Once the temperature plummets, everyone immediately bundles up in the most boring outerwear possible. But the truth is stores had plenty of stylish (and warm) options this season.
You need only flip through Lonely Planet’s Canada guidebook to find how the rest of the world sees Toronto. We are, according to the intro, obsessed with the weather. Or, to be more specific, winter. When it’s not winter, we spend our time dreading it. When it is winter, we complain about it every single day. But here’s what bothers me the most about winter: how we dress for it.
Once the temperature plummets, everyone immediately bundles up in the most boring outerwear possible. There are two options, apparently: a bulky black wool coat, or a bulky black parka. Both of them blow. Before you whinge about how you need these sensible horse-blankets for fear of freezing to death, stores had plenty of stylish (and warm) options this season. Not all trends catch on, but back in September I thought this one was sure to stick: Canadian-made “statement coats” were in the pages of every fashion magazine. Time for Vawk’s leopard-print number or its vibrant teal military peacoat! A furry faux–Mongolian lamb coat from Lundström! Mackage’s innovative tulip, wrap and flared cuts! “Statement coats have become a trend this winter because coats have become more of a fashion item than a weather-related garment,” says Lundström Collection designer Mary Lou Kmety. “You can find a lot more interesting coats to choose from now than previous years.” But as the snow started to sift from the sky, the dull, dark parka parade began again.
“I think that Torontonians often fall victim to fashion like the parka because it is practical,” says Vawk designer Sunny Fong. “I feel that people choose warmth over style because they think it’s easier than finding a fashionable option like a statement coat. Change in fashion is difficult for most Canadians to embrace.” We allow the weather to define us. Instead of facing each frozen-over morning with a burst of color and the panache we parade in warmer weather, it’s on with the greyscale winter uniform. And that pedestrian palette isn’t limited to coats: it’s the hats, the gloves, the scarves. I hate it.
“The statement coat brings a little bit of excitement to winter,” says Fong. “Having a great-looking, warm winter coat helps complete an outfit—you can stay fashionable without all the bulk of a parka.” So do me (and everyone else who has to look at you) a favour: Hit the sale racks. There’s still time to score something sophisticated. If you want to stick with a parka, there are surprisingly stylish options out there. Choose one that has a more flattering cut, maybe with slimmer arms or a cinched waist. If you prefer a wool coat, you’re in luck because there are endless choices. Go for a vibrant hue like white, orange, mustard or red (all hot this winter). Mod is in this season, so why not try a boxier cut in a Technicolor shade? At the very least, belt your coat to give it some shape. Less adventurous? Leather panels or fur trim are subtler ways to add a little chic. Even a beautiful set of vintage gold buttons sewn onto standard-issue outerwear can set a more conservative coat apart. Coats can be pricey, so if you’re on a budget, try a thrift store; they’re filled with gorgeous vintage wool options in rich jewel tones and trimmed with fur.
“A great coat gives you the same feeling as a great bag or a great pair of shoes. You feel good, empowered somehow,” says Kmety. My own coats help me withstand the awful winters that we like to talk about so much. There’s my ’60s cream bouclé go-to, my slate-blue swing coat with its demure little circlet of white fur and a shearling-lined patent leather jacket handed down from my mom. Winter shouldn’t define us, or our fashion sense, either.