The Inherent Tension in a Sweater Coat

On more than one occasion, we’ve talked about the benefits of sweater dressing. There is something very comforting in wrapping oneself — cocooning oneself — in soft warm wool clothes.

Silk worm cocoon
This looks cozy
This is a baby
As does this

If you subscribe to the view that one cannot have too much of a good thing — knits — than it logically follows that you love sweater coats.
Here things get tricky.
During the cold months, you cannot top a sweater-coat for warmth and comfort. Can Not. But sweater-coats can be overwhelming, shapeless or, in the worst-case scenario, overwhelming and shapeless.
Sweater-coat, you complete me
Sweater-coat, you complete me

Shape is the key
This is the flattering one, the one that I didn’t return
A few winters ago, I bought several sweater-coats in my search for a flattering one, which is pictured opposite. Allow me to share my empirical knowledge.

  • The sweater-coat needs to be snug. This may seem counter-intuitive, because a sweater-coat is a giant sweater . . . but it’s not actually. An over-sized crewneck can be stylish; an over-sized sweater-coat looks like a hotel bathrobe.
  • If your figure is fairly straight up and down, you can wear a sweater-coat that is essentially an extended (i.e., very long) cardigan.
  • If your figure is an hourglass or pear-shape, you need a sweater-coat that has been shaped by seams (because the coat is made of several pieces sewn together, like mine) or by dropping/increasing stitches (where the front or back of the coat is a single piece).
  • The heavier the gauge of the yarn, the more rigorously these prescriptions apply.

I’ve buttoned my coat so that you can see its shape better.
The shape is sort of Empire; there is a seam under the bust and the coat’s skirt is gathered in a few places. As a result, It fits snugly through the bust and waist, but then bells out over the hips and bottom for ease. The finishing touch is a ribbed trim at the bottom of the skirt that creates a little flared hem.
Buttoned up
Buttoned up

Waist seam
Note the ribbing; it’s really deep (heavy?)
Here is the seam at the waist.

The Photographer thought you might want to see the banded collar, too . . . although he did not call it that.
Banded collar
Banded collar

So what to wear under your sweater coat?
I recommend a knit top (sweater or jersey) and long straight leg or slightly boot-cut pants.
I strongly discourage you from wearing a sweater-coat with cropped pants. I actually tried on a pair (thinking to vary my usual combination) and I looked horrible. The proportions were all wrong. I acknowledge, however, that the facts always make a difference and depending on your height, shape, sweater-coat, and cropped pants, that combination may work. But I am very dubious.
Harper-cat, you complete me
Harper-cat, you complete me

If you have experimented with sweater-coats, or can recommend a current season sweater-coat, please chime in!

Sweater-coat: Theory; Striped jersey: Ann Taylor; Pants: JCrew; Boots: 8; Bag: Orla Kiely

7 thoughts on “The Inherent Tension in a Sweater Coat”

  1. I quite like your sweater coat and especially in black making it so useful. The ribbing would not look good on everyone but the texture works for your smaller frame. I have one from Eileen Fisher that is over 8 yrs old and still much loved, worn every winter.

  2. I have a tighter gauge, shorter knit sweater-coat that is a favorite in black – still work appropriate although I tend to reach for it when there are no meetings with outside people scheduled that day since it feels like i’m wearing lounge-wear.

  3. If anyone was looking to buy such a garment, the current term is a ‘coatigan’ … unless that’s just Europe because we don’t use ‘sweater’? (I’ll save you the mind hunt; it’s a jumper.)

    Whatever its nomenclature, few have that vital shaping such as yours; most of them are sadly of the bathrobe variety, although bathrobe coats are actually very ‘in’.

  4. I have not seen sweater coats before, but I am familiar with a sweater jacket. It is another hybrid that is generally a heavy knit fabric with the tailoring of a jacket. It can be worn as you would wear any jacket, but it is soft, cozy and forgiving. I have collected them over the past two winters and enjoyed them in a drafty suburban office park. My new employer is located in an overheated marble clad downtown skyscraper. I sense many new sartorial challenges coming soon!

  5. Hello! I am a new reader. Thanks for the info on the sweater coat, but I really want to know about your accessories. Where can I buy the cat? 🙂

    • rb — If only I could take Harper everywhere. She really elevates my look. I tell Harper all the time that if I predecease her, people will be fighting over her at my funeral. My husband finds this bizarre on several levels . . .So glad to welcome you as a new reader!


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