Style Stories

How to keep the coat interesting when its part of your everyday outfit

One easy tip
by Leandra Medine Cohen
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When it gets really cold, your coat becomes part of the outfit. There is a stretch of 3 months (if you live on the east coast or in any such town where the weather drops below freezing point), where what you wear under the coat doesn’t really matter, except in the instance when you wonder if you’ll be able to bend your arms in the sweater you plan to wear under the coat.

It’s pretty bleak on the one hand, but on the other, the pressure is off the undergarments, which can be a good thing if you’re looking for a break (and I maintain this is the best sweater for warmth, mobility, and style if you just want to not think about it/also feel good) but pretty annoying if you’re invested in the sport of self-expression.

So, how do you maintain some sense of personal style when your coat is part of the outfit?

The guideline is not so different from the one I employ when it’s really hot: accessorize, accessorize, eksessohryze.

This season, I have become pretty consumed by the 3 b’s, which work best with a collarless coat as your backdrop:

Carlota Cahis hat — looks like it is sold out, but if you fold this one (better for dark hair) or this one (better for light hair) over, pretty sure it looks the same, and there are great bows here on Etsy

Braid, beanie, bow — then add sunglasses and earrings accordingly

Khaite beanie (on sale! But I like this one from Cos too), some similar sunglasses, and not exactly the same as far as earrings, but I like these from Etsy for $32. Or these would be so nice with a blue hat too

I’ll break it down, but first, here are a few more recipes if you desire something else.

If you’re wearing a collared coat that buttons up to the neck, try a knit helmet.

It’s a more feminine alternative to the beanie, without being so overwhelming (due to the chin strap) that it registers the way a balaclava would. A dark-colored one looks better with lighter hair because the contrast is starker but this mossy green is a good compliment to a black, grey or beige coat, and should suit dark hair pretty nicely.

Now if it’s a coat with lapels, I suggest a hood:

&Daughters hood (also just encountered this sweater of a perfect sleeve-length from the brand) and to be honest, I don’t love a coat with lapels, but actually really do like this short blazer coat — it has huge shoulders which gives it a sort of linebacker in Saint Laurent vibe (one thing I’ll say though is that it is not warm enough to carry you through the very cold)

Similar to the helmet, but with a much more pronounced neck covering. It’s not the same as a balaclava because your chin is exposed but if you are still skiing that slope pun intended, a balaclava does totally work here too.

The primary reason I prefer collarless or collared but buttoned-to-the-top coats is that they offer more versatile accessorizing opportunities — you can’t see the clothes that are under, and that makes them a better canvas for third-layer-joojing.

This coat is back in stock in a new colorway and also, Uniqlo dropped a Marni collab on Saturday morning — this is a great good too.

As far as scarves, my preference is: not bulky. A silk number or cotton bandana you can fold into a turtleneck/tuck into a sweater, or a knit permutation of the same thing (unless you’re wearing a hood/balaclava/turtleneck, in which case you don’t really need a scarf). Reason being, the scarf can be part of your outfit if you want, it takes up very little space in your closet, and the contrast of something silk paired with a thick wool or shearling coat is interesting enough to drill a new notch into your belt of self-expression.

The Cahis beanie again, with Delarge sunglasses, an Hermes scarf (I like this one from the Uniqlo/Marni collab too) and earrings from Leandra Studio (no relation!)

Same same, but diff, with a bandana by Aeyde

Recently I have also been into short wooly scarfs, like the one below. They are a good foil for collarless coats too.

Skall Studios scarf — and there is something here too about the combo of the kooky sunglasses and elegant earrings

And work with whatever hat you have. For what it’s worth, by the way, you don’t have to get a tiny knit scarf if that doesn’t fit in with your lifestyle. But if you have a silk one and like the idea of a short scarf, you can also fold it the square way instead of the triangular way to create this effect:

Alternatively, you can wear that scarf as your hat.

Which accomplishes a hood effect in more delicate balance.

You know what I think the whole thing of getting these pairings right is? Thinking of the accessories as your seasoning. It’s like, the outfit is the vegetable and what you wear over is the party trick that is infused olive oil and a medley of herbs.

Wish I had a better picture for this metaphor, but these brussel sprouts are a beauty

You want to create an interesting combo with what you wear for a hat and a scarf, matching them to each other in both conventional and unconventional ways because it’s a low-stakes risk that you can take on the overall canvas of your winter look.

A beanie from The Row (here is one that seems like it will get the exact right job done for $57) with Sophie Bille Brahe earrings (I do love these too); I love the contrast of feminine earrings with a boyish beanie and barely-there scarf — here are elegant ones at a different price point if you are looking to achieve a similar look

Now that I’ve run through this exercise, it turns out that for as much as I like the 3’s, the magic trio is actually: lightweight scarf, beanie and fancy earrings. I suspect you already have these ingredients at home, which is the ideal, but if you’re intrigued and want to survey the offering on tap online, here’s a range to mix and match:

From left: Toteme, Isabel Marant (I couldn’t fit this one, but it's heaven too), Alex Mill (gives a real run to the $ of this Row fellow), Gimaguas, Carlota Cahis, Cos

From left: Mejuri, Lizzie Fortunato, Dorsey, Lizzie F, Mejuri again, Rozanne Assoulin and the ~splurge~: Arielle Ratner

After she had lived in New York for about 5 years, an old friend from the west coast once said to me that in this town, your coat is like your car. I agreed with her then as I do now but more and more I’m thinking that such a statement puts a lot of pressure (that’s been redistributed from your outfit) on your coat to be a main event. One you have to be sure you won’t tire of. These suggestions seem like a reasonable (and achievable) way to take some of that weight off while spicing it up without actually feeling the need to get a new one. (Coat, that is.)

If this is where I leave you, happy seasoning!