In the realm of fashion, perfection is often the enemy of good style. Some of the most renowned style icons, such as Alexa Chung, Sienna Miller, and Chloë Sevigny, rarely appear immaculate. Similarly, at fashion week, editors and industry insiders are often distinguished from wealthy designer clients by their chunky boots or oversized coats. This concept of embracing the “wrong” choice extends beyond footwear and into the world of outerwear, particularly during the chilly winter months.
The idea of deliberately incorporating a contrasting element into one’s attire was initially introduced by American stylist Allison Bornstein. She advocated for selecting the most unexpected footwear to complete an outfit, imbuing it with a unique personality. Think ballet flats paired with a formal gown or chunky sandals with tailored trousers. Bornstein explained in an interview, “While working with clients and analyzing the style of our favorite celebrities, I realized that what makes an outfit feel interesting and personal is the addition of accessories that feel slightly ‘off’ or mismatched with the overall vibe of the look.”
Vogue has taken Bornstein’s concept a step further, declaring this winter the season of “the wrong coat.” Inspired by designer brands like Prada, where frayed jackets were paired with pencil skirts, and Altuzarra, where see-through dresses were layered with woven coats, Vogue encourages us to embrace a juxtaposition of formal attire and casual outerwear.
Stylist Arabella Greenhill applauds this approach to dressing, stating, “I adore this style. It plays into that very stylish masculine-feminine aesthetic, and it has the added benefit of making you feel more at ease if – like many people – you’re slightly out of your comfort zone in party clothes.” Sadie Mantovani, a stylist and fashion PR professional, agrees, adding, “The wrong coat also helps formalwear look edgier. Glitzy outfits can appear overthought or even twee. To combat this, I often pair a silk ankle-length dress with outerwear, such as a Barbour or a puffa jacket. It works because it demonstrates a touch of individuality rather than adhering to a head-to-toe look.”
The versatility of this trend extends beyond formal occasions. The “wrong” coat can also be incorporated into casual ensembles, echoing the enduring style legacy of Princess Diana. Stylist Olivia Buckingham, a regular contributor to Tatler magazine, shares her insights, “I use the same Barbour in the city as I do in the countryside. People used to have distinct country coats and city coats, but things have become more relaxed now – and I think it’s far more stylish to blur those lines. The key is for your Barbour not to appear too shiny or new; it should have a weathered, worn-in look.”
In essence, embracing the “wrong” coat this winter not only elevates one’s style but also offers practicality and warmth during the chilly season. And chances are, you already own the perfect piece in your wardrobe – just remember to remove the dog biscuits from your parka pocket before heading to that black-tie dinner.