5 Ways to Make Your Old Coat Feel Exciting Again

The novelty of winter has already worn off. This happens every January for me, and it unleashes varying degrees of seasonal angst, which then manifest as intense feelings of dislike directly targeted at my winter coat. You know, that omnipresent mass which extinguishes the flame of every hopeful winter outfit?

I’m always tempted to buy another coat. As a proponent of sustainable fashion, however, I can’t warm to the idea of having a bunch of coats lying around that I don’t need.

Caught between the rock of winter coat doldrums and the hard place of superfluous consumption, I’ve decided the arrival of 2017 is as good a time as any to settle for neither. Instead, I’ve opted to style my coat so that it’s not a glum monolith I wear despairingly from November through March.

Alexander McQueen coatManolo Blahnik shoes

How is this styling exercise sustainable? First, I am wearing mostly vintage and second-hand items. Hooray for reuse! And second, I’ve incorporated versatile pieces that can be worn across seasons in different contexts so I can get yearlong use out of them.

Remember That It’s Summer Somewhere 
Difficulty level: Easy
Time required: No more than adding a scarf!

Etsy vintage silk pajama topSensi Studio hatPierre Hardy shoes

Don’t let freezing temperatures or rain stop you from wearing your summer clothes. It rained during this entire shoot! Pull out a light button-down summer dress in bright white, a summer silk (as I have), or a wrap skirt and put said warm-weather article over your coat. Have a summer hat? Throw that on there, too. If you end up feeling a bump in your mood, it’s probably residual Vitamin D from your summer clothes seeping into your skin.

Strap a Strapless Top Over Your Coat
Difficulty level: Easy
Time required: ~3 minutes

Vintage Maison Rabih Kayrouz top, Etsy vintage brooch — another here

If you have a strapless top that you can wear with relative ease (i.e. one that zips or buttons all the way down), put it on over your coat. Tuck any extra fabric at the bottom to get to your desired length. Add a belt if you want to create a peplum effect, or a brooch to tie the look together.

Wear a Button-Down Shirtdress As A Skirt
Difficulty level: easy
Time required: ~3 minutes

Vintage Etsy shirtdress and collared dress, Christian Louboutin shoes

A shirtdress that buttons all the way down makes for a great skirt when worn over a coat. All you need to do here is button the shirtdress at the waist (button a couple for reinforcement) and tie the top half around you with the sleeves either behind you or in front of you, loosely approximating some type of curious bow.

On the top half of the coat, I’ve exposed the collar and sleeves of a dress I’m wearing underneath. You could do this with any piece that has an interesting collar and/or cool sleeves.

Magic: Kimono + Wrap Skirt = New Coat
Difficulty level: Easy to moderate depending on the fit of the kimono/skirt
Time required: ~5 minutes

Osman kimono jacket — another from Osman here, vintage Etsy wrap skirt — another wrap skirt hereManolo Blahnik shoes

What’s a new coat compared to the illusion of a new coat? Here, a loose-fitting kimono-style jacket coupled with a brocade wrap skirt (that easily comes off courtesy of some handy eyelet hooks) gives me the temporary sensation that I’m not even wearing my winter coat at all.

Tip: If your coat is bulky in the shoulders like mine is, put the kimono on over the coat, then put the coat on.

The Gift That Keeps On Giving
Difficulty level: hard
Time required: ~8 minutes


Vintage Etsy jumper, Dolce & Gabbana skirt — similar style hereManolo Blahnik shoes

You are probably (rightly) wondering whether it was easy to get in and out of this ensemble. The answer is a resounding no, which makes this option only practical if you have a solid few minutes to take it off and put it back on. Alternatively, you can visit your tailor for a few quick alterations. You’ll want the skirt to be able to wrap, zip or button all the way down, and the jumper to be wearable as a vest. Why not look like a holiday gift all winter long?

Nadine writes about sustainability, personal style and our relationship with fashion. Read her musings here and follow her on Instagram @onewhodresses. Photos by Krista Anna Lewis.

More from Archive