A winter coat is arguably the priciest item of clothing most of us buy all year – but it could be about to get a lot more pricey. Because, if the fashion industry gets its way, next autumn/winter we will be wearing not one piece of outerwear, but two.
Double coating – as they call it on the front row – has been all over the men’s catwalks this season. At Balmain there were leather bikers under smart topcoats. At Alexander Wang it was a functional black mac layered under a thicker coat. At 3.1 Phillip Lim, sleek silver waterproofs were zipped up under soft, loose jackets. At Raf Simons, white lab coats covered in end-of-term doodles were worn beneath tailored wool. Dries Van Noten featured coats which looked like two combined, but were in fact single pieces.
In womenswear, thanks to a glut of layering-appropriate outerwear on the high street, it’s become the practical way to remain on trend in winter. A case in point is the Uniqlo Light Down jacket. Originally rolled out when Uniqlo launched back in the 1970s, it’s evolved from a standalone coat into a piece of layering kit and shape into something lighter, less padded and more discreet to be worn underneath outerwear, a redesign which has pushed it into Uniqlo’s five bestselling items of the year. A spokesperson explains: “It’s been around since the start and has been a consistent bestseller, but people wearing it differently has helped with sales.”
Responding to demand, Uniqlo also brought out a collarless version for men “which they wear under their suit jacket in place of a coat”; women, meanwhile, wear the bestselling collarless version under their coat, sometimes creating a base with a gilet, that is, triple coating: “but the effect is the same – it’s about building up warmth without looking bulky”. At Topshop, sleeveless coats (designed so you can layer over something a little more snug) have sold out this season, while Zara’s website demonstrates how to style a denim jacket under a huge pink overcoat.
As trends go, this one has been facilitated by the boon in roomy cocoon-shaped duster jackets and drop-shouldered coats, not to mention this winter’s most subversive trend – the blanket-as-coat – an alternative way to double up.
Damien Paul, head of menswear at Matchesfashion.com is all for doubling up, but thinks there’s a fine line to pulling this look off: “It’s all about avoiding bulk. The underlayer should be unpadded – a slimline denim jacket or nylon bomber works well. And go for a roomy overcoat with a bit of swing. Most importantly, two coats is never an excuse for shoulder robing – it’s irredeemably naff.”