Style Stories

The best spring coat is a shell parka

by Leandra Medine Cohen
If you buy something, I might earn a commission.

Hooded for weather convenience, neutral in color, soft in material — and lightweight too (good if you want to wear something over). But oversize enough to layer as many sweaters under as you’ll need — though a counter jacket (a fancy one!) works well too. Drawstrings to adjust the waist line and create a peplum effect and two large front pockets that rest right over the front of your hips when the jacket is closed, adding an almost Miu Miu mini skirt vibe to the piece, or rest softly over the sides of your hips, as you are in fact wearing a peplum. $395

A trench coat is the most common answer to the question of what kind of jacket one should wear through the spring, but a cotton anorak (known otherwise as “a shell parka”) that is trench-y in material (cotton twill, often water resistant), a bit more informal in silhouette (soft shoulders, oversize arms), and most practically, hooded, might actually be the ideal thing to put over your outfit this time of year.

I had the idea a few weeks ago when I realized that this one Skall Studios parka that I got last year has become the best over-outfit solution for the season. It’s not available anymore, but there are alternatives (including an updated version from the Danish brand) at the end of this post.

Reasons I think it works: it’s casual in nature, and that sets up a nice contrast for a number of dressing experiences. Let’s examine through photographic demonstration:

It adds a bit of playfulness to work clothes.

Wearing the parka with a Ven-store sweater, Emi Mess pants, socks from Ines and sandals from The Row, which you might recall as a dead ringer for these.

Socks can do that too (add playfulness). Here’s the jacket styled with a plain black t-shirt, black trousers (Max Mara’s ‘Nepeta',’ which are seamless [as in, no zip fly]; here’s a better-priced option from ‘S Max Mara with seams. The former looks better with a gratuitous belt; but both are great). The derbies are from The Row, here’s a good pair of red socks, and the bag is Metier. (This is a better-priced option)

One more for the seats in the back! Featuring an ivory jacket (I like this one from Akris), Emi Mess pants, Grenson fisherman shoes and a bag from this great South Korean brand called Vartist

And sense of humor to something more serious — like you in a suit and tie for example.

This look was inspired by Amy Lefevre! The suit is Bobkova, shirt is Soeur, tie is Kallmeyer and the shoes are Dior; these look pretty good too

Not no with an embellished jacket

Will anchor a look constructed for the purpose of delight and surprise.

Hello, welcome to my sequins! Siedres top, New Arrivals skirt, Chanel ankle strap flats (a good Poshmark find!)

Consigned Michael Kors midi dress, hemmed to become very mini, Paco Rabanne pants from a collab with MyTheresa some years ago and literal house slippers from Europe that my grandma gave me because they don’t fit her. “Moving to America made my foot size grow 2x,” she says.

Tips off the vague reminiscence of an English countryside energy with boots.

I think part of what makes it work so well is the length of the jacket and where it hits — about mid-thigh, which compliments the oversize pockets that rest over the front of your hips when closed. Rest of the look includes an Attersee shirt, Sable World belt, Re/done shorts, Toteme boots and a red bandana

Is easy, even obvious with jeans — but less expected than a classic trench. (If, however, you’re looking for one, this, not classic, but car-style is my best bet of the season.)

I cinch the jacket at the waist to give it a little peplum effect. Rest of the look includes a Wardrobe denim shirt, Khaite jeans (the ‘Kyle’) and sandals by The Row. Good with micro kitten heels too

Compliments heels well by holding its own as the garment that makes you look a bit more laid back.

More Khaite jeans, and shoes too (these, from The Row, are on great sale). Plus a sweater from Rosie Assoulin’s other brand, By Any Other Name.

But to this point, swiftly tops a comfortable weekend outfit.

Splendid black cotton turtleneck, La Perla pants, By Malene Birger phone bag

Is roomy enough to layer a jacket under it.

My Dear Tejas jacket (love this or this as a comp), Soeur jeans, The Row sandals

Is actually, honestly, good with any number of collarless or high-collar jackets under — the shape of it is large (and soft) enough to top something rigid.

If you’re feeling creative, you might also try styling a sweater over.

Probably would not actually wear like this, but it does seem very OF THE MOMENT. Skall jacket styled with a cropped v-neck sweater and another anorak over it. Here’s a good pair of affordable white pumps if you’re in the market. Lower heel!

Or a couple of belts!

The jacket also meshes very well, I realize in retrospect, with an underlying turtleneck. It’s a good compliment for it. The belts here are Khaite, the socks are from Ines, the slingbacks are Louboutin; the shape on these is actually pretty similar. So many ways to do this with belts you probably already own, and I think the weirder the better!

Though a poncho, or maybe a dickie, or simply a silk scarf works too.

Sleeper poncho, Polo pajama pants, Rene Caovilla shoes; a good alt could be a pair of metallic flip flops, like these from Tkees

Will also absolutely make a garment that has become synonymous with the holiday season feel less like A HOLIDAY LOOK.

Nafsika Skourti dress, Tod’s loafers from The Real Real. I think these these these are them!

And you know what, actually? I think it is generally a good foil to a feminine concept. Figure a tea dress

Can you believe how much time I spend getting dressed, then changing, then getting dressed again for a selfie time? This Prada dress is from Re-see

Tea set

Delicate skirt

Skall Studios tank top, Christopher Kane skirt, Aeyde mary janes

Something satin and shifty!

Cool small brand called Tsyrk makes this guy. The shoes are Doen (I sized down for these 1x). Here is an eclectic strand of pearls.

With the exception of that last one, I also think this has become about how good white socks and black loafers look with a spring outfit…

Raey turtleneck, Doen shorts, and if you’re looking for a good pair of white socks, I recommend these. They’re not too fine, but also not so stiff that they look too much like sport socks.

But back to the jacket: You can monochrome.

What a curious stance! How many layers of khaki can you conceive to try this too? A pair of gold sandals would be nice also, but I might pare back the jewelry (eliminate one gold chain) in that instance.

Or color block.

It’s like if you misread the invite and thought you were going on a real safari but actually ended up in midtown Manhattan — the (corporate) concrete jungle. &Daughter sweater, LMND shirt, Doen shorts, Soeur sandals

And when it gets warm enough? Heaven on a summer outfit.

Silvia Astore romper, Romualda hat, K. Jacques sandals

In the end though, I have to say, the best way to a shell parka is like it is what it is: a shell parka.

So good at protecting suede. Styled here with a fringe jacket, white jeans and embellished satin sandals. Any pair of black satin/fabric flat sandals should do — my preference is a silhouette like that one, and these are beautiful (and on super sale) too

Here are alternative options, categorized by price range, including the updated version from Skall.
Gathered Shell Parka
$1,295 USD

$$$. Wardrobe.NYC’s gathered shell parka in green.
Utility Parka
$1,495 USD

$$$. Or white.

Painter Cotton Parka
$1,250 USD

$$$. Patou’s painter parka in khaki.

Nili Lotan
Timothee Cropped Parka Jacket
$850 USD

$$$. Nili Lotan’s cropped ‘Timothee’.

Skall Studio
Franky Parka Jacket
$642 USD

$$. Skall Studio’s Franky parka in “coffee”.

Tory Burch
Oversized Parka
$349 USD

$$. Tory Burch’s oversize parka in green.

Relaxed-fit Rain Shell
$298 USD

$$. Lululemon’s in “bold beige”.

Fishtail Parka
$155 USD

$. Rains’ fishtail parka in sand.

The Canvas Organic Cotton Parka
$160 USD

$. Everlane’s canvas organic cotton parka in bone.

The Canvas Organic Cotton Anorak
$104 USD

$. And though it will not cinch, the closest bet (save for the Skall pick) is Everlane’s canvas organic cotton anorak, on sale for $104.

That’s it from me this week. Tbd on whether I’ll be here next week: kids off from school for a whopping 13 days in the spirit of Passover (which starts tomorrow) and it’s unclear whether I’ll have a ton of down time or none at all. Either way, hope you’re good!

I’m signing off yours,