Layer it on

By Brigit Grant, November 9, 2012
Bertie the hound is wearing a beret (£17) and scarf (£22) by Accessorize

Bertie the hound is wearing a beret (£17) and scarf (£22) by Accessorize

I had lots of ideas to write about this week, but then it turned cold and I needed a coat. And not just a coat.

A jacket, some knitwear, a gilet and maybe a scarf and hat. As Brits, we are only too familiar with the transitory state of the weather and though we love discussing it, we also have to dress for it.

That is tricky when conditions go from frosty to temperate in a matter of hours — and so we layer, though in my case not always successfully as I often find myself carrying three of my five “layers” to avoid self-combusting on the overheated Underground.

I am in fact in awe of anyone who can survive a Tube journey dressed in a polo neck and a fur wrap, in the same way as I am daunted by girls in the north-east who can wear sheer shoe string strap minis in the snow.

My mother has an odd phrase — “do your neck up” — to help us survive winter and those words, combined with a good coat and scarf, get us through any cold patch.

Interestingly, a coat, be it good or bad, is a wardrobe survivor and unlike most other items in your closet, can last a lifetime. Only a few weeks ago a 1934 Austin Reed mohair plush “teddy” coat sold for £20,400 at auction, so check before you throw out that threadbare old sheepskin.

Having worn several of my favourite and most asked-about coats for many years, I can’t imagine parting with them any time soon, but that doesn’t mean I don’t need a new one. I always need a new one, and there are some statement coats around with unlimited appeal.

Mint Velvet Polar fur gillet (£99)

Mint Velvet Polar fur gillet (£99)

And it doesn’t stop with the coat. Once you start browsing, you’ll see there is a lot of desirable winter wear in the stores and with online fashion retailers who have pulled it out of the bag to bring us everything we would like to wear outside, be it tartans and brocades or feathers and tweeds.

Urbanites who rarely set foot in a field now have the freedom to don equestrian jackets and waxed quilted coats without feeling the least bit foolish thanks to the Burberry Prorsum initiative and its town and country catwalk show which provided a huntin’ and fishin’ theme for the season.

And what about the animals? There are foxes, owls and bears everywhere from Primark to Warehouse, on jumpers that were once considered the preserve of children but are now deemed appropriate woodland wear for adults.

Even the much-maligned Puffa coat (which doesn’t work for everyone) has been given a classic cut makeover, and pop star Rihanna was spotted wearing one.

RiRi might also like the inventive Hearmuffs, so she can listen to her tunes, while keeping her ears warm. I prefer the seasonal headband by Pilot for cheery heat and a fur gilet by Mint Velvet.

Mint Velvet was founded three years ago by former Principles’ staff Jane Rawlings, Liz Houghton and Lisa Agar-Rea, who decided there was a gap in the market for affordable clothing for 30-plus women. For winter, their chic simplicity at realistic prices is well worth viewing online and at House of Fraser and John Lewis.

I love the shadow and fog palette for the coats, knits, jackets, and gilets, and will have to give them a test run if I’m ever to master the art of layering. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Last updated: 3:09pm, November 9 2012