Why are coats so complicated??
April 22, 2021 5:55 AM   Subscribe

This is a question for fellow plus-size people who wear women's clothing. I have trouble shopping for coats. They are the bane of my existence because they NEVER fall right over the shape of my body. Any advice?

In 20 years of living in a cold country I have not been able to find a coat that fits me properly.

Over the past years I have seen the plus size market for women's clothing definitely get better. But I still struggle to find a coat that fits me.

I am plus sized with a big mid-section - my tummy and hips are wide and I carry most of my weight there. While none of me is particularly small, my upper section is comparatively smaller than my lower section. This means that coats that zip up/can be buttoned up around my tummy hang loosely off my shoulders and chest and look awful. But if I buy a coat that fits nicely over my shoulders and bust, it's almost impossible to button up or zip up over my hips and tummy. It doesn't matter what particular style or cut (I always go for A-line/princess seam/swing style), coats/jackets are pretty much impossible.

(I manage ok with cropped A-line jackets/blazers - it's anything that goes over my hips which presents a challenge because they are so wide. I have no difficulty finding other kinds of clothing.)

I just bought this lovely coat in the biggest size available and while it's baggy-ish (but fine) over my upper frame, I have the same issue as ever with zipping it up. It's so frustrating!

To clarify what I'm asking: How do other people with a similar body type approach the fraught question of outerwear? Are there are brands (who ship to the UK) who cater for people with big hips and tummies? Are there any hacks you have devised? Or any good alternatives for cold/transitional weather outerwear that you've found? Or should I just resign myself to a life of never buttoning up the bottom half of my coats?
posted by unicorn chaser to Shopping (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Swing coats and capes are what works for me. Or honestly, maternity -- I have bought maternity pants and I'm never going back.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:03 AM on April 22 [1 favorite]

How cold is your area? I have a coat from eShakti that I love and which other people love enough to stop me on the street and tell me how nice it is, and because it is from eShakti, it was custom cut to my size. The problem with the eShakti solution is two-fold: they only occasionally have nice coats, so you'd have to watch and wait for your chance, AND, they aren't *that* warm. Mine is a wool blend coat, and I can wear it down to about -10c reasonably comfortably, but below that, I have to switch to my down parka because the eShakti coat just isn't warm enough. I sew, and I've thought about opening up the lining and inserting a layer of thinsulate, but I don't know if I sew that well and it would be criminal to ruin a coat that makes me so happy.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:11 AM on April 22

Also, this is not a ringing endorsement, but maybe try Ulla Popken? I'm unable to wear their clothes because they are *so* big through the waist relative to everything else that they don't fit me properly, but maybe this would work in your favour given your sizing issues?
posted by jacquilynne at 6:16 AM on April 22 [2 favorites]

I would look for coats that have a higher waist -- the term is "empire waist" in dresses, I honestly am not sure if that applies to coats as well -- and possibly "fit-n-flare" -- basically the idea is that the most fitted part stops under your boobs and the bottom part flares out to give you more room below. This coat from Torrid is more or less what I'm talking about.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:21 AM on April 22

I've gained weight and bought new coats this winter. A down jacket and a rainshell in a larger size to wear alone or over the down jacket. This combination is comfortably warm. I got a boiled wool coat when it was on clearance and it's stretchy, so comfortable. I also checked out wool duffel coats on ebay and there's some great value there. Wool is warm and has a lot of give, so wear a wool coat for a couple weeks and it will stretch some to fit. My beautiful old leather jacket stretched quite a bit and I may look for another.
posted by theora55 at 6:31 AM on April 22 [1 favorite]

how plus size are you? like a 16, or a 28+? that will affect my suggestions.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 6:35 AM on April 22

Response by poster: how plus size are you? like a 16, or a 28+?

22/24 on the top, 26/28 on the bottom. (in UK sizes)
posted by unicorn chaser at 6:37 AM on April 22

I'm short-waisted and almost hilariously pear shaped. Almost all plus sized coats overwhelm my shoulders, but I've had some luck (in general, not just with coats) with City Chic. It's end of season, so their coat selection on the website is pretty low (though on sale), but the brand is carried at a bunch of different stores online (including Nordstrom and Bloomingdales, but also I believe CoEdition.
posted by thivaia at 7:32 AM on April 22 [1 favorite]

It's much harder with zippers, but for wool coats that button up, you can always move the buttons a fair amount. So if a coat fits you in the hips, you can move the upper buttons to make the top part tighter, and vice versa. Depending on the cut of the coat and the button placement, you might need to move only one or two buttons.

Source: I'm the opposite (1-2 sizes bigger on the top, thank you swimmer's shoulders and size E) and I alter my coats the other way around, moving the waist buttons. I have a coat like this and there's definitely room enough to let out the waist as well, at least one size if not two - I lost two-three sizes since I bought it and again only moving the buttons was necessary, since my shoulders stayed mostly the same.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 7:40 AM on April 22 [1 favorite]

As a pear shaped person, I've frequently wished that I could buy a coat for my top and an around-the-waist skirt type thing, of the same material, as separates so I could ensure my butt and hips were kept warm.

I've seen coats - and vests more particularly - sold in the US that have zippered vents over the butt or hips that allow more flexibility in that area (which is especially nice because the body reshapes itself significantly wider when sitting and driving!). I'm not sure I've ever seen that feature advertised, though. This has vents, but not zippered.

As a similarly shaped person, my go-to tactic has been to find a shell-type jacket that covers my widest points, and then add the warmth through layers (vests, sweaters, etc). That works up to a certain point, and then I switch to this coat. Duluth seems to get the tummy/hips thing better than a lot of brands.

... okay, looks like Roaman's has what I was talking about. Side snaps, side zip. From your ask, I get the feeling you'd like something a little more classical, so maybe this. The website says it doesn't ship to the EU, which I would think means it should ship to the UK, but perhaps not. I wouldn't recommend a mail-to-a-buddy-for-them-to-relay solution for something like a T-shirt, but a big ticket thing like a coat, that you like enough, maybe.
posted by snerson at 7:43 AM on April 22

My coat issues are not the same as yours, so these are not direct personal experience recs. I have always thought that HellBunny coats looked very pear shaped and not bought them for that reason.

The other option is of course to get a coat made. You are probably less goth than me, so a rec for The Dark Angel who make those coats to measure as part of their coture service, might not be quite what you are looking for. But a well-made wool coat will last.

And if you want an alternative approach, I have an oversized (as in oversized on plus-sized self) men's duffle coat that is less worn, more inhabited. The number and type of layers that I wear underneath varies. But I know the Paddington solution isn't for everyone.
posted by Vortisaur at 9:40 AM on April 22 [1 favorite]

Buy a nice wool coat (to fit the broadest part of you), get it tailored to fit the narrower parts as well. Or order one made to fit. People on Etsy will do this. With one minor caveat (the sleeves are like half an inch too short, just enough to be slightly annoying), I was pleased with my coat from Danellys, who offers sized clothing but then followed up to get more precise measurements. The styling on her site is very, ah, Slavic in aesthetic, but many of the items are more normal. Anyway, you don't have to use her in particular, but there's definitely people who will take on the task of fitting you a coat, and for less than you might think.
posted by praemunire at 10:33 AM on April 22

Yes, definitely get any new coats altered. Buy the size that fits your bottom half and can button/zip easily and comfortably. Then bring it to a tailor and have the shoulders narrowed, and perhaps the top few buttons moved. I did this with a gorgeous coat where I had similar fit issues. I ended up with a coat I adored and it fit like it was custom-made for me (it was!) I wore it for several years and was very sad when it was time to give it up.
posted by primate moon at 10:46 AM on April 22 [1 favorite]

A friend who's not on MeFi suggests looking at the Universal Standard Beas Coat.
posted by Lexica at 11:56 AM on April 22 [1 favorite]

Was just getting a link to Universal Standard when I saw Lexica above me did the same. I own only a couple of pieces from this maker, (they are pricey for me!) but they are all well made and comfy as heck. What's nice is that they show the clothing in all kinds of sizes, so you can see how they look on real shapes.

Edited to add that I found them through my favorite influencer, and she swears by the Willow Cocoon Coat.
posted by annieb at 3:03 PM on April 28

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