This is the big spring cover story
Last spring, there were few coat dilemmas: the trench coat ruled. All we were required to do was choose the length (mini, knee-length or cropped) and we were sorted. End of... But this spring doubts are popping up like crocuses over what is the definitive spring cover-up.
The answer depends on which of the season's major trends you plan to wear. If you are colour blocking or choosing one colour from among spring's key shades, you have a whole paintbox of colours to pick, including orange, cobalt, coral, mustard and red.
If you are taking the modern investment-dressing route, you will need something slouchy and slightly mannish or, alternatively, something very pared down in an expensive looking neutral. The third option is a trench, classic or reworked. And any of these work with the slouchy trousers, capri pants, oversized shirts and loose tops which characterise this look.
If you are rocking the sports luxe vibe, the parka - which has become almost as much of a spring classic as the trench - is ubiquitous this season, and makes the perfect cover-up over sports luxe pieces.
If you are channeling the 1960s, you need something above the knee, demure with a hint of Audrey or Jackie O.
If, however, you are channeling the 1970s, you have challenges: the mainstream brands seem to have been caught out by the strength of the 70s appeal. The block heels, platforms and wide trousers are around, but not the coats, though Topshop and Primark may be finalising their samples as I write. In the meantime, until autumn, when maxi coats will be everywhere, you may have to improvise. There's a Marc Jacobs pea coat and a Reiss military mac that allude to the 70s, but otherwise scour vintage shops for long, fitted raincoats with vast collar and revers.
We've even found coats for you that work some of the more esoteric trends like denim, animal print, flower power and lace. Sadly, we couldn't find fruit…
Modern investment dressing
Palest nude suede drape coat, Nicole Farhi, £1,400; cream, mid-calf, belted coat, LK Bennett, £345; blue, oversized wrap coat with wide collar, Jaeger, £299; collarless lightweight caramel coat, Next (£70), camel coat with black leather sleeves, Zara, £119.
Classic trenchcoats at Banana Republic (taupe, navy or grey, £140); Jaeger (cream, £299); Topshop (taupe or navy, from £89); Warehouse (£100); Oasis (£85); M&S (light beige or khaki, from £69); Jane Norman (£60).
Styled trenches: zipped trench at Mint Velvet (£99); trench with leather shoulders and arms, Burberry Prorsum (Matches, £1,795).
Colour block/colour pop
Short scarlet coat, LK Bennett, £195; orange mac, Topshop, £89; red, double-breasted belted coat, Great Plains, £87; bright scarlet mini trench, New Look, £32.99; red coat with grey piping, Jaeger Boutique, £260; iris blue cotton weave coat, tipped in turquoise, Boden, £110; collarless coat in bright red, £269, Hobbs; collarless red coat with bow, Giambattista Valli, £2,190 at Matches.
Oversized parkas by Burberry Brit, Belstaff and Acne at Browns; waxed parka with military brass buttons, Topshop (£75); hooded parka, Jaeger London, £330; asymmetric parka in pale grey by Mint Velvet (£125).
White, stand-up collar coat, Stella McCartney, £915; cream tipped coat, Boden, £110; pale tweed coat with peter pan collar, £398, MaxMara; mushroom, scallop edged, coat with peter pan collar, Warehouse, £100; short spotty mac Jaeger Boutique, £199.
Marc Jacobs pea coat with huge collar and revers (£1,280 at Browns); Reiss rubberised military mac (£265).
Lace, flowers and the rest
Botanical print flared mac, £1,255, Stella McCartney; flower print trench, Topshop (£89); flower print mac, Next, £90; lace print trench, M&S £69; snakeskin print trench, M&S (£75); snakeskin print silk trench, Lanvin, £2,740 at Browns; denim trench, Burberry Brit, £450, Browns; denim mini mac, New Look.