One day, it will be summer. Until then, most of us still need a coat.
Now, I love, love, love my two-year-old water-wind-sleet-whatever-proof Postcard jacket (nickname: “The Fortress”). If my house were on fire, I’d save that coat, my laptop, and my vintage Balenciaga sunglasses. But after March 20, I want The Fortress out of the daily rotation, for, among other reasons, my entirely unscientific belief that wearing lighter jackets can initiate an atmospheric warming trend. Hence the need for what I call the transition coat: a medium-weight jacket that can be worn from March through May, in whatever weather those months see fit to deal.
My feelings on the transition coat are similar to my feelings on brunch: I grumble that it’s an artificial bridge between two distinct seasons and don’t want to pay a lot of money for it, but OK, I admit there are certain times it really hits the spot. This time of year is notorious for temperature fluctuations and unpredictable spots of precipitation. As anyone who has been looking at the five-day forecast in New York recently will tell you, it’s hard to predict what the weather will be like from day to day, and the transition coat must be able to handle the crisp, the temperate, and the soggy. In my mind, a transition coat should prioritize protection over insulation. So it’s quite a bit lighter than whatever you’re wearing during the winter, but looks good with or without sweaters layered underneath, and it must be waterproof, ideally also featuring a hood.
This season’s It coat is the Burberry trench that Kate Catherine Middleton wore in March to a pancake-tossing event in Belfast, Ireland. There are several things I love about that sentence—cooking, Northern Ireland, the new princess—but the coat isn’t one of them. I think trenches are generally unflattering unless, like the royal newlywed, one is tall, thin, and able to afford Burberry (Thomas Burberry invented gabardine; trenches made from cheaper rubberized waterproof fabrics always look too boxy to me). And what I do like about trenches is their gamine insouciance, which is totally nullified by the girly frill on the hem in this version.
Kate’s coat has been sold out since, like, six seconds after she wore it, but I’ve seen several cute little girls in the East Village sporting another incarnation. A bit of research confirmed my hunch that their coat is from Topshop. At $180, it seems a bit high for something that’s 100% cotton. But to each their own!
As for me, after a brief infatuation with barn coats last fall, I’ve come back to the anorak. An anorak is a catch-all term for long-sleeve, waterproof coats with hoods and a drawstring at the waist. I like them because they seem like a lighter and more versatile alternative to a proper raincoat. And as with trenchcoats, I do appreciate a little androgyny in a women’s jacket. I got an anorak-style shell with a zip-in hood at Brooklyn Industries a few summers ago that has served me very well in the warmest months, and I was happy to see a few more substantive options when I popped into one of their stores recently. I chose the Woodstock Anorak, which has my most favorite BI signature feature, the detachable, snap-on hood. Some people feel that detachable hoods are only slightly less unfortunate than fanny packs, but underneath my clothes-horse tendencies and susceptibility to fashion’s seasonal whims, I have a profound weakness for a well-placed utilitarian touch.
A similar coat in the men’s section—the Borderland jacket—seems a little boring to me. I’d pass it up in favor of the Balkan jacket. I’m not familiar enough with either the sartorial scene or the climate in southeastern Europe to venture a guess on where the names comes from, but it’s water resistant and on sale for $49.99. At that price, I can stomach a little forcedness in an item name.
If money were no object, I’d be first in line for the Safari coat from A.P.C’s SS 2011 collection. True, the coat’s not much cheaper than a flight to Africa, but I love the belt, the length, and the breast pockets. The coat is unisex—androgyny, check—offered in blue for men, and two appealing shades of khaki for women. And it has a detachable hood! Be still my heart.
Caitlin Leffel is a writer, editor, and the author of two books about New York. Her fashion column, Chic Fatigue, will appear on alternate Thursdays.