Winter coats pulling at the back and arms: A fact of life or not?
November 12, 2012 2:50 PM   Subscribe

How should a men's winter coat fit? Is it just a fact life that it will feel tight at the arms and ride up, or is that a sign of a bad fit?

I've recently been shopping for a new winter coat - for the last 5 years I've been wearing a ski jacket, but I'm trying to make a bit more of an effort with my appearance, so something a bit classier is in order.

I recently spent a long Sunday afternoon shopping in town, looking to spend ~£80-£120 on a wool coat. I tried on a lot of coats in a lot of shops, and the fit was always problematic - when I extended my arms, they all tended to pull at the back and around my upper arms. I also found that raising my arms or sitting down would cause the whole thing to ride up around my neck. This also tends to happen when I sit down.

I eventually settled on this coat, size XL, which seemed to be the least bad, but I've been wearing it around the house, and both the riding up and the pulling are bugging me. I'm still in the window where I could realistically return it to M&S.

So, coat experts of Metafilter, tell me: are the problems I'm complaining about just a fact of life with this kind of clothing, or should I be shopping around, spending more money, looking at a different size, or looking at something else entirely?

Further information: I'm a relatively slim 29-year old male, 6'2" tall, in southern England. I don't have to look smart for work, so this is not a coat that will be routinely worn over a suit. I'm looking for a comfortable and reasonably stylish way to keep warm in English winter weather.
posted by Urtylug to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
XL? Sounds like it's too big. What's your chest/suit size?
posted by supercres at 3:09 PM on November 12, 2012

I'd say it either isn't a good fit, or it's a crappy cut, or both. A well-made wool coat (eg) shouldn't do the odd riding-up or choking you that you describe; the downside is that you may not be in the price range to get the quality of cut that you want.
posted by Forktine at 3:14 PM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

If it bothers you now, return it! Do not delay. It will not start to unbother you.

Look online for shops that offer tall sizes. (In the US, I would send you to Banana Republic.)
posted by purpleclover at 3:14 PM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Part of it is just the nature of the coat. A ski jacket is built for maximum mobility which typically means armpit gussets (which is what it sounds like you're missing the most). Any coat or jacket that doesn't have that feature is going to feel restrictive and probably uncomfortable in comparison. I have the same issue when I come back from a hiking trip. Everything feels SO uncomfortable!

The second part is the cut. In your price range you'll be doing a lot of shopping or you'll need to get lucky to find something of comparable comfort to your ski jacket.
posted by tealcake at 3:18 PM on November 12, 2012

I would agree that you're looking in a price range that's too low. Material and cut will be improved at higher price points. I don't think you need to break the bank, though. As per the above I bought a wool peacoat at Banana Republic and spent around $400 Canadian and the quality was a step up from bargain retailers. I wouldn't spend less than that here - not sure what the conversion/equal spending would be in the UK but I think around double what you're looking at would be a good start.

I recall an Esquire or GQ article about buying a wardrobe on a bugdet, and one of the staples they said to spend a bit more money on if you could was a good coat. If you buy a classic style it will far outlast trends and will serve you well with good materials, cut and style. Good clothing is really worth it, in my opinion. It looks better and wears harder, and you get your money's worth. If you have the means and know you'll be using it for a long time, stretch a bit to get something that fits.
posted by jimmythefish at 3:21 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would add to the above that your typical wool coat will not afford the free range of motion that a ski jacket will allow, like someone else said above. However, I don't find that to be an impediment. How often are you raising your hands above your head when wearing it? Me, not very much. If I have my wool coat on I'm usually hands-in-pockets or drinking coffee or similar. I don't need to move like Jet Li (although I can in sweats, believe me). A wool coat's warmth comes from the density of the wool and it comes with some trade-offs.
posted by jimmythefish at 3:29 PM on November 12, 2012

It's too short. Look for brands that come in tall like Eddie Bauer, if that's available in the UK.
posted by fshgrl at 3:32 PM on November 12, 2012

Yes, it's the fit that's the problem. A jacket sized S/M/L/XL is never going to fit you as well as something that's made for your approximate measurements and/or capable of being altered by a tailor.

Military surplus will be your best bang-for-buck here. A pea coat will suit you just fine.
posted by sportbucket at 3:36 PM on November 12, 2012

There are people who work at these stores whose job it is to help you find the proper fit. Engage their services.
posted by jeffamaphone at 3:57 PM on November 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

This is actually one of those times where charity shops (esp. in the stockbroker belt) or one of London's second-hand clothes shops may provide better pickings than M&S, especially at your budget. I got a not-terrible overcoat for that price from Burton about a decade ago, but the high street chains aren't great for this any more.

As tealcake says, you will get a bit of ride-up on an tailored overcoat if you raise your arms above horizontal, no matter what; peacoats are a little more accommodating than suit-coats, but not hugely. (And the Royal Navy isn't as good for surplus or used coats as its US equivalent.)
posted by holgate at 4:06 PM on November 12, 2012

Thanks to everyone so far.

- Supercres: I am 78kg/171lb, 37-38"-ish chest, measured very approximately. I usually wear L or XL clothes - remember that sizing conventions are a little different on this side of the Atlantic.

- The biggest issue with the riding up is driving. I've worn it out once (in dry weather, it should be stilll returnable), and having to deal with the coat around my neck was annoying. I agree that I've probably been spoiled a little by the ski jacket - I don't have any arm mobility issues in that.

- Understood that more money may be necessary. I'll look at some higher-end shops and talk to the salespeople to see if things improve there.
posted by Urtylug at 4:17 PM on November 12, 2012

it needs to be broader (larger/wider) across the back of the shoulders and have gussets under the arms. seconding a miltary peacoat (the swiss ones are very nice)
posted by par court at 4:23 PM on November 12, 2012

I would suggest that one does not drive in this kind of coat. But I am female... Maybe men's coats are expected to allow for this. But as a girl, with this kind of coat, I'd say I take it off to drive.
posted by jojobobo at 12:21 AM on November 13, 2012

Generally, formal coats aren't cut with the expectation that your going to be waving your arms around, nor lifting them up to the horizontal for that matter. They're cut to look good as you walk around, possibly carrying a nice briefcase :)

Whether you can cope with the way a coat rides up when you're doing something like driving probably depends on the cut of the collar: a wool overcoat with lapels probably won't be as annoying as something that closes around the neck, but won't be as warm (without a scarf) either.

John Lewis will sell you such a thing for £230 or so, but it might be a bit more formal than a peacoat.
posted by pharm at 9:02 AM on November 13, 2012

Go to a tailor and get your measurements. This cost me $5.00. Be sure to write them down.

Hunt for a vintage wool coat on eBay, and buy a coat that is close to your measurements (close-to meaning greater-than-or-equal-to because a tailor can remove fabric, not add it). I just had fabulous luck with this Pendleton coat sold New Without Tags (NWOT) and set me back $76.00. It fit me well everywhere except the chest, and so I took it to a tailor to be refit. That cost me $55.00. I would highly recommend doing the same thing because buying vintage/used is the only way to get a decent 100% coat for under $150.00. Make sure the wool hasn’t been eaten by moths. Know that wool is easier and cheaper to tailor and shape because it drapes well. If I had gone the “buy it new” route, my new–to–me un–tailored Pendleton coat would have cost me $400.00, ±$50.00. Buy used and spend the savings on a tailor! Then keep the rest of the savings!

Here is an eBay sample search I made just now that you could use to find decent wool peacoats (note that I didn’t limit this search by sizing, so pay attention). Make sure you look for measurements before you buy anything. If you see a design that looks really rad, but they don’t list any measurements besides shoulder size, just ask the seller to measure for you.

As for general eBay advice: if you set up saved searches with a specific price range, you can get kick ass stuff for cheap before anybody else knows about it, especially if you snipe. That’s how I get good deals on Allen Edmonds shoes, but that’s a whole other ballgame. Happy hunting!
posted by oceanjesse at 7:05 PM on November 23, 2012

Thanks everyone.

I returned the M&S coat, went off to a designer outlet centre, and spent quite a bit more money on a much nicer coat.

Oceanjesse: That would have been an excellent idea! I'm don't typically buy clothes online, but given the saving that certainly would be an idea worth considering in the future.
posted by Urtylug at 12:48 PM on December 15, 2012

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