Coats this winter have to be long, bold and beautiful. They can be practical, too, but they have to cut a swath to be in fashion. Those all-weather, all-purpose coats of every woman's wardrobe have worked too hard for too many seasons and need to be relieved by a coat with --, and designers and manufacturers have responded with looks that are quite grand.
There are coats with fullness and sweep nearly to the ankles. Not since the maxi-coat of the late '70s and reruns of "Masterpiece Theatre" costume epics has so much -- been built into coats. There are important officer greatcoats with swirls of braid and button trims. Even the ordinary seaman's peacoat has been reinterpreted in luxury fabrics and silky linings.
Coats are the heroes of fashion's romantic revival, and no ornament is too frilly or fabric too opulent to be considered -- velvet, brocade and tapestry are all part of the cloth.
Velvet frames the collar of traditional chesterfield cuts. Braided frog closings and soutache braid are used to accent flared coats with an Empire feel. Embroidery and fancy silver buttons enhance Tyrolean huntsmen's coats. Corded and tasseled ties trim deep plush opera capes. Horn buttons and leather accent English country tweed balmacaans.
Shearling lamb is the status luxury coat of the season. Not the traditional sheepskin toppers of the past, but butter-soft suedes that are long, full and unconstructed.
Shearling appears to be the politically correct compromise between the fur wearers and animal rights activists, with the suede turned to the outside after a former existence as a lamb chop.
Minimal, but with maximum impact, are the monastic coats devoid of all ornament and getting their strength from strong lines and cut. In black they are awe-inspiring.
In knits they are more gentle, and may be designed to match pants and longer tunic.
Strong design needs very little strong color, and most designers have stayed with neutrals.
Black dominates, but deep browns, greens, grays and burgundies have equal impact with added depth.
Boots are the necessary base to carry the weight of the big, important coats and they upstage all other shoes this season.
All this coat drama just begs for props.
It's the season to try on hats just for their play-acting potential, learning how to tilt a beret, snap a brim or crush a cloche.
And don't forget glove practice. The film costumery of "The Age of Innocence" adds a whole new dimension to the appeal of romantic dressing.
The way Daniel Day-Lewis removes Michelle Pfeiffer's glove gives one warm thoughts about the cold season ahead.
Styled by Pascale Lemaire
Photos by Amy Deputy
Hair and makeup by Blue for Etche's
Modeled by Kristen Pazik and Kimberly Sasser/New Faces
Hunter green coat with faux beaver trim, $960, by Perry Ellis. Black boots, $280, by Pincaldi. Brown beret, $19. Gloves, $38. All at Nordstrom.
Navy coat with faux beaver trim, $320, by Gallery. Brown booties, $79, by Liz Claiborne. Navy beret, $22, by Importina. All at Hecht's.