There are many items of apparel in the wonderfully broad world of fashion that I just don’t get. Trainers with heels: take an item designed to keep you moving fast, add wedge to ensure you can’t. Footless tights: basically leggings you can’t really wear as such. Maternity Spanx: take the one time in your life when you are entitled to let it all hang out a bit, and add control panels.
And then there are sleeveless coats. Am I hopelessly prosiac, or is it not the entire purpose of a coat to keep you warm - preferably, yes, stylishly so - but warm nevertheless. How exactly can that be achieved with your upper limbs exposed to the full chill of the autumn/winter wind? You wouldn’t buy a pair of legless trousers (well, you would, but you’d call them underwear, I suspect) so why on earth would you buy a sleeveless coat.
Come September every year, no matter how long it’s been since you left school, there is always in the air that indefinable sense of a new term. Once, this signalled it was time to cram back into the school uniform, realise you didn’t fit, be hustled off to the department store by an exasperated parent and be forcibly jammed into a succession of scratchy duffels and itchy tights. I still have a vague hangover from such memories, and I didn’t even have a school uniform after the age of 11.
The grown-up, more pleasing version of this is definitely the autumn/winter wardrobe. Perhaps I’m just desperately English, but I always think it’s far more exciting than the summer version. Summer is too fickle: yes you might hope to float around in florals, but your reality will probably be soggy espadrilles and an increasing stockpile of umbrellas. Winter guarantees coldness, so you can get thoroughly carried away about merino tights, the Falke catalogue and knitted accessories. I’ve somehow managed to accumulate about seven scarves already, without it yet having been cold enough to wear a single one of them.
And, of course, there are coats. Coats, after all, are one of our biggest purchases in terms of cost. A well made coat is worth splashing out on - after all you will be wearing it more than any other item in your wardrobe, even if you have several. So this, surely, is one area where you should look for something classic, something that will work with every outfit, and something which fulfils it’s original function - to wit, preventing it’s wearer from getting pneumonia. What are you supposed to do with your sleeveless coat if it actually is cold? Wear another one on top? Surely that’s taking layering a layer too far. As for the chunky knitted version, to be worn with skinny belt: well, if you can work that look, you should probably be heading to the catwalks to get ready for your latest show, because I refuse to believe anyone without model proportions can carry it off. I know designers have to reinvent the wheel with this item every season, but really, this particular wheel is square.
- Kate Carter