Threads: Winter Coats

By Kate Matelan

With fall fading fast, it’s time to face the gray and get ready for the long winter haul. You know what that means: breaking out the winter coat and scarves for the frigid, blustery season. But let me guess — you haven’t been able to find a coat that’s the right length or has the most accessible closures, right?

I know the drill. But thanks to my manual chair thrashing many a coat, I’ve racked up some good shopping practice over the years. Through trial — and a whole lot of error — I’ve found the “hits” and “misses” when giving a new jacket a winter test run.

Style

You want to look stellar while still wearing a style of coat that’s functional. If the coat is supposed to go past your waist, then don’t even consider it! The excess fabric from these styles has nowhere to go while you’re sitting and gets in the way of moving comfortably.

The solution? Opt for styles that are cut shorter or easily fan out at the hips without too much fabric. I know both of these styles will be much easier for the ladies to find, but guys, start hunting for the latter of my recommendations.

Bomber and motorcycle jackets for men and women are usually shorter styles. Look at pea coats as well, although you’ll find that some manufacturers make them too long. Ski jackets are a long shot, but can work. I find puffer jackets (the down feather puffy ones) an excellent style, but they don’t always dress up a nice outfit. Take a look at J.Crew puffer jackets — they rank high in my jacket choice for style and for all the reasons below.

Fabric

Mix delicate fabrics with snow, sleet and ice melt, and you’ve got a big problem. Throw in a chair or other mobile equipment, and you’re lugging around a lot of that winter mess.

When you’re hunting for that new coat, think about the effects of the elements (most likely the cuffs and bottom of the jacket will be seeing the worst of it). You want a fabric that will wick away the water and/or dry quickly. Another reason I love the quilted puffer jacket — it does just this! Wool coats are great for warmth and provide a decent coat life, but they can absorb a bit of slush on the end of the sleeves. If leather’s your choice, always make sure it’s treated and beware of it getting eaten up when moving at high speed.

Closures

Depending on your hand function, closures can be a deal breaker. As a low-level quad, buttons and zippers can be difficult, but give me snaps or a belt that ties and I’m golden. Some coat styles have several types of closures in one — maybe toggle loops and snaps — so always investigate before you put the jacket in the “no” pile.

If all else fails, I have three go-to sources for making the coat work. If you can’t find a closure that fits your function, make sure you invest in a very warm coat and a thick, cozy scarf to fill in the unclosed jacket. Another option is a pullover jacket that eliminates the closure problem altogether. Or if you’re the creative type and your jacket style permits, take it to a trusted seamstress and have the skilled hands of a professional sew in some Velcro closures.

Color

Bright colors rock, but they often show all of the dirt and wear on a coat. Although you may find it blah, a black, brown or gray jacket is probably your best bet for giving the appearance of being clean and wellmaintained. Plus, dark winter coats are much more versatile with your outfits.

Cleaning

The cleaning tag kills me — it’s that moment of panic when I decide if I can swallow another “dry clean only” item. Sometimes you can get away with dry cleaning a jacket twice in winter, but it depends on how hard you wear your clothing and how brutal the elements are that season. Just remember: when your coat is at the cleaners, you need to have a backup.

If you get that pesky pilling on your jacket from it rubbing on your chair, buy a garment groomer at the local drugstore. Some of these tools look like plastic combs while others resemble a scratchy Styrofoam square.

Kate’s Top 5 Tips:

  • Try on the coat with your heaviest winter sweater since the jacket needs to fit comfortably with the max amount of clothing. Move around and you’ll know right away if it’s the one.
  • You get what you pay for. Choosing a coat that’s well-made and from a trusted brand is worth the investment when it comes to style and durability.
  • If the outside of a well-loved coat is still in decent shape but the inside isn’t, simply replace the lining.
  • Keep any slush your jacket doesn’t slick away off your clothes by pushing up your sleeves underneath the jacket.
  • Add a bold pop of color with a scarf or gloves, and you’ve upgraded your solid jacket in an instant!

Comments

  1. julia byrne-gossett says:

    hi,
    Great information. I’m a c4 quad. I found two great coats at Buck & Buck. One is a heavy polar fleece rear closure swing coat. It is made for wheel chair use. one size. really warm! & cute $58. Also have a few ponchos. I have the polar fleece lined – designed for wheelchair use…All made in USA! and really reasonable $34 – $67. I love their clothes, as they withstand the pulling and tugging when getting me dressed. My clothes have lasted 4 yrs. now! check it out. The catalog shows more items and also accessories like wheelchair organizers, shoes, underware. buckandbuck.com

  2. @ Julia,

    are these really 58!?!?!? If so i’m going to buy these right away.

    Great information idd, its already winter where i live haha.