5 Ways to Make Your Old Coat Feel Exciting Again

One coat, five ways, zero reasons to get sick of your main winter layer


The novelty of winter has already worn off. This happens every January for me, and it unleashes varying degrees of seasonal angst, which then manifest as intense feelings of dislike directly targeted at my winter coat. You know, that omnipresent mass which extinguishes the flame of every hopeful winter outfit?

I’m always tempted to buy another coat. As a proponent of sustainable fashion, however, I can’t warm to the idea of having a bunch of coats lying around that I don’t need.

Caught between the rock of winter coat doldrums and the hard place of superfluous consumption, I’ve decided the arrival of 2017 is as good a time as any to settle for neither. Instead, I’ve opted to style my coat so that it’s not a glum monolith I wear despairingly from November through March.

Alexander McQueen coatManolo Blahnik shoes

How is this styling exercise sustainable? First, I am wearing mostly vintage and second-hand items. Hooray for reuse! And second, I’ve incorporated versatile pieces that can be worn across seasons in different contexts so I can get yearlong use out of them.

Remember That It’s Summer Somewhere 
Difficulty level: Easy
Time required: No more than adding a scarf!

Etsy vintage silk pajama topSensi Studio hatPierre Hardy shoes

Don’t let freezing temperatures or rain stop you from wearing your summer clothes. It rained during this entire shoot! Pull out a light button-down summer dress in bright white, a summer silk (as I have), or a wrap skirt and put said warm-weather article over your coat. Have a summer hat? Throw that on there, too. If you end up feeling a bump in your mood, it’s probably residual Vitamin D from your summer clothes seeping into your skin.

Strap a Strapless Top Over Your Coat
Difficulty level: Easy
Time required: ~3 minutes

Vintage Maison Rabih Kayrouz top, Etsy vintage brooch — another here

If you have a strapless top that you can wear with relative ease (i.e. one that zips or buttons all the way down), put it on over your coat. Tuck any extra fabric at the bottom to get to your desired length. Add a belt if you want to create a peplum effect, or a brooch to tie the look together.

Wear a Button-Down Shirtdress As A Skirt
Difficulty level: easy
Time required: ~3 minutes

Vintage Etsy shirtdress and collared dress, Christian Louboutin shoes

A shirtdress that buttons all the way down makes for a great skirt when worn over a coat. All you need to do here is button the shirtdress at the waist (button a couple for reinforcement) and tie the top half around you with the sleeves either behind you or in front of you, loosely approximating some type of curious bow.

On the top half of the coat, I’ve exposed the collar and sleeves of a dress I’m wearing underneath. You could do this with any piece that has an interesting collar and/or cool sleeves.

Magic: Kimono + Wrap Skirt = New Coat
Difficulty level: Easy to moderate depending on the fit of the kimono/skirt
Time required: ~5 minutes

Osman kimono jacket — another from Osman here, vintage Etsy wrap skirt — another wrap skirt hereManolo Blahnik shoes

What’s a new coat compared to the illusion of a new coat? Here, a loose-fitting kimono-style jacket coupled with a brocade wrap skirt (that easily comes off courtesy of some handy eyelet hooks) gives me the temporary sensation that I’m not even wearing my winter coat at all.

Tip: If your coat is bulky in the shoulders like mine is, put the kimono on over the coat, then put the coat on.

The Gift That Keeps On Giving
Difficulty level: hard
Time required: ~8 minutes


Vintage Etsy jumper, Dolce & Gabbana skirt — similar style hereManolo Blahnik shoes

You are probably (rightly) wondering whether it was easy to get in and out of this ensemble. The answer is a resounding no, which makes this option only practical if you have a solid few minutes to take it off and put it back on. Alternatively, you can visit your tailor for a few quick alterations. You’ll want the skirt to be able to wrap, zip or button all the way down, and the jumper to be wearable as a vest. Why not look like a holiday gift all winter long?

Nadine writes about sustainability, personal style and our relationship with fashion. Read her musings here and follow her on Instagram @onewhodresses. Photos by Krista Anna Lewis.

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  • Veeeeerry innnnteresting. I would love to see more people attempt layering over their coats. Ya just don’t see it. Maybe this will inspire many!!! Sure would make everyone look more fun!

  • Martyna

    Love this – the looks are wonderful!!
    However I woke up to -15 degrees Celsius (-5 F), so bare legs, heels and a coat like that is an ocean away.

    Would love to see some ideas for weather like that!

    • me

      I second this request ^^ !

      These looks would be great for somewhere like, say, Florida, but look forward to some options for use with “real” winter weather !

      • Amelia Diamond

        okay we hear you !!!

  • Imaiya Ravichandran

    Love this. And it’s not just you! — coats are my achilles heel as well. every time zara comes out with a new collection, i find new and inventive ways to convince myself that this season’s shade of camel is entirely different than the coats I already own. it’s a talent.

    • Senka

      Same here. They are my guilty pleasure. Coats and Zara. But every season I promise myself I’ll stop and invest in one perfect Max Mara for next winter.

  • Laura

    I love this post because of it’s creative thinking, but I get disappointed when I see bare legs, bare necks and pushed up sleeves. I think this styling doesn’t do justice to the idea of chic winter dressing, since if you need a coat that heavy you are usually buttoned up and covered everywhere. It’s just not realistic and I find the options hard to take seriously.

    That said, I LOVE the kimono look.

  • VeeBee

    Love the fabulous coat – but realistically I can’t see pulling this off with a giant puffy coat or with maybe a basic car coat from say J.Crew.

    • Nadine Farag

      I agree- a puffy coat certainly poses a challenge! What I’ve tried with mine is belting it at the waist to give it some structure. Would love to hear if you give it a shot!

  • Oceanblue Style

    Think I am going to try the shirt and the strapless top idea!

  • Anne Ginsberg

    OK, fun looks … for you. I have a camel cashmere swing coat and a jade green down puffy coat. None of these would work with either of those. And if it’s cold enough for a winter coat, I am not going out in high heels with bare legs and no scarf or gloves! Come on! How about styling some REAL winter looks for those of us who like to stay warm and look chic?

  • Marmar

    She looks so great in every photo if life was a magazine editorial and you didn’t care about ruining your heels in the snow and rain and getting frostbite on your toes to boot! I agree with the other comments it’s a bit hard to take this story seriously – are you meant to take off all these layers when you get into the office and your sweating because the heating is on? Plus none of these looks would work on a basic thick coat with no waist and big sleeves! Which is what most people wear because duh it’s cold
    Nice try though!

    • Marmar


  • Love the looks…thoroughly enjoy style essays by Nadine Farage.. she is very creative and manages to showcase some really cool vintage pieces from Etsy.. These looks are nice eye candy when one is looking at -6deg C outside… although, do agree with the commentors that they arent really practical for winter…

  • I believe in Nadine as one of the creators that you rarely find just around, her layers here teach me, make me remember why I dress every morning and for whom, what and why exactly I choose that at this state I’m living in. if anything I want to wonder more about here, is the fact that why the hell I never thought of wearing velvet bows to makeup my feet!

    • Krista Anna Lewis

      I can’t get those velvet bows out of my mind!

  • rachel

    ok, but what happens when you go inside and it’s inevitably 80 degrees?

    • My thought too… But I just LOVE the looks!

  • Viv

    Amazing vision! I love this post and all the creative ideas on how to style a winter coat!! Thank you for the inspiration!!

  • Jessica Pagán

    This is such a cool and creative idea! I have one main winter coat and it’s gray (super boring to wear all winter) I like the scarf around the waist and am definitely going to try it!

    ~Jessica Linn

  • There is a lot of push-back in the comments on the practicality of these looks, but I think this is inspiration for an exercise in creativity! Maybe you won’t put a skirt over your coat because how strange would you feel taking a skirt off when you get to the office? But you could take that blanket scarf you’ve been wrapping around your neck and instead put it on like a shawl and belt it over your coat. That would be practical and exciting! You can still throw on a chunky knit scarf on top to stay warm.

    I’m all for getting creative in the winter!

    • Selena Delgado

      seriously! Its a fantasy, she looks flawless and, of course people should use these posts as a conduit into their own styling.

  • Rose Pink

    Nadine Farag is always so cool in terms of seriously talking about sustainable FASHION. I founded my platform (www.onslowness.com) introducing the concept of slow fashion. It means that on one side, we support makers/artisan designers, and things that are carefully handcrafted. On the other side, we still need to carry out the idea of being creative to be FASHIONABLE. Slow fashion wouldn’t exist if it lacks either element of these two.

  • Selena Delgado

    ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS. everything in this post that she wears is, gold.