How to pick a flattering winter coat - according to a fashion expert

As far as wardrobe items go, they don’t come any harder working than a coat. A cornerstone in your autumn/winter arsenal, this is the piece you will be reaching for from October until March (weather dependent), layering it over all manner of outfits from smart to casual.

Such a high-performing staple deserves careful consideration when being purchased – after all, the best winter coats (opens in new tab) tend to come with a sizable price tag, so cost-per-wear, you want it to stack up. The right cover-up should be versatile, comfortable, have longevity and, most importantly, make you feel good when wearing it - a flattering winter coat.

As well as investing in premium quality and timeless design, picking a flattering winter coat that fits like a glove will ensure you stay in love with your outerwear for many years to come. It will also help pull together the rest of your autumn wardrobe, and make wrapping up for freezing temperatures feel like a pleasure, rather than a chore.

With myriad coat styles available this season, the trick is to seek out the silhouettes that prove most flattering for your frame. In need of a helping hand? Let these expert tips guide you.

How to pick a flattering winter coat

If you’re tall

Statuesque frames can carry off length and volume, so opt for chic oversized and relaxed-fit silhouettes. Look for coats with drop shoulders, a long hemline and upscale proportions created by large pockets, collars or sleeves – all details that would swamp those with petite builds.

An overcoat with a slouch fit is an outerwear classic that perfectly fits the bill. Look to Zara’s limited edition wool-blend coat, £129.99 (opens in new tab), which comes with ankle-grazing hem, XL lapel collar and pleated sleeves that add subtle volume.

This season’s trend for chunky textures are also best showcased on tall frames, as height cancels out bulk. Try H&M’s chubby teddy coat, £49.99 (opens in new tab), or long-line padded number, such as COS’ calf-skimming puffer, £180 (opens in new tab). Both are genuinely warm coats (opens in new tab) too.

If you’re petite

For those 5’5 and under, the most important thing to look for when shopping for flattering winter coats are styles that don’t overpower you. Stick to neat silhouettes that sit close to the body (no cocoon cuts here) and cropped lengths that hit no longer than mid thigh. Make sure to avoid excess fabric, upscale detailing and large prints, such as checks, which can all drown smaller frames.

A beautifully tailored coat in a classic hue is a piece that will never date. Boden’s Knight Coat, £180 (opens in new tab), has been constructed from premium wool blend in a fitted silhouette that complements smaller builds. It also has strap detailing, which offers extra shaping at the waist. Choose between the equally versatile navy or camel colourways, teaming with smart separates for the 9 to 5 or jeans and knits at the weekend.

A timeless trench coat (opens in new tab) is a wardrobe investment you’ll never regret making. While floor-sweeping styles make an entrance, a shorter length take is just as stylish and better suited to petite frames. Burberry trench (opens in new tab) coats are the dream, but the high street has plenty to offer too. Marks & Spencer’s Double Breasted Trench Coat, £55 (opens in new tab), hits mid-thigh and comes with a waist belt and adjustable cuff ties to keep the silhouette neat.

If you’ve got a big bust

If you’ve been blessed with a big bust, outerwear can look bulky up top, making you look bigger than you really are. The trick is to create a streamlined, elongated silhouette. Opt for elegant styles that cinch at the waist, giving an hourglass shape. Avoid oversized shoulders, fussy collars, breast pockets and small-scale prints that add width.

One of the key styles of the season (and a perennial classic) is the robe-style coat. A favourite style with Marilyn Monroe, this has a soft structure and ties around the middle. Jigsaw’s Double Face Wrap Coat, £255 (opens in new tab), has a deep V-neckline and clean, minimal silhouette for a contemporary look. Made from double-faced wool it guarantees winter warmth. If you’re on the taller side, a longer style will make for a flattering winter coat. Try Mango’s woollen belted coat, £119 (opens in new tab), which comes in classic camel or go-with-everything grey.

If seeking a coat for off-duty wear, eschew baggy, shapeless styles in favor of those with fit. Reiss' Cora Parka Jacket, £212, (opens in new tab) has a drawstring waist to give a flattering waist definition.

If you’re pear shaped

For those who carry weight on their bottom halves, a flattering winter coat that skims rather than clings is a must – the aim is to create the illusion of length. Avoid styles with large side pockets and detailing around the hem, both of which will add bulk. Instead, reach for outerwear with an A-line silhouette that flares over the hips and bottom, ending at a slimmer part of the leg. John Lewis & Partner’s A-line mac, £99 (opens in new tab), offers a sophisticated take on rainwear, and could just as easily be dressed up with tailoring for the office, as it could be dressed down with luxe joggers and trainers at the weekend. Or look to Weekend Max Mara’s Uggioso coat, £520 (opens in new tab), which has carefully constructed seams to create a flattering fit-and-flare shape.

A statement collar will draw attention upwards and give breadth to shoulders, balancing the proportions of wider hips. Try Anne Weyburn’s detachable faux fur collared wool coat, £97.50 (opens in new tab), which comes in four wearable colourways.

If you’re straight up and down

Rectangular figures can risk looking boxy in outerwear, so it pays to add shape with embellishments and cleverly placed statement features. A classic double-breasted coat is the style to choose, as it gives width to narrow torsos and shaping at the waist. Thanks to its enduring appeal, it will also prove a savvy investment. & Other Stories’ belted trench coat, £205 (opens in new tab), comes with the addition of a large notch lapel collar and gun flap detailing for extra interest. Realised in a sturdy wool mix, it will see you through the coolest months.

While a busy print can look fussy on other builds, it’s well suited to a straight frame – and never fails to make a stylish impression. Ensure longevity by sticking to a timeless motif, such as heritage check. Amazon Find’s tartan city coat, £38.62 - £60.20 (opens in new tab), makes for a bold statement coming in on-trend red. The back-strap detailing gives subtle shaping at the waist.

A firm favourite on this season’s catwalks and a key winter coat trend for 2020 (opens in new tab), fuzzy textured outerwear is another style to be enjoyed by rectangular figures. Look to French Connection’s leopard print design, £185 (opens in new tab), which has a shape-enhancing oversized collar. Team with casual denim and flats in the day, switching to heels and evening dress for after-dark glamour.

Frankie Graddon

Frankie Graddon is a fashion and beauty journalist and co-founder of @thewingwoman (opens in new tab), a weekly podcast and newsletter about thirty-something life, honestly. 

Frankie has over a decade of experience working as a writer, editor, podcaster and consultant. She has been a regular contributor to a number of high-profile publishers including The Telegraph, The Times, Grazia, You Magazine, Glamour and woman&home.

Frankie has interviewed numerous industry experts and celebrities, from Claudia Schiffer and Karlie Kloss to Sam McKnight and Trinny Woodall. She has also created content for numerous fashion and beauty brands including Liberty of London, Whistles, Kitri, Hush and more.