It’s the oft-asked question: How should a winter coat fit? Parkas and winter wear are usually very warm, so getting it right can be the deciding factor when looking for the best winter jacket. Our comprehensive guide will help you make sure you are confident you made the right choice.
Letting Your Coat Gain Its Loft Before Wearing It
If you’re purchasing a coat online, it will most likely arrive at its destination packaged in a bag or a box and has been compressed to fit efficiently. Like a new duvet blanket or a sleeping bag that has just been released from the compression sack for the first time, you have to fluff it up. This allows the insulation to move around to where it needs to be and take on its appropriate shape and/or fit.
The same goes for a new jacket. Whether you have just received a new down insulated or synthetically insulated coat, allow it a few hours or a day to regain its loftiness and proper shape. Grab a coat hanger and leave the jacket to shape up in a closet or on a hook somewhere so that when you’re ready to try it on for a mini fashion show in front of your friends, you know you’re going to look fabulous and the jacket will too.
In order to provide warmth, the air inside the jacket must be able to circulate as is the same with gloves and mittens. If you have a pair of gloves or mittens that just fit and your fingertips touch the end, you’ll most likely end up with cold fingertips because there is nowhere for the air to circulate to produce warmth.
Good and Bad Air Pockets
Whether the jacket you are wearing is insulated with down, synthetic or simply lined with a cozy material such as fleece, the good air pockets provide space for air to circulate and create warmer air. When I say air pockets, I don’t mean protruding creases, bulky folds and gaping jacket hems – these are the bad air pockets that provide too much space for air to circulate that it cannot effectively warm the entire area. Picture a large lake compared to a smaller lake, the smaller lake will warm up quicker because there is less area to heat compared to the larger lake. Think of the good air pockets as small pockets found between the particles and materials used to insulate your coat.
Bigger Isn’t Always Better
A winter coat fit shouldn’t be too roomy, or it won’t insulate as efficiently as a coat that fits just right. All the open, empty space is like the water cooler hangout at the office, the cold air hangs out there and keeps your coat from being productive and efficiently keeping you warm.
If It’s Too Tight, It’s Not Right
If the coat you are wearing is too tight in certain parts of your body such as the armpit, the down or synthetic insulation may be compressed and have no space to spread out and retain its loftiness. Particles and materials making up the insulation inside your jacket are made up of multiple tiny pockets that trap air and create warmth. When these particles or materials are compressed, there is no open space for the pockets to accumulate air and create insulation.
The loftiness of these particles and materials is where the insulation comes from so without it, you’re left feeling cold and uncomfortable. A jacket that is too tight can also impede your mobility. Get the winter coat fit right and you get the comfort that goes with it.
The best way to figure out whether the coat you have chosen is the right size is by performing four little tests. These four tests are simple enough to do in the comforts of your home, in the fitting room at a shop or in the middle of the store parking lot – after you’ve started to second guess the fit of your newest purchase that you convinced yourself, your friend and the friendly stranger that it definitely was the right fit.
The Hug Test
Unless you’re a robot or the tin man from the Wizard of Oz, your body needs to move and it needs to move a lot. In a day, your body moves in a variety of different ways from waving your arm around to hail a taxi, doing up your seat belt in the car and even packing your groceries at the local market. If your coat is too tight in the arms or across the chest, you’re going to have a hard time with your simple daily routine.
This is where the hug test comes into play. Slide on the potential new coat, zip it up then give yourself a big hug reaching for the shoulder blades of your opposite arm. If you can barely raise your arms, the coat is definitely not the right size. If you can do the hug but the coat feels a bit tight through the elbows or in the shoulders, it would be a good idea to try on the next size up.
Sometimes it is a sad realization that the perfect coat is no longer available in your size and then you juggle with the idea of purchasing the on-the-verge-of-being-too-small coat anyways. Don’t be that person. If the coat isn’t the right fit, it won’t perform at its full potential and you may end up having to break down and buy another one that does fit right and does keep you warm.
Keep in mind that when you’re trying on a winter coat, it is best to try it on with a thick sweater, hoodie or jacket underneath. If the hug test feels perfect in just a t-shirt, throw on another layer and give it a go again. When it’s really cold in the middle of the winter, no matter how much insulation a winter coat has, you’ll almost always have to add an extra layer at some point so keep that in mind while you’re trying on winter coats.
The Arms Stretched Out Front Test
This particular test is to check that the length of the sleeves is okay when looking for the right winter coat fit. If you reach out front and your wrist becomes exposed, it is possible that the sleeves are too short and will leave your wrists vulnerable to the cold. If you are a driver, you can also do the steering wheel test which is similar. Reach your arms out front as if you were holding the steering wheel and mimic the motion of driving a car. If the sleeves on your winter coat are too short, you’re more likely to catch a chill or get snow up to your sleeve. Pick a coat with a comfortable sleeve length and you won’t have to shop for long gloves to make-up for the sleeve gap.
The Reach For the Sky Test
Once you’ve completed the first two tests, it is time for the reach for the sky test. Simply reach your hands high above your head and take note of where the bottom of your jacket is. If the hem of your jacket raises up and exposes your tummy, the jacket is most likely not the right length for you. Keep in mind that most winter coasts are longer fitting and cover your bum so in order to have your tummy show while your hands are over your head would mean that the coat is extremely too short. This particular test is usually best for bomber style winter coats where the hem finishes around the waist. When you’re lifting your arms above your head, you should also pay attention to any tight spots within the shoulders or the biceps. If the shoulders ride up so it looks like you’ve just thrown on a pair of shoulder-pads, the jacket isn’t an ideal fit for you. In saying that, sometimes this is part of the style but other times, its excessive space where bad air pockets hang out.
This particular test is usually best for bomber style winter coats where the hem finishes around the waist. When you’re lifting your arms above your head, you should also pay attention to any tight spots within the shoulders or the biceps. If the shoulders ride up so it looks like you’ve just thrown on a pair of shoulder-pads, the jacket isn’t an ideal fit for you. In saying that, sometimes this is part of the style but other times, its excessive space where bad air pockets hang out.
The Shoulder Seam Check
The final thing to check for while trying on a new winter coat is where the shoulder seams are. If the shoulder seams are halfway down your bicep, either the coat isn’t your size or that particular style has a different cut. As expected, a proper fitting coat will have the shoulder seams that line up with your shoulders. Look at yourself in the mirror wearing the coat and pay attention to where the shoulder seams line up. If you have completed these four tests and the coat has passed with flying colours, then you may just found your next winter coat. Start practising your catwalk so you can show off your new purchase!
Winter Coat Aesthetics
The Fur Trim
When you are shopping for the perfect winter coat fit, it is evident that a lot of styles come with fur trim. Some brands will include a trim made of real fur, whereas others use faux fur. For those who choose the faux fur for personal reasons, it is still possible to find a coat with a great looking fur trim.
For those who would like the real fur trim, please keep in mind that the fur trim is from a living animal and that like humans, animals have flaws too. When you are purchasing a winter coat with a real fur trim it is normal to discover imperfections and inconsistencies.
If you are very picky with how the fur trim on your winter coat looks, we have received the most positive comments from our customers regarding the appearance of fur trims on coats by Quartz Co., Nobis and Mackage. The bottom line when it comes to fur trims is, synthetic or faux fur are made to have no imperfections and be 100% consistent, whereas real fur is the way it is and may not be 100% perfect.
Does This Coat Make Me Look Fat?
After a long, hot summer of living in shorts and tank tops, it’s understandable to feel like winter coats add ten pounds to your appearance. By definition, winter coats are generally bulky and sometimes not the most flattering but they are this way for a reason. A winter coat fit is meant to keep you warm when the temperatures drop and you’re stuck outside braving the bone-chilling winds, not to perfectly hug your body like a glove. Find a winter coat that you like and remember that they are meant to look big and bulky. Some styles are more fitted and have figure-shaping features such as drawcords at the waist but in general, they are bulky garments. You’ll get used to the look as the winter wears on so don’t worry.
The Right Stuff
Once you’ve found the perfect winter coat fit and it’s passed all the mini-tests you are ready to get out there and flaunt your fabulous style.