The past few weeks, my column has been about exciting things for autumn. Boots, punk styles, skirts, lipstick, magazines; obviously, there is a lot that I love about fall. However, those who have seen my closet know that nothing else comes close to my extensive coat collection (not even my shoe collection – yet). Over the years, I’ve collected more coats and jackets than I’d like to admit, and in every style. Wouldn’t it be insane if someone had so many coats that they had organized them by subcategories and colour? Yes, it is insane, and it is reality in my closet. Thankfully, fall is almost here and we can all tote some coats.
In the early 1800s, people wore topcoats and under-coats. Originally, jackets were shorter under-coats which added extra warmth and fashion, but were eventually just worn as an overcoat. As under-coats faded into obscurity in the next century, the term “coat” became an umbrella term for most outerwear. However, it’s in the most recent century that important strides have been made in modern coat fashions.
Burberry’s founder, Thomas Burberry, opened the first Burberry shop in 1856, finding initial success as an outdoor-attire store. Over the next thirty years, Burberry perfected a new fabric called gabardine. Gabardine proved popular for its comfort, durability and water-resistance, and Burberry used this fabric to design military coats for one of his first major customers: the British Military. When officer’s returned from the trenches, they continued to wear their Burberry “trench” coats, and Burberry added straps and buckles to his design (and later, the Burberry check to the lining), creating the modern trench coat. The trench coat is smart and classic, never going out of style. Even in the late 1970s, when punk culture embraced trench coats, its mainstream popularity never faltered. Ever since, Burberry has dominated trench coats, while staying true to their original design. In the late nineties, Burberry released another, different 1930s-inspired style, beginning a whole new wave of Burberry copies.
Arguably, the most notable jacket design in women’s fashion is Coco Chanel. Chanel’s fashion legacy is composed of opposites: classic and modern, dressed up and dressed down, masculine and feminine, simplicity and extravagance – and her famous, classic jacket is a perfect example of this. Chanel successfully molded the practicality and simplicity of a men’s jacket with femininity and modern lines, and found great success. In the early 1950s, women’s fashion was complex and extravagant, having not yet progressed beyond the lush elegance from the first half of the century. Chanel’s progressive vision of functional, masculine, refined style was her inspiration for her jacket, and she tactfully chose tweed. Tweed had been used as a menswear fabric in Europe, particularly Scotland, and its warmth and durability set Chanel’s designs apart from the lavish fashions of the day. Karl Lagerfeld finds inspiration from Chanel’s classic tweed jacket designs, and they remain a symbol of the fashion house and its collections to this day.
Of course, there are many original and trailblazing coats from fashion history that I’ve left out (such as Balenciaga’s square coat and the jackets from Christian Dior’s “new look”), all of which have contributed to today’s styles. Unfortunately, there are too many to mention. This season’s styles borrow from countless looks and designers, which may explain why there seem to be more coat trends this fall than ever. This season’s coats take elements from other fall trends by incorporating menswear fabrics, leather accents, and bold colours. However, fall’s coats also have their own looks and trends, almost independent from the rest of fashion.
Many runways showcased minimalist jackets. These looks were clean, sleek, effortless and sophisticated, often worn with other fall trends. This style can be dressed down for a weekend stroll, or worn with a skirt and pumps for the office. Their practicality, simplicity and timelessness make minimalist coats the style to splurge on this fall. Fur has been crawling all over the fall runways, as well. Whether you prefer faux or real, fur’s luxurious softness look can be dressed to look playful or proper. To prevent your fur look from looking like you’re a child playing dress-up, steer clear of gowns or long skirts. Maintain your look with relaxed, unexpected pieces, like ripped jeans or moto-boots.
If you’re looking to shop adventurously this fall, an oversized coat may be a good option. Fashionally rebellious while keeping you cozy and comfy, oversized coats will add a manly twist to your sleek looks. Balance oversized coats with slender, feminine lines, like skinny jeans and small gloves. If you’re looking for the opposite effect and want to showcase your more ladylike side, a classically feminine coat is more your style. These coats will complete a dainty, polished look, and were often sported with belts on the fall runways. To keep your look fluid, rock these coats with equally feminine styles underneath.
Camel coloured coats of all kinds, and many trenches with modern twists, will be a staple this fall. These coats easily trend from day to night, and you’re guaranteed that they’ll never go out of style. If you’re going for more of an edge, a moto-jacket or a military coat are perfect and on-trend. Both are edgy and make any outfit bolder. Moto-jackets are sexy and tough, and effortlessly punch up any outfit. Military jackets are more tailored, strong and authoritative, and are best when paired with other masculine looks, such as a wide-leg pant or jeans and a sweater.
I must give an honourable mention to capes. They’re everywhere this fall, and range from classic to edgy. Ever since Gwyneth Paltrow rocked the Tom Ford white cape to the Oscars last year, I knew they’d make a comeback – and for good reason! Cape it up this fall and you’ll look refined and original. Just make sure to keep that look fluid with the rest of your pieces.
Shop the styles mentioned and stock up for fall:
What other influential designs did I leave out? What are your favourite coats this season? Do I own too many, or not enough?
This piece was written by Rebecca MacDonald, Fashion Columnist at Rhetoric Magazine. Come back for more every Thursday!