Saturday, October 23, 2010

More Coat Questions

I'm just gonna put this all here in case people don't go back to look at the comments for the last post.

Tell me more about coats ---- if I follow Absurdist's advice and zip up a snuggly sweater underneath, does that mean I should go up a size when trying stuff on? How do I go about getting it to fit well with layers? (And then isn't there the problem of becoming too roly-poly with too many layers and then a big wool coat thrown on on top of it?)

Thank you for the advice to get something lined with "thinsulate" --- see? Now I have a new term to look for when I go sniffing about in the stores.

Right now I only need the coat for going from home to my car to school on teaching days ... I'm out of the house by 7 and it is already cold and dark (bleah!) ... so I'm looking for something that will not look too awkward with nice teaching clothes or dresses. I have a camping-rain-gear coat that is bright orange, and besides being too thin already (though great on the days it has rained), I feel odd running around in something that orange and casual with my teaching clothes. Inside is pretty good since they keep the building on pretty high heat already. I hope they don't up the heat more when it gets colder because I hate bundling up and then coming indoors and stripping back down to a t-shirt or blouse ---- for one thing, it's hell on my hair with all the dressing and undressing and static. For another, I have thrown up in the past when I get too overheated. Don't need to be experiencing random nausea on winter days, thanks!

You all suggest black but I do have my old pea coat and the insane floor-length rabbit-fur collar one from mom --- what about something in that caramel color? Do those show dirt and not wear as well? Something like this? (I also quite like the floppy look of this but alas, I'm sure a red coat would limit my clothing options too much. Useful for if I got lost in the snow, however.)

I am continuing to look about. At the rate I move from "looking" to actually going to stores and trying stuff on, however, I fear it will already be the dead of winter before I get a good coat. Alas!

ETA: Ok, is this a possibility? (In the camel) I notice it's not really wool. And that it has shoulder pads (loathe!) I notice that this is only available online, erm. And it has polyester. And it has those sideways bars around the waist that make me worried. And I don't know if "polyester lining" is the same as "thinsulate lining," but I am guessing it is not. And then this seems so cute and yet totally nothing like what I need. Sigh. The perils of shopping.

Edited to add again: Where did it get the name "car coat"? And is that a standardized length? Cars come in all different lengths.


squadratomagico said...

Random thoughts:
(a) Black wool goes with everything, but it also shows lint like crazy. On the plus side, though, it won't highlight fur from your kitties.
(b) Double breasted usually feels more snuggly than single-breasted -- that extra wrap-around layer really helps keep the wind out.
(c) I quite like the big collar on the red coat you link -- you could wrap a scarf under and around that and really keep your neck cozy.

Unknown said...

Dear Cog,

I lived for several years in NY, after moving from a warmer climate, and I learned the hard way that only a serious coat will keep you warm. The wool coats look good, but will let cold air in in too many places, and are often not well insulated, requiring you to layer a lot, which improves things but will never be as warm as down.

Lands End has a couple of attractive, affordable, well-made, professionally appropriate down coats that don't bunch around the middle or make you look like a sausage.

I'm thinking of the long commuter:

And the Chevron with removable hood:

They also have some wool options there, but note the temperature rating. Even those that are 10-30 degrees, are really more comfortable for 30+. I feel I need down for anything below 30 degrees.

Also, the nice thing about a long down coat is that you can just throw it on top of whatever your outfit is without bothering with layers and scarves and just go.

Anonymous said...

A camel-colored coat is classic, matches everything, and won't show lint/hair like a black or navy coat will. I've rocked the camel-colored peacoat for about 6 years now, and love it. I also have a vintage navy peacoat that my aunt gave me when I was 12 (and it still fits!) that I occasionally wear with things other than black pants.

Also, Thinsulate is a brand name for a type of lining (made by 3M). There are some nice Thinsulate gloves that are thin enough to let you function but are super-duper warm. Polyester is definitely not the same thing.

Anonymous said...

Camel is classic, and it does match everything, but depending on where you live and the winter maintenance conditions, they can get filthy. I would never do a camel or other light-colored coat where I am because a) my campus and the world in general becomes a pit of mud through much of the winter/spring, when it's not icy and is a crazy salt-world, and b) because even if you're just going from house to car to car to school, you will need to do things, on occasion, like clear off your car, tromping around it scraping ice off the windows, or, in some cases, shoveling the car out. You may have ideas that you will not do this in your teacher clothes or in your coat that you wear with those clothes, but unless you are a very different person from me, you are not going to get up 30 mins. early in order to make that happen from home, and you're not going to have some sort of emergency gear stashed just in case of some freak storm that happens while you're on campus.

Regarding your worries about bulk... you do realize that in places where there is winter that everybody looks bulky when it's cold and wintry outside? I mean, I understand your concern, but when the wind chill is below zero you are not going to care about that at all. So, with that being the case, I typically buy coats about a size up so that I can comfortably wear a heavy sweater or sweatshirt beneath them and feel like I can move freely.

Carin said...

I know everybody's pushing wool, but for me, the problems with wool are a) on days when it varies from very cold to not-so-cold, the wool becomes too hot too quickly, and b) when you need to carry your coat around (inside malls, inside museums, etc.), wool is too heavy to schlep. I much prefer down, since it weighs almost nothing. I second the rec of Land's End, and last year I also got a great Eddie Bauer down jacket in a lovely eggplant color - sober but not boring. It's streamlined, not puffy. EB's having a huge outerwear sale right now and they have this coat in the same line as the jacket I got last year: Words cannot express how fabulously soft and lightweight these coats are. Plus: machine washable! And when it's wet out, you won't end up smelling like a wet sheep :-)

Feminist Avatar said...

Perhaps it is different in the US, but I would also have thought that once the temperature gets low enough, nobody is going to be wearing that smart a coat to work. It's going to be big, warm and likely ugly, often brightly coloured, because you won't be wearing it indoors in your prefessional environment for more than a few minutes and warmth is more important. As the owner of several wool coats, they are great until it gets to near freezing and then you really need to start layering up. I also think they should be bought in person, because wool coats can be quite thin or really thick and heavy, and you can't always tell that from a picture.

I would also say if you are buying a big jacket that covers most of your body for cold days, then it doesn't need to match your clothes. When you are wearing it, it will cover your clothes and nobody will know it doesn't match, especially if you accessorise with a matching scarf and hat. And, when you are indoors, you can take it off and be perfect in whatever outfit you are wearing. Given that the red jacket would be smart, but probably hide most of your outfit, you'd likely be fine.

As I understand things, a car coat is a coat suitable for wearing in the car. So, not too long or heavy.

Earnest English said...

Let me second, third or whatever the concern that while a camel coat is nice looking, it will show every bit of dirt - and if you're talking about a place where it snows, then you're talking salt and mud which both equal dirt.

In answer to the layering thing, yes, you do have to think about whether your coat is going to be comfortable over your sweaters. But I also recommend that your layers are not bulky anyway, from your thermals outward. That's why I really love zip-up knittish sweaters -- they are super warm, but also close to the body no matter how thick they are.

You can see from the comments here that different people do different things about the cold. Some love parkas and things like that. Some don't. I'm a wool coat girl, because I'm just not a sporty look type. Yes, wool is heavy and a pain to schlep. You probably need to think about how cold it's realistically going to get and what you think you need for that. But seriously, I wouldn't think too much about prettiness -- and I've found that Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, and Gap may have pretty stuff, but they're not that warm. I'd highly recommend shopping in person for this.

All this coat stuff aside, I managed last winter without my big winter coats (with just an ordinary coat -- still wool, because that's who I am) because I've learned how to layer so well. (Thermals, long sleeve shirt, sweater over that, maybe another sweater, then coat.) But wind chill makes a huge difference. I don't know where you are (!) so I can't say.

Bardiac said...

I've never figured out the coat thing for really cold weather, especially figuring out how to get it comfortable over the four other layers.

I worship my long johns, however. But they're not helpful when buildings are kept too warm because they make even me too hot.

Dr. Virago said...

Man, what's all the bashing of wool? I have a gorgeous wool/cashmere blend coat from Calvin Klein that worked perfectly (with a warm scarf and gloves, of course) at the NY and Chicago MLAs with the wind whipping up the concrete canyons.

And I have another wool coat, with a thinsulate lining, from Banana Republic that's has been my perfect car-to-work coat here in the upper midwest. Its incredible warmth is also aided by a zipper-plus-toggle closure and a detachable rabbit fur collar. (So, Earnest English, not all Gap corporation coats are pretty without function. Some, at least in the past, have been high-quality, too. The trick is to read the labels, look at the construction, etc.)

Plus, where Cog lives, it's not quite as cold. (January averages are 25 low, 44 high according to The Weather Channel.) And these days there are lots of thinner/lighter but still warm wools. Something like the Ann Taylor wool/cashmere coat (but maybe in black or gray instead of camel) with a scarf and gloves might work.

*But* I second the advice to do this in person, if you can, or go with online stores with free shipping and free returns (don't forget that Zappos has clothes) if you do it online. It's hard to tell what the *quality* is like online.

Do avoid the wool coats blended with poly, acrylic, or anything synthetic. That *does* make them less warm.

As for color, though I don't like the fiber content of the red coat, that's actually a *great* neutral, believe or not. Think about it -- it looks good with black or brown or olives or navy, etc. And in the winter, a little color is really nice. Of course, you're talking to a woman whose BR coat with the rabbit fur collar is bright *orange*!

Oh, and those poly linings you're reading about are just regular linings, like in lined pants.

I still recommend J. Crew -- a lot of their coats come in thinsulate-lined versions and are all wool or wool/cashmere, and are about the same price as the Ann Taylor ones. In the past, their quality has been very good, and they often have fun colors.

Dr. Virago said...

Oh, by the way, if you go the down route, do you know for sure that you're not allergic (have you slept with down, for example, or gone skiing in a down parka)? I ask because you're from warmer climes and might not have had much down in your life. Anyway, there are synthetic down substitutes (along the thinsulate technology spectrum) that would work if you decided that's what you want.

Dr. Virago said...

And if your winters are rainy (I didn't look that up), an Eddie Bauer number like this might work:
It's sleek and polished, but rugged, too! (Hm, sounds like I just wrote a personal ad for the darn thing!) And I like the dark purple -- another goes-with-all color that's not black.

Dr. Virago said...

One last comment and then I'll shut up -- and maybe go buy *myself* a new coat! :)

I just want to clarify my issue with polyester and other synthetics. They're OK, even good, when they're in a basic lining or a technical fabric like thinsulate or microfleece or whatever (in fact, those technical fabrics are *all* synthetic). I just don't like them *blended* with my wool because in my experience, at least, that makes the coat less effectively warm.

Earnest English said...

Dr. V and Sis: I do have a Banana Republic coat (wool!) that I love and which is probably good enough for the temp ranges Dr. V says Sis is in. But I used to walk to school in a place which was very windy and much colder, so I guess that's my bias against Gap Corp for the truly warm stuff. Also, I know that my blood was thinner that first cold winter.

Dr. Virago said...

Yeah, and I just looked at their current offerings at BR, and they're all blended with synthetics. Boo, BR!

Btw, Sis, sorry I referred to you about as Cog. Silly me. :)

Dr. Rural said...

Geez, I don't even need a new coat, and now you all have me looking online and really wanting one. I think I'm going for one of those Eddie Bauer down parkas. In red.

Susan said...

What a great discussion. I've had both down coats and wool coats as primary coats, in the northeast, where I think it's colder than where Sis is living. And now many of the down coats are not as puffy as they used to be.

I have not found it necessary to go up a size: even buying online, they will tell you, but most coats are sized to accommodate sweaters and/or jackets.

Something that might also work in your climate is a good raincoat type coat with a zip out lining. Then it is really flexible.

My current really winter coat is gray, which I like.

Horace said...

Really, where you are now, I would say you could do a pea coat and a sweater and you'll be fine 98% of the time. The only time that my (BR) pea coat doesn't suffice for warmth are days when I'm going to be spending lots of time out of doors. For home-to-campus travel, I can't imagine you'll need much more. I have warmer coats, but a) is ugly so I only wear them to shovel snow or b) is quite dressy, and wool camel. Everything else is comparable to a pea coat.

the rebel lettriste said...

Native Chicagoan here, with four years in rural Iowa and a decade in NYC. I know me some winter.

GET A DOWN COAT if you are at all worried about being cold. Searle, out of NYC, makes the fanciest and warmest ones that will actually make you look stylish. (Get one on sale, if at all possible.)

Peacoats with a sweater underneath work, but they'll make you sweat and also make your hair look horrible after you take off the sweater.

My current coat is a Searle, down, black, puffy, I love it. It replaced an Anne Klein down coat, long, brown, very warm, that I about wore into the ground.

Also, invest in silk long underwear. It's a minimal layer and really works at keeping you warm.

kfluff said...

hooboy, am I late to this party! As a fellow warm-climate critter who is now in the snowy north, let me testify. I have a coat closet full of mistakes. From what I gather, you're not in freeze country, so I think you skip the thinsulate and down (I find them heavy and bulky, respectively, and that's actually more uncomfortable to me than the threat of cold.)

The coats I wear until they wear out:
1) a knee length wool topper (with the typical winter layers beneath: thin t-shirt, sweater, scarf, gloves, maybe a hat). In TEAL. Because I need the pick me up. And since the only thing that shows are my pants/skirts/tights and scarf, it matches basically everything.
2) a wool/cashmere peacoat, hip-length. comfy, good for school and running errands. Casual but also dressy enough in a pinch.

In any other circumstance (with the exception of rain), I vastly prefer sweaters, fleece, etc. I think growing up in the sun-drenched wilds conditioned me to prefer the unencumbered movement of sweaters and light jackets.

Go light, go bright, and layer, girl!

Anonymous said...

I'm late to the party, too, even though you've said you're coming to a decision (in the next post right? It's early). I've lived near where you are and had an actual Navy peacoat, not a store version, and it was fine with a hat, sweater, gloves, and scarf. As Kluff said, hip length is comfy. I like the look of longer coats, but I get tangled up in them.

However, where I currently am, our college does not seem to be able to regulate heat very well--that is, in the winter, the classrooms are blazing hot. Same with my apartment. And because I'm a brand whore sometimes, I like North Face. I like to have a warmer coat that I can wear something light under like a long sleeve t-shirt and a cardigan (all cotton and lightweight) and then warm up with the jacket. Eddie Bauer has some nice ones, too. As does Columbia right now. Warm, not bulky at all. And you know what, what size do you wear? Seriously. I have like 15 winter coats. I could probably send you one if you're interested. Email me.