How to pick a flattering winter coat, according to an outerwear designer

Learn how to pick a flattering winter coat for every body type with these expert tips

composite of street style of women wearing coats - showing how to pick a flattering winter coat
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you've been wondering how to pick a flattering winter coat, there are a few things to know before you splurge. Although there are several styles that will work for everyone, there are certain silhouettes that will help to enhance your particular shape or height.

Choosing the best winter coats for women can take some real trial and error. If you find yourself constantly trying on different styles but nothing quite looks or feels right on you, it's worth considering how to shop for your body type. Much like sussing out how to pick a warm winter coat, knowing a few foolproof rules can make the process much less stressful.

"Every woman's body is different, and while a proper fitting coat can feel amazing, it's also important to dress for yourself in a way that expresses who you are without being confined or defined by a shape," says Liz Williams, Outerwear Designer at The Checkroom. But if you do want to opt for a coat that will help you to look and feel your best, these are her top tips.

Liz Williams
Liz Williams

Outerwear Designer at The Checkroom, Liz Williams creates “Classic Inspired Statement Coats for Modern Women.” Liz is a former Instructor of Fashion Design at Columbia College in Chicago, where she educated students in fashion design, patternmaking, sewing, and fabric manipulation. 

How to pick a flattering winter coat for your body type

To avoid making any capsule wardrobe mistakes, it is worth taking some extra time to get to know your body type and the outerwear that will fit you the best. From the colours and details to look for to how to choose the ideal style for your height, these are Williams' top pieces of advice.

How to pick a flattering winter coat for tall women

"For tall women, sleeve length can be an issue, as many ready-to-wear coats are hemmed for an average height," says Williams. Much like shopping for the best jeans for tall women, you will want to look for coats that are designed specifically for your height to ensure the best possible shape. 

If you tend to shop at retailers that don't have an extensive tall section, you will want to pay attention to the details on your coat of choice. "I recommend looking for pieces with adjustable cuffs or extra hem allowance so that your sleeve length can be extended and hit your wrist at the right point," says Williams.

How to pick a flattering winter coat for petites

Shopping for the best winter coats for petites can be one of the most challenging tasks, as many standard coats will be far too long - especially in the arms. Petite sections are the first place to look for outerwear that is the ideal length and in the right proportions.

But as well as getting the length right, it's important to consider the embellishments on your coat too. "Many petite women feel overpowered by large collars and large design features," notes Williams. "Look for scaled-back, minimalist features so that the proportions don't overwhelm you." The best quilted jackets are a great example of a piece of outerwear that is interesting but not too statement for petites.

How to pick a flattering winter coat for a larger bust

"Many of my clients with a larger bust tend to seek out belted coats and swing coats so that they can still show off their curves," says Williams. Master how to style a trench coat and this timeless belted style will be your best friend.

"Straight cut, menswear-inspired coats don't accommodate a woman's curves in the same way as a women's tailored coat. Look for designers that understand how to work with curves," says Williams. Outerwear with double-breasting or hourglass cuts will provide enough room around the chest without looking too boxy or oversized.

How to pick a flattering winter coat for pear body shapes

"The fit of every good coat should begin with the shoulders," says Williams. "Swing coats are great for a pear-shaped body because they provide a nice opportunity to have a good fit through the shoulders and sleeves while allowing ease through the hips."

Many of the best waterproof jackets for women, like parkas and long Macs, follow this shape, making them a brilliant practical investment for pear shapes. If you want to draw the eye upwards, style your coat with a pair of trendy barrel leg jeans for flattering and fashion-forward ensemble.

How to pick a flattering winter coat for straighter figures

"For women with straighter figures, shorter coats and pops of colour can break up longer verticals and allow room for play," Williams says. Don't be afraid to go a little outside of your comfort zone with some texture and pattern if you want to avoid looking too plain in a sharper silhouette.

Belted styles and textured puffers with elastic hems can work well if you want to create more shape - but be sure to learn how to wash a puffer jacket for maximum longevity. Opt for a statement pair of the best winter boots to further section off your outfit.

The best coats to shop for every body type

Should you buy a winter coat a size bigger?

Whether or not you size up in a winter coat will depend on the look you're after and the exact style you're buying. If you are tall and shopping regular fit coats, you may want to size up to ensure it is long enough. If you have a large bust, wider hips, or you just prefer a more comfortable, slouchy look, you may also want to size up on more form-fitting outerwear.

If you are petite or have a straighter figure, you will probably want to avoid sizing up most of the time. Anything too large will end up swamping your frame, which could make it look like your winter coat doesn't fit properly.

Amelia Yeomans
Senior writer

Amelia joined woman&home in 2022 after graduating with an MA in Magazine Journalism from City University and she is now a senior fashion and beauty writer. She began building her career as a lifestyle journalist after completing a fashion journalism course at the Condé Nast College of Fashion & Design in 2019, writing for a variety of titles including OK!, New!, and Notion on topics such as sustainable fashion and entertainment.