Is it just me or is a decent, yet interesting coat getting harder and harder to find with every passing winter? Chances are that unless you’re perfectly happy sporting 1) a dull, knee-length, black wool coat 2) a puffy parka or 3) that rather adorable, nicely tailored coat from Banana Republic that everyone else seems to own, then you’d rather wear the same coat you’ve had for the past three years, cross your fingers, and hope for a better selection next season.
Fear not, my near-desperate friend, for I will take you by the hand and introduce you to a world where you can have your coat, and love it too; a world where you can wear a fur collar without the guilt because â€” let’s face it â€” it would’ve been dead by now anyway. Yes, I’m referring to the world of vintage, and with the sudden resurgence of vintage-inspired, well, everything, it’s easier than ever to pull off a vintage coat without looking like you’ve stepped off the set of an old Audrey Hepburn movie, though that wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.
I’ve explored the Internet far and wide, endured the endless stream of eBay links that surfaced with every Google search, and persevered in the face of tacky personal websites, bad photography, and ridiculous DIY modeling to bring you a tasteful sample of vintage winter apparel.
A few things to keep in mind when shopping for a vintage coat: condition, length, overall form, and function.
Condition: If you’re handy with a needle and thread, buying a vintage coat that needs a little TLC is a great idea. Usually, these damaged coats are offered for a discounted price and really require little of the ownerâ€”you’ll most likely need to fix a torn pocket seam or lining. A coat with missing buttons provides a great opportunity to bring out your inner-designer by sewing on hand-picked buttons. However, certain blemishes, like moth holes (which are nearly impossible to fix) should not be viewed as creative opportunities.
Length: The decision of purchasing a long or short coat often depends on your height and little else. However, if you absolutely fall in love with an ankle-length coat that would look better just below the knee, consider having it tailored. Most tailors will do this for around $40, and it’s well-worth the investment, as you’ll have a custom coat!
Form: When buying any coatâ€”vintage or newâ€”approach it as you would approach shopping for a dress. Recognize and allow the coat to accentuate your body’s strengths. If your body is boy-cut, an A-lined coat, like the 1970’s tapestry coat featured here, is incredibly flattering and magically adds some much needed shape. If you’re curvy, go for a coat with more structure on top, smaller buttons, and a tight pattern, like Givenchy’s wool tweed coat. And if you absolutely have no clue, Christian Dior’s 1958 black wool coat has a dramatic neckline that would flatter anyone.
Function: Will this coat be an everyday coat? Will you wear it to work? On weekends? Or only on special occasions? Ask yourself these questions before beginning your search. You may be in love with the Dior coat, but need something more everyday. If that’s the case, the 1970’s suede and leather coat might be a better choice. It’s stylish, yet urban and casual. If you prefer patterns, decide whether you’re bold enough to wear ornate and colorful fabrics, or if you should stick to tweed or houndstooth.
If you’re lucky enough to be content with you current coat, but wish to add a bit of warm vintage flair, a faux fur muff is the way to go. Stylish and functional, it serves as both a hand warmer and a purse with a secret zipper to hold your makeup, money, or phone.
Perhaps the most important thing I can stress here is not to rely on your favorite department store to supply you with your favorite coat. Mass production is a wonderful thing and has made shopping incredibly easy, but an item of apparel that will inevitably represent your personal style for the next three months should be nothing short of tasteful, flattering, and above all, unique. Take the time to go online, to your favorite thrift store, or your neighborhood vintage store and start your search. Your perfect coat is out there waiting for you and when you find it, you’ll finally join the ranks of those feeling warm and looking hot during the cold winter months.
1. 1970’s Vintage Tapestry Coat & Matching Skirt $299
2. 1950’s Givenchy Wool Tweed Coat $950
3. 1958 Christian Dior Black Wool Coat $2,500
4. 1970’s Suede and Leather Coat $115
5. 1960’s Houndstooth Coat $129.95
6. 1950’s Vintage Faux Fur Muff $24.99
7. 1950’s Faux Sable Fur Muff $70