How to build the perfect coat

building the perfect coat | via vmac+cheese


This year for Christmas, Joe surprised me with the most amazing gift. Last year, after struggling to find off the rack work and casual shirts that fit him perfectly, he decided to bite the bullet and have some made at a local atelier after I mentioned reading great things about the tailor in the newspaper. Like I mentioned in that post, the entire process of selecting fabrics, details, thread colors, and even buttons was beyond fun. And though I didn’t write about it afterwards, let me just say, the shirts turned out fabulously, and are basically the only ones he wears now. There’s just something about having clothing that fits your body perfectly, and features all the little details you absolutely love and hand picked yourself.

Joe knew that I loved helping him pair different fabric, button and thread details throughout the process, and that Al’s Attire was like heaven on earth for a creative gal who appreciates fashion. So, for Christmas, he gifted me with a new coat from Al’s. Except…it’s not made yet. I get to come up with all the details, choose the fabric, the shape, everything. I couldn’t even believe it! Such a thoughtful present that will last for years to come.

But now I have a huge conundrum. I don’t even know where to start when it comes to designing the perfect coat! I think I’m leaning towards a single breasted car coat kind of look, but I also love the elegance of a belted coat like this one. I love the idea of doing mixed fabrics or colors, but think that trend might go out of style quickly (sticking to a classic color like camel seems best, no?). And as for the details…this is going to be tough! I’ve always been obsessed with elbow patches, and I like the idea of doing contrast piping (maybe in leather) along the placket and maybe flap pockets.

You guys are all stylish and level headed — tell me, how would you build your perfect coat? What shape would you choose, what color, and what details would be essential? I’d love to get your advice!

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  1. 1.8.13
    Sophie said:

    What a great gift. Slightly daunting but you will end up with something so original and just perfect. I struggled so much with finding a coat this year, this sounds like the perfect solution!

    What type of coat do you think you will go for?

    Sophie x

  2. 1.8.13
    Natalie said:

    On the leather piping- I have had several dry cleaners refuse to clean a dress I have with leather piping because fabric and leather have dif cleaning processes. Just something to keep in mind.

    Also I would go for a darker color that won’t show wear as easily- make it last. Enjoy!

    • 1.8.13
      vmacandcheese said:

      Oh that is SO good to know about the dry cleaning!
      I would never have known — thank you thank you!

  3. 1.8.13

    What a thoughtful present! I would probably opt for a single breasted coat with a belt and a Mandarin collar. A nice grey or camel colored fabric that is sure to stay fashionable would win out in my book as well!

    Good luck, I can’t wait to see how it turns out!

    X Kenzie

  4. 1.8.13
    Alex said:

    What an awesome gift! I can’t wait to see what you come up with. I hope you’ll share!

  5. 1.8.13

    This is such a genius gift! I love every detail you shared – maybe a high collar with an optional, detachable hood, a zipper with a button flap over it, and some mixed fabrics. I am also really loving the tie at the waist rather than a belt, very Hermes-ish!

  6. 1.8.13

    What an amazingly thoughtful gift!!!

  7. 1.8.13
    Alyssa said:

    What an amazing gift! Who wouldn’t want to be fashion designer of their own piece?! I think I’d go with a classic, lady-like shape with a few interesting details (I love the idea of a different collar). I have a feeling it’s going to last you forever, so you’ll want something timeless!

  8. 1.8.13
    christin said:

    I think I would go as classic as possible since you’ll have the coat forever. Something like the one on the top right would be perfect!

  9. 1.8.13
    sydney85 said:

    Great gift! I would choose a classic style coat in a grey shade. I like the coat at the top right but would have a traditional collar so I could definitely wear different scarves for lots of interest. I would not have a belted coat. I had one for several seasons but did not like that my clothes underneath would be so creased by the tie belt. I cannot wait to see your chosen coat.

  10. 1.8.13

    ekkk – this is a GREAT post – but i dunno what my “ideal” coat would be – i think if i put it all together it might look like a hot mess

  11. 1.8.13

    What a fantastic gift! I love it and cannot wait to see what you create!

  12. 1.8.13

    genius. and i agree – go classic on this one!

  13. 1.8.13
    caitlin said:

    wow, what a great gift. he knows you perfectly!

  14. 1.8.13

    Whoa, husband of the year!

    If it were me I’d do a knee length gray coat, single breasted, with a trench belt that you can remove and replace with a leather one if you feel like it later. I’d also do a bold lining (emerald? bright purple? cobalt? windowpane pattern?) and great buttons. If you’re a scarf-wearer, than a mandarin collar would be good since I find the traditional trench coat collar to get in the way a bit when I wear one.

    Good luck designing!

  15. 1.8.13
    Emily said:

    that is the sweetest, most thoughtful gift! If you already have neutral coats, why don’t you go for something different? A deep hunter green or a navy? It’ll be one of a kind, regardless and I can’t wait to see the final result! x

  16. 1.8.13
    Chelsea said:

    What a really fantastic gift! As this is likely a pretty costly item, I would definitely go with something more classic; think single breasted and in a neutral color (classic camel or winter white are some tried and trues of mine!) I would definitely go for a pop of something like a different pretty patterned fabric for the liner and some fun buttons. Can’t wait to see what you come up with!

    Haute Child in the City

  17. 1.8.13

    I think that would be the most exciting/terrifying experience. Knowing my own tastes and draw to vintage fashion, I would probably make my coat something I could find in a vintage shop (but never in my size!). I wouldn’t go too basic, because I’m not a very basic person. And I’d want it belted, for sure! I’d probably like some secret pockets inside the coat, and lined outer ones in something luxurious. Now…do they make matching gloves? hehe. Have fun, V!

  18. 1.8.13
    Natalie said:

    I’ve been on the hunt for a great winter coat for awhile now (how do I not have one when I live in SF?!) and you are giving me complete coat envy! If it were me, I’d go with a color that matches everything – camel or light gray. I’d definitely get one with a belt, and I would make sure to put really fun yet timeless lining on the inside. Also, pockets! Put some sweet secret pockets in that thing. Those can be the best part about a great coat!

    Name’s Not Ashley

  19. 1.8.13
    Anonymous said:

    This sounds like the perfect gift! I’ve actually had a few pieces custom made – including leather trousers, suede trousers and a few jackets and blazers. While the trousers don’t fit me anymore (I was in my early 20s and pre-baby after all) I will always save them and have them for my daughter (as well as hope that my hips shrink a bit as I get older so I can possibly wear them again!)

    I would say to choose a classic color that you’re drawn to (camel, navy, black, grey) and then choose a few accents that you love for now but that can also be timeless…like a cool silk lining, a leather belt, maybe some leather epaulets or the mandarin collar. When I’ve had my pieces made I’ve brought along something from my closet so they can see the cut I like or so I could tell them exactly what to change about the existing piece to make it “perfect”. Maybe go to neimans or saks or barney’s or wherever you like to shop and try on a few different coats to get some ideas? I’m the world’s most indecisive person so sometimes I need to see a feel something in person in order to really know what I like. Personally I’d go with black (you’ll have it forever and ever) and I’d do hidden buttons with some kind of cool collar like a mandarin collar that you suggested or even a cowl-like collar that you can either wear up when it’s cold or fold down to make it more casual and less dramatic and a leather belt. I also love coats that are somewhat fitted or in the complete opposite direction, something that cinches in the wait with a full skirt. And definitely pockets! See what I mean about being indecisive:) Can’t wait to hear what you choose!

  20. 1.8.13

    PS–I didn’t mean to be anonymous above. :)

  21. 1.8.13
    Nancy said:

    Oh my gosh – what a treat!! I love the idea of single breasted in a camel color and leather piping. I would go with black leather to keep it classic and chic – because you still want to love it in 10 years!
    I hope that you will show us the final product!

  22. 1.8.13

    What an amazing gift, cannot wait to see how it turns out!

  23. 1.8.13
    Shira said: & Wool%26spp%3D14%26ppp%3D96%26sp%3D1%26rid%3D37

    I’d do something like that in a plum or that color:)

  24. 1.8.13
    Courtney said:

    I do love a subtle detail. And never would have thought I’d like mixed colors on the arms, but that beaded Gryphon coat I’ve seen everywhere has me SWOONING!

  25. 1.8.13

    I’d go with a classic camel with something fun (and swappable) like shiny gold buttons. Extra deep pockets with slit tops (no fold) so everything is clean and streamlined, and cut a few inches above your knee or mid-thigh so you can wear it with everything and not seem overwhelmed. Also, I’d recommend having it tailored in a little at your waist so you can add a belt if you’d like without having unflattering bunched fabric or if you go without, it will always seem fitting and ladylike. And for a really really fun punch, I’d go with an amazingly beautiful satin lining. Maybe a fun turquoise, plum, or emerald green. Just something that flashes some personality when the wind catches your coat!

  26. 1.8.13

    definitely stay classic with the color (you want to love a piece like this forever). camel, navy or red–for a little pizzazz–would be my picks. i’m thinking elbow patches or piping (maybe not both). personally, i’d go with piping, but if you love patches here’s your chance! if it were me: single breasted, camel wool, mandarin collar and red piping. oh my gosh! this is such fun. can’t wait to see the finished product. xx

    p.s. flap pockets are super cute but, remember, not the best for actually keeping your hands warm.

  27. 1.9.13
    Melanie said:

    What a fantastic gift! Such a lucky lady! I would definitely go with a color that will make the coat last. I would then add some fun details to make it unique, one of a kind and exactly YOU! Can’t wait to see how it turns out!

  28. 1.9.13

    That is an incredible gift!! I say when in doubt, go classic. I love the idea of a solid color piped in leather. Classic, but still with a bit of edge. I think just above knee length is the most versatile. Collar-wise, I think mandarin collars are so cozy, especially here when it gets brisk!

  29. 1.9.13
    JEN RAMOS said:

    Right now i would go for a wool +leather above the knee coat or maybe even shorter. I loe the coats at Mackage lately – and Helmut Lang. I got one by Mackage and it looks fantastic. You can be different & choose a color like camel, because most people will tend to choose black.

  30. 1.10.13
    Natasha said:

    Maybe you can get a few interchangeable collars?