Ask Jeanne

ASK JEANNE Dressy Coats

Dear Jeanne,
Is there anything that downgrades a cute holiday party look more than a too-casual coat? What should I look for when buying evening outerwear, and where can I find an inexpensive option?



Dear Margaux—

Your particular fashion dilemma is making me smile—especially since you’re posing the question about outerwear at this particular time of year. With the holidays just around the corner, visions of beautifully wrapped presents spring to mind. And that’s precisely one of the many things we love about the season. So imagine yourself and your fabulous party dress as the big surprise, or “present”. Of course you want to wrap it up beautifully in a great little cocktail coat, dressy faux fur jacket, or even a dramatic, but cozy cape. The options abound. It all depends on what speaks to you, and how practical you want to be.


While fancy evening coats aren’t usually all that warm, I do suggest going for something that isn’t too flimsy. After all, you don’t want to walk into a holiday party with your chattering teeth announcing your arrival. Besides, if you’re freezing, it’s going to take you a while to warm up and you might not even be inspired to take your coat off right away. So do go for outerwear that’s season-appropriate. If you want to glam up a simple tailored winter overcoat, why not try a fur or faux fur collar? Many are sold separately, and really can put elegant and distinctive spins on the most banal coats or jackets. You can also pump up the glam quotient of a simple coat or jacket with a fantastic, large brooch. Vintage shops are rife with them, and they’re great conversation pieces as well. Though you needn’t choose a blingy pin if that’s not your style, a little holiday glitz never hurt anyone.


If you’re shopping for an overcoat especially for dress up purposes, you’ll likely want to stick to a neutral colour, like black or navy, so it won’t conflict too much with what’s underneath. Charcoal and chocolate could work as well, though not as dramatic perhaps. Then again, there’s always deep plum which is hot this season, totally regal, and goes with just about anything. Though interesting fabrications are always appealing, I’d stay away from tweeds. The look is a little too casual, and once again, it might not blend with the party look you’ve chosen. You’ll also have to decide which length you’ll get the most use from: waist or hip length, if it’s a jacket; three-quarter, to the knee, mid-calf or full length for a coat. It really is a personal preference. I think jackets can look great over dresses, no matter what length, and if you wear a lot of pants, jackets are a great way to go. But if you’re into wearing tunics over pants, it might be hard to get the jacket length right, and a longer coat might work better. Of course, nothing is more elegant than a full-length coat for the evening, but they’re not always practical, especially if you’re going to walking through the snow!


I do adore capes for the evening. I have a heavy wool, black Michael Kors cape that’s been a godsend. It’s very simple and modern and I often wear it over dressier, lightweight evening jackets and blazers. It’s very practical . There’s also a fab faux Persian lamb cape in my EDIT line at The Bay that runs around $200, and is very chic. It’s hip length, and in fact sold so well last year, that we repeated it for this season! While it looks great with jeans or skinny pants, it’s also smashing over a little black dress or teamed with a leather or a satin pencil skirt. If you’re looking for a high quality dressy coat at a good price, you might try a consignment store. They often have wonderful designer fare at accessible prices. And these dressier coats are usually just gently worn. Have fun “wrapping yourself up”! When it comes to high style, it’s all in the presentation.