Changing Your Clothes

Shopping, Sewing, Upcycling, Repairing: Make the most of your clothes!

Warm Evenings 2: How I Dressed Up My Coat

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After writing my last post about evening coats (Warm Evenings: Dress Up Your Coat!), I got to thinking: what is that makes a coat “evening”, anyway? Sure, there are the duchesse-satin numbers, the velvet wraps, even some occasional cape drama— but how many of us own any of these, or want to? Since I’m not on the socialite circuit, let alone on the red carpet (yet), where’s the use value? Even with all the financial doom-and-gloominess, we still want to buy new clothes— we just expect more versatility. As I suggested in the previous post, why can’t one coat work for everyday use, as well as for dressier occasions?

To get into that day-coat-for-evening concept a little more, I thought I’d let you in on my getting-ready-for-the-museum-party (mentioned in the previous post) thought process.

Step 1: Pick a dress. I narrowed my choices down to 3 possibilities: the favorite, the pinch-hitter, and the in-case-of-emergency. And here’s where I ran into my problem. As I was trying on my favorite (a 1950s fit-and-flare-silhouette dress that I made with pale aqua silk noil to which I added an overlay of dark brown metallic lace), I suddenly realized it’s November, this dress is sleeveless — I have to wear a coat. Or something of that ilk. Problem: I have no coat/wrap/cape that’s the right combination of color and look to work with this dress.

So I ended up wearing my pinch-hitter dress: a bias-cut print silk georgette, one of my favorites; I got this from Anthropologie over 6 years ago, and I love it just as much now, but it’s quite definitely a summer dress. (Anthropologie called it the “Surrealist Dress”, which made it seem all the more appropriate for a night at the museum.) Here it is:

Surrealist Dress

Surrealist Dress from Anthropologie; not exactly cold-weather wear!

Step 2: Pick a coat. With the bits of black along with all the bright colors in the dress, a black coat seemed indicated. Oops. I don’t own a black coat, or for that matter, any coat of a color that would work. There was only one possibility: a lightweight black-and-white wool houndstooth coat. The coat itself could not be called anything but casual (I bought it for $15.00 at a thrift store, and most often wear it over jeans and sweaters), but the combination of houndstooth and brushstroke print create an appropriately artsy look.

Dress with coat

Dress with coat: in my closet, this coat was the only possible choice to wear with this dress. But it doesn’t look very festive yet. Let’s fix that.

Aside: I have a minor pet peeve: people who go to events like this museum party dressed in what looks to me like artsy costume: men all in black with self-consciously quirky hats, women in floaty, shapeless batik. I do give style points to them all for at least making an effort, but people, please, please, don’t dress the way you think “art people” dress— be yourselves! Look at it this way: you are the masterpiece, and your clothes are just the frame, the finishing touch that, when done properly, makes you the focus. End of aside.

Step 3: Glam it up! With just the coat and dress, well, it’s not looking all that special. Here’s where accessories go to work to make this look more special-occasion. But I don’t want to overdo it, since I’ve got all the patterns going on already; I think a statement necklace will help, especially with the deep V neckline. And with this necklace, I won’t need to bother with earrings. (One less decision to make is a good thing.) Here’s how it looks with my necklace:

Statement necklace

Statement necklace; this not only helps to fill in the deep V neckline, it instantly gives more glamour to the not-very-fancy coat. (The necklace is from Chico’s, a great place for well-priced jewelry.)

Now I need to add hosiery and shoes, and possibly a scarf (it was pretty chilly). I chose these smoky-green vintage-look heels mostly because there was the possibility that dancing could happen at this event, and these are the only pair I have that worked with the dress and have smooth leather soles (best on a dance floor). Easy decision! And I wore nude tone-on-tone textured semi-sheer hose (not pictured); I love my fancy hosiery, but this outfit already had plenty happening, so this was my one nod to subtlety.

The final touch is the scarf. I added this deep brick-red pashmina, which is lightweight but amazingly warm, and it also adds a bright pop of color!

Total look

The total look for my museum party (hosiery not shown); with the pashmina scarf, I’m ready to go!

Here’s another scarf option I found: this is a faux-fur collar, lined in satin, with leather ties. I did end up wearing the pashmina shown above, but one advantage to this exotic number is that you don’t have to take it off when you arrive; it’s like a faux-furry necklace!

Faux-fur collar

Faux-fur collar, worn as a scarf; you can leave the narrow leather ties hanging, as here, or tie them to secure the collar. It gives a completely different feel to this outfit, non?

So what I learned from this experience is simple: I don’t need an “evening” coat, as long as I know how to glam up my “day” coats! It seems to be more a matter of the right combination of outfit and coat, followed by accessories, rather than just throwing a fancy coat over an everyday ensemble. (And if I didn’t say it before, every single thing I’ve shown you here was already in my closet; I just had never put these pieces together in quite this way before now. So don’t think you have to run out and buy something— shop your own closet first!)

The specific way I’ve accessorized this ensemble is probably not to everyone’s taste; you should always choose what feels good to you. In this case, my outfit was appropriate for the event, looked fun and artsy (in a good way), and I was confident wearing it, because it is totally me!

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Author: colormusing

I'm a writer, color palette creator, and designer of fashion, costumes, graphics, knitwear patterns, and yarn.

4 thoughts on “Warm Evenings 2: How I Dressed Up My Coat

  1. Love the colors and cut of this dress and also houndstooth is classic!

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