How Much Should You Really Pay For A Winter Coat?

Finding a stylish and warm winter coat means looking around for a hot deal.

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winter coat-JCrew pink wool coat

J. Crew's best-selling Italian double-cloth wool lady day coat with Thinsulate.

No matter what style you gravitate to, there’s no denying that a good winter coat is a necessity in cold climates.

“This is Canada. We are in our coats for six to nine months of the year, and it’s the one thing people will see you wear most often,” says Tyler Franch, fashion director of Hudson’s Bay in Toronto. “Prioritize a great coat within your shopping budget and it will serve you well.”

In other words, it makes sense to spend a bit more to score a quality piece. After all, as Franch explains, a quality wool coat should last a lifetime, while you can expect a good-quality parka to last three to five years.

Need more convincing to pay for quality? Run the numbers.

For example, say you shell out $454 for an Italian double-cloth day coat with an insulated lining from J. Crew. (And that’s assuming you pay full price — the retailer often offers coupon codes). It’s a classic coat with slim lines and offers toasty warmth. As your new piece of go-to outerwear, you could don it 150 times between November and April. That’s a little more than $3 per wear. Not bad, right?

Now let’s assume you’ll own the coat for five years. The cost-per-wear now? A measly 61 cents.

While $454 might seem like a large chunk of what the average Canadian family spends on clothing per year – $3,371, according to Statistics Canada – if you choose wisely, shopping for a coat won’t be an every-year kind of thing. So, what should you spend to get the most bang for your coat-buying bucks? Here are a few thoughts to keep in mind when rummaging through racks or perusing online sales.

What should you look for in a quality coat?

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There are some telltale signs that the jacket you’re considering is a quality garment, not a piece of throwaway fast fashion, says Franch. For everyday coats, look for dual zippers that can be opened in opposite directions (they give you more comfort when you sit), as well as a removable hood so you can clean the coat without worrying about ruining the trim, if there is any. Pockets should be easily accessible and deep enough so that keys and phones don’t tumble out every time you sit down.

Plan to walk at night? Look for a casual jacket with reflective tape that makes you visible to vehicles. And don’t forget to consider a high percentage of down as the jacket’s stuffing. The higher the percentage typically means the warmer the coat, although synthetic blends have come a long way.

For dressier coats, wool, cashmere and alpaca are both luxurious and warm, but don’t forget to read labels closely.

“Be careful of coats advertised as wool when they have only a small amount of wool blended with synthetics,” cautions Franch.

Core Life Packable Puffer Jacket from the Bay is a quality coat that costs under $70
Packable down puffers — such as this Core Life puffer from the Bay — can be had for under $70.

Buy a classic jacket that won’t go out of style

A timeless cut or shape will seem fresh longer when compared to a trend-forward coat that quickly goes out of style and needs replacing. Try an iconic London Fog peacoat or boiled wool topcoat that hits just above the knee.

There’s still a place for inexpensive finds from time to time, explains Franch. He mentions packable down puffers that can be had for under $70. Think Uniqlo’s ultra light compact down jacket or one from Core Life at Hudson’s Bay.

“Inexpensive options are also a great way to test out a new trend before investing,” he says.

Shop the sales

It’s not your imagination. Winter jackets and coats start lining the racks as early as July and August, but you’ll probably be paying full price for those new arrivals. Instead, decide in advance what kind of coat you’re looking for, and keep an eye out in December, when stores need to start clearing space for spring clothing. That’s when you’ll see those prices drop.

“It’s important to know that great fashion gets noticed and sells out early,” says Franch. If there’s a classic, well-crafted coat you know you’ll wear for years,  you might want to run your own cost-per-wear calculations and buy it anyway. “A great coat should last, so it’s important to take that into consideration when determining the threshold for the price.”