Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Baby, it's cold outside

Not the sort of thing, apparently...

Hey there ms Charlotte,
I have a problem from Australia land that maybe you could help me with. Down here summer will be over in a few weeks so I have decided to look for a new winter wool coat. Problem is most of them look AWFUL on me. I’m 5’3”, size 16, top heavy. I have pale skin, grey/blue eyes and dark hair at the moment. Most coats that fit me around the waist and hip strain around the bust. Coats that fit around the bust make me look like I’m wearing a large woolen sack, as well as most sleeves stopping somewhere around my thumbs cos of my short arms. I’m not keen on trench coats and sadly even though I think duffel coats look adorable they generally look shit on me. Any suggestions?

Hmm - I've had this mission on the back burner for a while, but I'm really struggling for two reasons. Firstly, I know absolutely nothing about Australian retailers. I've tried to research, but I'm just not 'there' with my knowledge. Secondly, over in the UK / US, retailers are already well into Spring/Summer - but I will never admit defeat. What I'm going to do is find some pictures of coats that have the flattering qualities our girl is looking for.

Coat number one (Paul Smith - £293) has a decidedly retro feel, fusing swing stylings with a modish crombie-style lapel. The shorter length and bracelet sleeves mean that there's flexibility over the length of both: shorter sleeves may sit anywhere along the lower arm to within about three inches of the wrist whereas full length sleeves really ought to hit the wrist dead on. It's generally a good idea for shorter people to wear shorter coats/dresses too. Although a clean vertical line may be elongating, a heavy garment can look like you're being dragged down to the floor, or overwhelmed. Double breasted garments will make anyone look wide and chunky, so this clean single breasted collar is great, and the deep V is flattering. It's also the case that it fastens below the bust line. Girls with big boobs should look out for this - you may well be able to get away with a closer fit than you would do if the button was higher up; essentially, your boobs fit into the gap. The overall A line shape of this coat, though, may run the risk of looking bulky.

This apple green coat is by Nanette Lapore and costs an eye-watering £405. I'm really not suggesting anyone spend that kind of money on a coat, but I am looking for pictures of things that I reckon will be influencing high street designers - this coat features a big bow at the back, and already that's something I've seen on several coats at topshop. It would work because it's a thinner fabric, which means that the waist can be cinched in a little without looking bulky. The full 'skirt' will balance out the big boobs, and again it's single breasted. My other reason for liking it was colour. I know I've said that green is difficult - and it is - but the combination of pale skin and pale eyes can (but not always) make dark colours hard to wear. The problem with colour, is that coloured coats tend to be thinner fabrics. But then, thinner fabrics are slimming... You can always rock some super stylish scarves, gloves and hats over the winter.

A cheaper option, but continuing a similar profile is this mac from Topshop (£75). There were a lot of belted coats this winter, but unless you have a very boyish figure with little defined waist, stay away from belts on thick coats. It looks bulky and chunky. On a mac, though, it's fine. Here we have the fuller skirt for balance, the lighter colour, a belt to cinch and the all-important single breasted styling. That top button is going to be on the bust line, though - and that means you'll have to make sure the fit at the top is bang on, at the expense of a closer fit elsewhere.

My last suggestion is not to choose a style which accommodates your figure, but find a coat that fits. UK readers who are top heavy can buy from Bravissimo - the bra specialists. Their coats are cut to fit over the boobs but without excess bulk at the waist. Which is why both the coats above can get away with having belts. The first is in the sale, in very limited sizes, at £49 - reduced from £112.50. Notice the single breasted styling. The second - jacket length but wool/nylon/cashmere mix for warmth - is £77.50. Bravissimo do mail order to Australia, but don't publicise the shipping costs. The alternative would be having something made or altered to fit. Perhaps a coat is something one doesn't buy that often, and so is worth getting right.

So - to recap:

Flattering (for our girl):
  • Single breasted
  • Lighter colours
  • Deep V necklines
  • Belts on lightweight fabrics (cold weather notwithstanding)
  • Full skirts
  • Shorter lengths
  • Bracelet-length sleeves
  • Made to measure

Unflattering (for our girl):
  • Double breasted (Including military styling)
  • Dark colours (probably)
  • High necks
  • Straining buttons
  • Belts on thick fabrics (if non-specialist fit)
  • No fitting below the boobs
  • Long lengths
  • Full-length sleeves (unless altered to fit)
Good luck - let me know what you find.

1 comment:

  1. Sadly, there is not a lot out there as far as clothing goes, let alone winter coats, for size 16+ the Australian woman - no wonder you couldn't find out much about our retailers!

    In fact, many of us resort to US and UK retailers. Which has been a little difficult of late, given the state of our measly dollar.

    BTW, hi! I really enjoy your blog!


Thanks for commenting - always nice to know I'm not talking to myself...