I used to be one of those people who had a grand total of two or three coats — one dressy and one casual, and maybe something in between. That really is enough for our winters here in Pennsylvania, especially if you’re a minimalist… which I used to be, until this here blog took over my life, ha!
As I’ve been working on building a more complete and workable wardrobe over the past few years, I’ve learned that having more outerwear options really helps make more sophisticated outfits. Plus, if you think about it, your outerwear is often the only thing people see. It doesn’t really make sense to have 20 sweaters and only 2 winter coats. It really should be the other way around.
Each year I’ve been adding one or two carefully selected coats to my closet, and I feel like I’m in a really good place right now with a good assortment of quality coats to cover just about any occasion. I thought I’d round them up here and talk about how and when I wear them.
If you ever go out and feel like you don’t have quite the right thing to top off your outfit, maybe one of these will fill that hole in your closet.
My Favorite Winter Coats
For casual wear, I usually wear some type of quilted jacket or down parka. Here in Pennsylvania, we get a lot of messy weather, so it’s important to have a coat that can hold up to wet and icy conditions.
This The North Face down parka was a Nordstrom Anniversary Sale purchase a few years back, and it’s the coat I reach for on the coldest winter days. I love the way it’s fitted through the waist and isn’t too bulky, but it’s super thick and oh-so-warm. Here’s how it looks zipped up.
Unfortunately, this Miss Metro II Parka was discontinued. They replaced it with the Metropolis Water Repellent 550 Fill Power Down Hooded Parka, but that’s getting hard to find in stock. Nordstrom carries it, and also, their Stretch Down Parka is similar and not quite as puffy. There is also this Thermoball Hooded Parka.
Even though a quilted parka tends to be more casual, this one works fine for church or work if it’s really cold. Otherwise, I opt for one of my wool blend coats.
Shop Down Parkas:
For casual days, when I don’t need the long down parka, I usually opt for one of my shorter quilted jackets. These are the coats I wear most often.
Burberry Short Finsbridge Quilted Coat (similar)
For years, I only had the Burberry pictured above, and I wore it pretty much every day during the winter months. It was a big splurge at the time, but I stalked it until it went on sale, and the cost per wear is mere pennies at this point.
In that case, I’m glad I went for classic black because it’s the color I will personally reach for the most, and at that price point, I wanted to ensure a good cost per wear. But this is also a category where it’s fun to add a color or two to your coat wardrobe.
The North Face Westborough Insulated Quilted Jacket (similar)
Last, year, I picked up this The North Face quilted jacket in the white. I didn’t find myself wearing it all that often, but I love the white with black lining and yellow trim. I still have it and hope to get more wear out of it this year.
Unfortunately, they discontinued that style, and I’m not finding anything quite like it, but their Tamburello Jacket should serve the same purpose, and it also comes in white. And the ThermoBall™ Eco Jacket is a good one if you need a little more warmth but don’t want to wear a long parka.
This Barbour puffer jacket was my #NSale coat purchase this year. It’s simliar to ThermoBall™ Eco Jacket in terms of warmth and style, but I really like the channel quilting, and I think this lilac color is so pretty and unexpected for wintertime. I’m reaching for it a lot more than I thought I would.
I also love that it has a hood. One reason I don’t reach for the Westborough quilted jacket as much is that it lacks a hood. I’m not a big fan of umbrellas, so I often use the hood on my coats. If you don’t want the extra bulk, the hood is removable on the Barbour Shaw.
Shop Quilted Puffer Jackets:
When I want to elevate my look, I reach for a wool blend coat. The nice thing about wool coats is you can wear them with both dressy and casual outfits, whereas you generally don’t want to wear a parka or puffer jacket with dressier looks.
Ralph Lauren Wool Blend Reefer Coat (size 6)
The Ralph Lauren Wool Blend Reefer is a classic that has been around for years, and it’s still available in multiple colors and even a few prints. I first purchased it in the camel color at, wait for it… the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale.
Seriously, that is the best time to buy a coat! (The second best time is now, by the way. The selection will only get more depleted as winter rages on, and right now a lot of retailers are running good sales.)
Anyway, I felt like that shade of camel was too warm for my wardrobe and my complexion, so I ended up passing it on and replacing it with the black version, and I wear this coat a lot.
I know black seems like a copout, but I have learned over the years that 9 times out of 10, I reach for one of my black coats. Plus, in this case, the camel wasn’t quite dressy enough for certain events, and it clashed with some of my shoes and boots.
Black almost always goes with the shoes in my closet, and a classic black wool coat like this one can work for more formal venues in a pinch. A camel coat over a cocktail dress doesn’t work, but black usually does.
Also, this classic style is sleek and easy to wear with dressy or casual outfits. Double breasted coats, or coats with large lapels tend to add visual weight and look bulky on me because of my larger chest and broad shoulders. The single breasted style with slim lapels is perfect for me, but you may find you like a wrap coat or something with more drama.
It’s also nice to have a shorter wool blend coat, and I’m a huge fan of the cocoon style for more casual, but elevated outfits. The J.Crew Cocoon Coat in Italian Stadium-Cloth Wool is another classic that has been around for ages, and in this case, I strayed from my usual black.
My mom gifted me the Hthr Dusk for Christmas several years ago, and I added the Sandstone to my closet last fall. This is a cooler version of the classic camel, and it works better for me than the warmer tones.
And this year, I added a long wool blend coat to my closet in a really pretty plaid with a mix of shades of beige and taupe.
Unfortunately, this coat sold out almost immediately, but I’ve rounded up some other options in the shopping widget below.
Shop Wool Coats:
The one type of coat that is easy to neglect is a special occasion coat, but this is when your coat really can make or break your outfit. Because I don’t wear them as often, I don’t like to spend a lot on this type of coat, but it’s nice to have one or two dressy jackets for special occasions, and even to jazz up a more casual date night outfit.
This faux fur jacket is a new addition to my closet this year, and much needed. Once again, I’m going to make a case for black. I’ve had other special occasion jackets like this one, but I ended up returning them or passing them on because they felt a little too much.
Again, this is where you have to know your own wardrobe. I am 9 times out of 10 going to be wearing black somewhere in my date night and party looks, so a black coat almost always goes. I realize not everyone shares my obsession with black, and that’s okay. Choose the color that works best for your wardrobe.
For more casual dinners out and just any time I want to level up a casual outfit, I reach for this faux leather puffer. A sherpa or teddy coat can also work well for this purpose.
In fact, so can a leather moto jacket. I don’t think of that as a winter coat, but I often wear it over a cashmere sweater for winter date nights.
This AllSaints Dalby is a classic, and I have the Oxblood color from last year. I also have an old Bernardo leather zip front jacket in black that I wear a lot in the fall and winter. This one is similar.
Shop Faux Fur and Leather Jackets:
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photos: Alison Cornell