Ask Belle: Affordable Winter Coats
Oct 16, 2012
I moved to DC from California last October and was not prepared for a real winter- I had never even seen snow fall. Thankfully last winter was an anomaly, but I’m getting pretty worried for this winter and am on the lookout for a warm coat at a decent (under $250) price range. Entry level job + grad school = very little money for shopping. Do you have any recommendations for picking out a wool coat online? I figure I would have better luck at finding a bargain online as opposed to going to the mall. How do you determine if it’s a warm/durable coat if you can’t see it in person? Should I size up when buying a coat so that I can wear layers underneath, or will my usual top size be okay? That’s probably a dumb question, but the concept of having to wear a sweater, scarf, and coat is still pretty strange (and annoying) to me.
Real winter? In D.C.? Hysterical. (Says the Montana native. Though getting to work during Snowmaggedon was no joke.)
While I may think of the Washington, D.C. winters are milder than what I’m used to, I know that many Washingtonians struggle to stay warm on their commute. So here are some tips on buying a warm winter coat.
Go Natural. A lot of inexpensive coats are made with synthetic fibers like acetate, rayon and polyester. These materials do not a warm coat make. When buying a coat look for an outer layer made of wool or mostly wool. You want a coat made of 60-percent wool, if not more. The more wool the better.
Line ‘Em Up. A number of brands make coats lined with down, Thinsulate or fleece. You want this. J.CREW makes a great Thinsulate lined coat, but if you want something more affordable, Alloy makes wool blend coats with a Thinsulate liner that sell for less-than-$100.
Longer is Better. Peacoats are great, but if you’re looking for cozy warmth, you want something that touches or nearly touches your knees. So look for something longer to shelter your upper legs from the cold.
Size Up. The mistake a lot of women make is buying a coat that fits them snugly when they’re wearing just one layer. Not smart. Instead, try on the coat while wearing a tank, a tee and a heavy sweater. If you wear a suit coat regularly, try it on while wearing your blazer. Because if the coat is so small that you can’t button it up, it can’t keep you warm.
Seen and Purchased. I don’t recommend buying coats before you see or try them on in person. To find a good winter coat, you need to be able to feel the weight, inspect the seams, check the fabric content on the tag (websites rarely list percentages) and gauge the fit. So unless the coat can be returned to the store for free, don’t buy online. Go to the store and try it on.
Now that we’ve discussed some buying tips, here are some under-$250 coats guaranteed to keep you warm and cozy through a Washington winter.
You might notice one thing that all of these coats have in common, a tall collar. If you want to stay warm, you need to keep your head and neck warm. The extra covering on the neck, especially if you add a sweater, can help you in that regard.