In Defense of the Bold Winter Coat


Writer Irina Aleksander muses on its merits.

The winter coat is an inherently fraught piece of clothing. Not because it’s a particularly interesting sartorial invention (like a bikini) or the most versatile (like jeans), but because wearing one is not a choice, but a necessity critical to survival. And since dressing is about options, this makes it both a psychologically and logistically burdensome garment. If you have the memory of a parent zipping you into parkas that incapacitated your limbs on the playground, then you know what I mean.

As adults, people tend to have one of two approaches to the winter coat. There are the women who view it strictly as utilitarian and opt for Antarctica-grade puffer coats that are essentially sleeping bags with arms and a hood. These women slip their coat off before entering a holiday party; it is not a part of their outfit the same way that a car isn’t—it is simply the thing that got them from point A to point B. Then there are the women who reject the tyranny of the winter coat and decline to participate. Have you seen the woman shivering in a light silk trench in a snowstorm? This woman refuses to ruin the integrity of her outfit in the name of warmth.

I have been both of these women, but with age comes wisdom, and so a few years ago I arrived at what I think is a solution. The trick, like most things in life, isn’t to wrestle the winter coat, but to surrender to it. Turn it into the base ingredient around which to assemble everything else. I began to think of it like a robe—another all-consuming garment, but with much more comfortable connotations.

This line of thinking led me to a floor-sweeping camel coat. Pretty quickly, I stopped having to think about what was underneath because the exterior layer was permanently strong. A good coat can be a bit like a superhero cape: an instant confidence-building cloak that can affect the sort of eccentricity missing from dreary, long winters. It also just requires very little effort. If it’s a particularly difficult day—emotionally, professionally, precipitationally—an authoritative coat obscures all evidence of interior chaos and sort of pulls you together. Throw a coat made of blue fur or hazard-cone orange tweed over old jeans and running sneakers, and it still somehow looks like you “got dressed.” Think of it like finding good shelter—then choose the one you want to live in all winter.

Irina, a writer based in New York, contributes to the New York Times and Elle. Here, she’s wearing our Sherpa-Lined Cocoon Coat.

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Photography by Jennifer Trahan.