16 December 2012

A Tale of Two Coats

Around this time last year, I finally found a warm, below-the-bum-but-above-the knee winter coat in a neutral colour, without too many trendy accoutrements. I've been very pleased with my navy Benetton coat, but after spending several years eradicating black from my wardrobe in favour of navy, I've now gone back to black, and the cold snap we had in London earlier this week made me realise that my leather jacket might not be sufficient for my Christmas trip to New York. The capsule wardrobe I plan to take features black, as well as grey, pink and purple, which means the navy coat isn't really appropriate either.

Once again, the shops were filled with inadequate coats that were too long, too blingy, the wrong colour and/or with too many fussy details. I just wanted a black or charcoal grey wool coat, preferably single-breasted, and at a reasonable price. Was that too much to ask? I did find a coat that fit the bill in H&M, but they only had one left and it wasn't my size. Instead, I turned to the pretty, bright pinky-fuchsia coat that was reduced from £49.99 to £24.99; as I also had a 25% off voucher, this brought the price down to under £19. I tried it on in a size six, and the fit wasn't bad. A little baggy perhaps and I definitely wouldn't have bought it at Banana Republic or J. Crew prices, but I'm prepared to be less fussy about fit for coats that cost under £20. Up close, the material looks a little cheap, with some odd white strands amid the pink. And it's a "wool blend," of course (i.e. mostly polyester).

L: Benetton coat; R: H&M coat

Having trawled pretty much all of the high street shops, I bought the coat and took it home. Today, though, I was in Benetton and found this year's version of my navy coat, in a range of colours and reduced to £62.50. They didn't have any of the black coat left in my size, so it came down to a choice between grey and...fuchsia, albeit in a slightly more purpley shade than the H&M version. Grey would have been more neutral, but it was quite a light grey and I prefer to have coats on the darker/brighter end of the spectrum, so it was the fuchsia one that I bought. Besides, I wear so much grey, black and dark purple that fuchsia is practically a neutral for me. I'll be returning the H&M coat next week.

Top: Benetton coat; Bottom: H&M coat

From a distance, the coats look pretty similar in quality, but you can see the difference up close. The Benetton coat was "wool blend" too, but with a higher proportion of wool, and it definitely feels warmer and looks smarter. It was slightly longer than the H&M coat too, although still hit me above the knee. The Benetton coat is also more fitted, although I prefer the pockets and the sleeves on the H&M coat. If you're after a fun, ephemeral coat in the pinky-purple family to wear for a season or two, you could probably manage with the H&M coat, but for a warmer and longer-lasting version, I'd go for Benetton's coat.

J. Crew Lady Day Coat in fresh plum

Of course, both coats are cheaper versions of J. Crew's Lady Day Coat. I bought one of these six years ago and wore it to death--after four years, the silk lining had started to disintegrate and I had also become a lot fussier about fit and found it too baggy on me. As J. Crew have gone through so much vanity sizing, I didn't know whether to go for a petite version or not, and the faff of having to send back an ill-fitting coat was not appealing. Also, J. Crew's website isn't always great at capturing a garment's colour, so although the "fresh plum" colourway looks good to me online, if it's a lot paler or darker in real life, I would be disappointed. The full price of £267 is also way too expensive. I've considered waiting for super-sales, but even if the price including shipping and duties dropped to under £100, the fit and colour problems would still be there.

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