Toronto clothing shop Jonathan + Olivia, points out, noting that oversized versions of classic coat styles aren't likely to appear dated any time soon. In fact, they satisfy her overarching mandate for stocking her shelves with items that are both directional and easy to wear: "When I'm buying, I'm still [looking for] classic coats with classic styling in the right fabrics, so when someone is spending money – and generally, a coat is quite a lot of money – there's longevity."

For those who are keen to invest this season, consider the value-per-wear equation. Calvin Klein Collection's Francisco Costa showed some sculpted stunners that stand away from the body and are among the season's best.

At $2,500, they aren't a bargain, but because they are free of embellishment, they escape the dreaded trend trap and can be worn for years.

"You can't really revamp a shoe, but coats are slightly different," Graham says. "The idea of an oversized coat from the sixties with bracelet sleeves is just as glorious today. I'm a firm believer in hanging onto things."

So there you have it. Think about today's purchase as future vintage. While the coats from Comme des Garçons are destined for museum archives, plenty of others have subtler everyday staying power. A little volume goes a long way.

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