Anybody thinking about shopping for or commissioning a brand new coat will likely be fascinated by kinds proper now – what they’re, what they’re referred to as, what their relative benefits are. 

On this piece I’m going to set out the fundamental choices, and my transient opinions on them. On formality, heat, and different elements of practicality.

It should give attention to tailor-made coats – so nothing extra informal like a trench coat, blouson or duffle. These are often finest purchased ready-to-wear (although a future article on an outerwear capsule will embrace them).

And it’ll not go into element about fabric. There’s a far more complete article on that right here.

The very first thing to say about names of coats is, don’t assume everybody makes use of the identical ones, or certainly has heard of the names utilized in on-line discussions. 

Completely different nations have totally different cultural references, and therefore totally different names. Tailors know the kinds they make and the kinds they have been taught. Their body of reference is usually no wider than that. 

Names are helpful, as a result of they put a label on the picture you may have in your head. They gather collectively a bunch of traits below a single time period. 

However don’t assume that everybody is aware of what a guard’s coat is. In case you stride right into a tailor and request a paletot, you is likely to be met with seems to be of confusion, even bemusement. 

So, I like to recommend specializing in the constituent elements of those kinds. Break down what you need into its traits: single or double breasted, peak or notch lapel, size and fabric and buttons and so forth.

This text will likely be organised alongside these strains, with the kinds being talked about extra as examples.

Size: Overcoat or topcoat

The primary choice with an overcoat is what climate you need it for. How chilly does it get the place you reside, and when through the yr do you wish to put on it? 

This impacts a number of issues, together with fabric and double vs single-breasted. However the very first thing it determines is size. A shorter coat is – all different issues being equal – chillier than an extended coat. Because of this, coats meant for hotter climate are historically shorter – often on or simply above the knee. 

A coat of this sort is often known as a topcoat. It’s often in a lighter weight fabric, however could be single or double breasted. The instance above was made by Michael Browne.

Different sorts of topcoat embrace a covert coat (above), which is outlined by the covert fabric it’s constructed from – a tightly woven twill that can also be nice for trousers (although it may be a little bit shiny, so pretty formal).

This fabric makes the covert coat very hardy, paying homage to its nation origins. It’s usually in colors like fawn and olive too, and has a number of strains of sewing on the cuffs and hem, meant to stop rips getting out of hand. 

The coat usually has a fly entrance, and generally has velvet on the collar (one other sensible addition – because the velvet may simply get replaced). 

Double breasted or single breasted

The second option to make is whether or not the coat will likely be single or double-breasted. 

Personally, I’m an enormous fan of double-breasted coats. It’s because DB tailoring is so flattering and trendy (notably if made bespoke) but a coat is without doubt one of the final methods it may be worn. Anybody can put on a DB coat to the workplace; not everybody can put on a DB swimsuit. 

A double-breasted coat will at all times be a little bit smarter and extra formal than a single, however not as a lot as with a jacket. It should even be hotter, and simpler so as to add fashion particulars to (akin to a belt or cuffs). 

It’s usually thought {that a} double-breasted coat should be longer as properly – an overcoat slightly than a topcoat. However that isn’t essentially the case, as you possibly can see with my DB topcoat from Ettore de Cesare, above. 

Peak lapel or notch lapel 

As with a jacket, a double-breasted coat will at all times have a peak lapel. However a single-breasted coat can have a peak or a notch – and it’s maybe extra frequent to see a peak lapel on an SB coat than on a jacket. 

The one actual issue to contemplate in that selection is {that a} peak lapel is extra formal and a little bit extra rakish. If you’d like one thing extra stylised, a peak lapel is an effective strategy to do it. If not, a notch ought to be the default. 

And a notch could be kind of stylised too – examine the Vergallo coat on me above, with the Michael Browne one additional up. 

There may be additionally an necessary distinction between peaked lapels on a DB coat: many kinds have a peak which factors horizontally throughout the physique, if not barely downwards. 

(You possibly can argue that this isn’t actually a peaked lapel, nevertheless it does have the height’s lack of area  – or notch – between the lapel and collar. So it in all probability belongs in the identical group.)

The rationale this lapel is extra horizontal, was initially in order that it might be mounted throughout the chest, making a double layer of material in the identical method as a pea coat. And even when the coat will not be reduce to do that, the lapel does enable the collar to be worn up towards the wind, with out the peaks poking the wearer within the neck. 

The perfect-known fashion that includes this lapel might be the Ulster coat – an instance of which I’m carrying within the picture above, made by Sartoria Ciardi. Initially a Victorian coat with a cape, usually in informal wools like tweed, the Ulster has come to imply this fashion of DB overcoat, usually with a belt and turn-back cuffs. 

Double-breasted coats with a extra commonplace, upward-pointing peaked lapel are given varied names, together with a guard’s coat (above) and a paletot. Personally I don’t suppose the kinds are that related, given how divorced they’re from their origins, and the truth that a important distinction was how fitted they have been – which is never an element as we speak. 

Nevertheless, what all of them have in frequent is that they’re extra formal, and in consequence are inclined to don’t have any belt on the again, flapped pockets, a 6×2 button association (so the highest row doesn’t fasten) and no cuffs on the sleeves. 

It’s this formality that ought to be your first consideration when designing a coat. It will be incongruous to have a wise, peak-lapel coat from the entrance that was cinched and belted on the again, it doesn’t matter what the unique kinds might need been referred to as. 


This can be a transient part, necessitated by the existence of the raglan coat. 

Whereas all different overcoats can have an everyday, or set-in, sleeve, a raglan sleeve runs proper as much as the collar, with no shoulder part between the 2. An instance is proven above. 

It shouldn’t shock you to know that the raglan is extra informal, and suited to coats which might be worn with simply knitwear, in addition to tailoring. It’s additionally a method that there’s much less level having made by a tailor – as a result of its lack of form means the tailor has much less so as to add, and since it’s surprisingly difficult to do. 

There are additionally variations, akin to a half raglan (which seems to be prefer it has a set-in sleeve on the entrance) and designs with a slimmer sleeve on the prime, virtually like a saddle shoulder on knitwear. 


Now we get into design particulars. Pockets are an apparent one, and there are three primary choices: flapped (straight or slanted), patch (with flap or not) and postbox (a mixture of flap and patch). 

Flaps are smarter and go along with smarter coats; patches are extra informal and go along with extra informal coats. A postbox pocket (pictured above) is fairly cumbersome and so belongs within the informal class. 

I slightly like postbox pockets on informal coats akin to an Ulster, as a result of a patch can appear slightly too easy for one thing made bespoke. However I might have flaps on most good coats. 

Ticket pockets on coats look a little bit misplaced to me, although they’re slightly sensible. And though some go away them off, I might often have a welted breast pocket on an overcoat. It’s very helpful for gloves. 


It’s usually stated that the again of an overcoat is the place the attractive stuff goes on. I feel the entrance ought to look good too, however there are definitely extra design choices on the again. 

The primary is the belt. A wise overcoat, as talked about, shouldn’t have any belt in any respect on the waist. However most others have a half belt: one or two strips of material, both stitched to the fabric or left free, and if free then mounted with buttons. 

The fashion of belt will not be an enormous choice – it’s unlikely to look misplaced whichever you select. So decide the one you want essentially the most, and when you’re uncertain go along with the basic ‘Martingale’ of two strips and two buttons (proven above). It’s additionally not a tough factor to vary later. 

There are methods for this belt to be practical, with additional buttons and buttonholes, however having achieved that a few occasions on my coats, I now not request it. I simply discover that little cinching doesn’t make a large enough distinction to what I can match beneath. 

Pleats and vents 

Above and under that belt there’ll usually be pleats, as a strategy to put extra room into the again and seat, and subsequently provide you with higher freedom of motion. 

A field pleat in the midst of the again is engaging, as are pleats both aspect of it – radiating from the belt – that seem like precise folds made by the tightness of the belt (although they’ll in all probability really be sewn down). 

Once more, as with belts, there may be minimal distinction by way of formality between these choices, however I might say that if doubtful, go for the best fashion that you just like. An overcoat is an enormous piece of tailoring to get incorrect (as I’ve discovered to my price up to now). 

On the backside of the coat, there’ll then often be a single vent that runs all the best way down, making it simpler to stroll. There are alternative ways wherein the coat could be pleated right here, however the main selection is whether or not to have buttons enabling the vent to to be mounted, or not. On the whole, a wise coat wouldn’t have buttons, and a extra informal one may. 

Cuffs and swelled edges

Different design parts on coats embrace turn-back cuffs on the ends of the sleeves. These would appear to be an informal selection, however have been included on a surprisingly giant variety of formal tailoring kinds through the years, together with night put on. 

Personally, I wouldn’t have turn-back cuffs on a very good coat although – nicer to depart it clear. 

The identical goes for swelled edges, the place there’s a row of sewing a couple of millimetres again from the sting of the coat. This may be an aesthetic element, although it was additionally seen as sensible by way of stopping fraying or rips working too far. 

As you’d count on, it is a extra informal element, and most frequently seen on Ulster coats or Polo coats. The latter is an fascinating case by way of fashion definitions, given what number of totally different variations there have been through the years. In the long run, it was a garment for a goal (conserving heat after sport) slightly than an outlined design. 

This record, for me, is one of the best ways to interrupt down the kinds of a tailor-made overcoat, slightly than moving into paddock coats, chesterfields, nice coats and surtouts. 

Such references could be helpful, however they’re simply as prone to get in the best way. 

Usually they will make a great start line, slightly than a clear definition. Edward Sexton and I referred to the coat we made in 2016 (under) as an awesome coat, for instance, due to its meant size and heat. However the pleats and seams on the again wouldn’t have been seen on any conventional nice coat.

Hopefully working by means of all these sections will assist outline precisely what you need, in an analogous manner. 

(I can even do extra detailed posts sooner or later, if folks need. Eg illustrations of all of the pocket choices, or pleat choices within the again. There is not actually room for that right here.)