I used to fantasise about winter coats all the time. The Best Friend and I would nip into Zara, try on all sorts of coats and drool. Whilst knowing that my limit would be buying sharp workwear when I was a student, or fuzzy cardigans in tropical Singapore, it would be massively insane for me to splurge on trench coats. Not even for vacations. Perhaps just a simple coat or a puffer jacket. Then in the dizzying chain of events between March and October 2009 where I received my acceptance letter and subsequently prepared to ship myself off, I assembled a 'starter kit' of trench coats. That collection, of course, expanded in the first two months when I landed in the UK. One year later, I think I am slightly wiser about Dressing Up The Winter Coat-- THE piece de resistance of your outfit. Because sometimes, you never remove it, nobody really gets to see what's beneath. So, puff up your shiny plume, dress yourself up and amp out the outer beauty ;)
Not all coats fit properly. Sometimes we find such irresistibly-beautiful ones in thrift stores or via other miscellaneous sources online but they might be that tad too big. Here's the belt to the rescue-- for a nipped waist, and a more flattering fit. Besides, not all of us look good in straight-cut clothes so the belt feels like sweet salvation. The best belts for coats, to me, are chain belts. They hook on and off easily, rather than having to deal with buckles. For a starter kit, a gold one and a silver one would suffice to match colour palettes and jewelry. And, the best thing about these belts is that they can be found easily in vintage or charity stores.
Hosiery is icing on the cake when you speak of winter wear. Sure, sometimes it's fun to go mad with thick, opaque tights and socks of all sorts, but for a distinctive look, the wicked devil lurks in the detail of your hosiery. I learned quickly enough that it is the Gorgeous Factor of your hosiery that can make or break the wow factor of your coat. This pair of dragon-tattoo sheer tights ranks amongst one of my favourites-- fierce, dramatic and energetic. Other types you can try would be net patterns, floral patterns, faux-suspender ones, or amazing printed ones from House of Tights. In particular, I am loving the following from them: Black & Red Abstract, Motel, and Italian Ornate.
When it came to trawling for pictures of hosiery, I uncovered one particular incident that sticks out in my mind and makes me laugh. I have a tendency to end up wearing the same colour combinations unanimously with women (and men) I hang out regularly with. Sometimes we even buy the same thing and almost wear the same thing without knowing it. So one day, I burst out laughing when meeting June for coffee and cakes before class. . . because we were both in a red coat, black dress, and black boots. Plus I almost carried my black leather bag, only changing it at the last minute. These photographs were taken to commemorate the death of her umbrella which she adamantly used 'to protect against acid rain! Bad for hair and skin!'. God I miss that girl I met on the first day of our Masters class and gave me a shock with the words, "I am a policewoman".
vintage M&S floral netted tights; black Topshop lace-up leather boots; black Milla Jovovich for Mango dress; red Henne coat; red Celine handbag; Diva cocktail ring; gold Forever 21 hoop earrings.
original image of Dita von Teese from here
I think high heels are so sexy with winter coats-- nevermind my insane preoccupation with hoarding a collection of knee-high boots having been deprived of them all my life. Still, whenever I can, I love to wear my winter coats with heels as high as possible. Suffice to say I bought a vintage full-length coat in late November, and just received it-- the nipped waist and length, complete with high heels, looks and feels like a vintage dream!
And, when you don't feel like being ladylike, heels dress up a pair of shorts and a big fuzzy (faux) fur winter coat! (That was probably me looking all sleepy after research class, June and I going to reward ourselves with some shopping! The perils of having your institutes smacked and interspersed within the shopping zone. . )
vintage brown winter coat; Nichii pinstripped shorts; vintage vest; Mango black turtleneck; Aldo men's pendant turned ring; nurse's stopwatch turned necklace; Marble Ink black leather handbag; no brand grey tights; Charles & Keith heels; Celine silver chain on handbag; Primark silver hoop earrings.
Devilishly Pleasurable's Vintage Secretary look, Winter 2009/10.
Vintage gloves (or gloves in general) can make a whole world of a difference to an outfit. They are easy to find on ebay or in charity shops, and often have impeccable detailing. This one above is a white leather pair with delicate perforations. I used it for my Vintage Secretary look last winter, where I tucked a white satin ruffled blouse into a baby pink oversized jumper, paired them with a white skirt and nipped the waist with a white leather belt. Then came the finishing details--a smart fitted trench coat, delicately-flower-patterned tights and vintage tan-and-white shoes.
You can probably tell how much I love gloves from the way I keep wearing them, whether in lace, leather or satin (see here, here, here, and here); and my main inspiration behind my glove rampage would be Nini, whom I've been reading for years. I still want extremely-long leather gloves that extend beyond my elbows, which are a little too pricey for now. In the meantime, I continue to stud my own gloves.
Nichii blouse; Topshop jumper; vintage skirt (my Mom's); vintage belt (Mom's); Karen Millen trench coat; Elle printed tights; Bally shoes; vintage gloves
original image of Oscar de la Renta ensemble via here
Whilst I don't generally recommend this look for winter all the time, I am known to be a bit foolhardy and to go out in the winter cold in cardigans and sandals. I reckon it might take me five years to learn, although I still wonder why I freeze to death in Australian autumns and pile on the layers, and don't feel that cold in the infamous English winters. Nevertheless, I love the belted cardigan look because it can make you look ladylike and proper. Otherwise, it makes your large, long cardigans look like bathrobes and kimonos-- a look I really love.
Two Devilishly Pleasurable Belted Cardigan Looks from last winter. .
Left: George long black cardigan; black Victoria Beckham for R&R drainpipes; burnt orange Charles & Keith Signature heels; vintage red ostrich leather handbag; vintage white leather belt (Mom's)Right: George long black cardigan; Nichii pinstripped shorts; no brand burgundy tights; Charles & Keith heels; red Celine handbag; free Elle magazine charm-bracelets-turned-necklace; Wish You Were Here antique silver ring; assorted men's chunky silver bracelets; Primark silver hoop earrings.
original image of sari here
I once found an entire bag of beautiful saris at a jumble sale in Singapore for only S$1 (£0.45) back in 2007. So I carted the entire bag home, to my mother's dismay at my growing hoard of stuff. I always planned to use them somehow as large scarves when the weather permitted (i.e. travelling and my life-long goal to emigrate) or as sarong wraps. This finally materialised. Besides wearing this multi-way sari as a skirt, the rest are traditional saris. So have I been happily piling them on in the cold, loving the beautiful materials, designs and colours. By wearing such scarves of gargantuan proportions, you can actually not button up your coat at all.
And this style was pretty what I wore to school at Cambridge most of the time during winter: sari, skirt, coat, summer top, boots.
Daiso men's white singlet (only £0.80-- why spend loads on white singlets!); Mango white miniskirt; Charles & Keith taupe suede boots; vintage sari; Karen Millen powder-pink trench coat; black Marble Ink leather handbag; shot of hot chocolate in hand
original image via (IN)decorous taste
As the genius behind (IN)decorous taste has shown, fur collars and related embellishments can amp up even the simplest of outfits, transforming them to look like a million bucks. This principle applies to dresses, jackets and of course, winter coats. Therefore, it is important to identify, know and build up your collection of Decorations-- pieces which seem to have no intrinsic functional value apart from aesthetics*.
*Even if D classifies all my clothes under 'Decorations'.
Some of my favourite 'Decorations' a.k.a. layering pieces:
This Karen Millen wool cardigan (on the right, pictured with a giant pancake on an equally-ginormous plate) with its detachable faux-fur collar is one of my favourite layering pieces. It is versatile enough in Spring or Fall with a high-waisted skirt, and keeps me warm indoors. And it adds even more mileage to my winter coats, whether cashmere or faux fur.
I also love layering this pretty Banana Republic cardigan under large fur coats-- when it peeks out with a pearl brooch, it makes the outfit look even more beautiful.
Leather and fur is also a good bet-- there is something I adore about juxtaposing fuzzy (faux) fur with the hardness and shininess of leather.
Chinese Laundry buckled boots; Dior handbag; Victoria Beckham for R&R drainpipes; Daiso men's singlet; Diva lion ring; vintage black leather jacket; faux fur scarf from Ebay.
Finally, a large faux fur scarf. I loved the way Evelyn Salt looked with all her big fur embellishments during her voyage back to Russia in the movie Salt. Therefore, I kinda sought to emulate that look yesterday when we went to a neighbouring town Lewes to pick up a keyboard to tinker about with. Outfit post to follow soon :)
Beyond these, other forms of Decorations I can think of would be: bright lipstick, feather eyelashes, and large decadent pieces of jewelry.
When all else fails and your options feel stale, just wear a pretty dress beneath. This was Christmas 2009 (my first Christmas abroad and away from home!). I decided to wear an asymmetrical ruffled snakeskin-print Mango dress I knew I would wear someday when I bought it during one of the sales back at home. Slipped on a pair of floral-printed Charles & Keith pumps, decked on some Forever 21 gold hoops and a large Diva cocktail ring and voila, my vintage faux fur coat was completely accessorised!
original image source here
Last, if you can afford it or know how to, tailor your coat. Nothing is more flattering than an excellent fit-- you know how men are particular about the tailoring as compared to many women who simply buy disposable fashions off anywhere, so it can be quite inspiring to take a leaf out of their book. I once read Eva Longoria who lauds about the importance of tailoring and that she even does that to t-shirts! And whenever I read about fellow bloggers who can tailor and sew such as Vix and Veshoevius, I always imagine them being able to customise anything they want. Then I remember how my grandmother could sew anything, and hope that gene is just dormant within me. . . so I can stop simply throwing belts on to make everything seem flattering.
Let's hear how you make everyone drool over your winter look! ;) x