Privilege Blog

The 5 Classics of Outerwear


In the auto-heavy suburbs, particularly where temperate, we can get away with one or two pieces of outerwear. But in the city, what with all the walking, we want an external layer in place. Unsurprisingly, I’m going to recommend you investigate the classics.

The great thing about outerwear of the classic persuasion is how well it’s represented in both high or low budgets. Or both. For example:

High (Technically J. Crew and AllSaints are midrange, but let’s keep our heads out of the runway clouds, shall we?)

  1. Field: J. Crew
  2. Long Wool: Max Mara
  3. Biker: AllSaints
  4. Peacoat: Fleurette at Nordstrom or lined by Moncler.
  5. Rain/Trench: Burberry or, um, Burberry


  1. Field: Cabela (Had you ever heard of this brand? Me neither.)
  2. Long Wool: Jennifer Lopez (!) at Kohl’s, or Calvin Klein
  3. Biker: Dorothy Perkins (To go low, go faux)
  4. Peacoat: Target (Yes, Target. Gets great reviews, costs $35.00, comes in a bunch of colors)
  5. Rain/Trench: Kristen Blake at Nordstrom (Run! This olive trench is gorgeous and it’s on sale for $100)

Here’s my particular city outerwear trousseau. What? I’m married to my morning walk these days. Trousseau is a fine word, one which deserves a wider usage.

  1. High (as listed above): Wool coat – Camel Max Mara cashmere, leather jacket – AllSaints, field jacket – J. Crew
  2. Low (links unavailable because no retailer was going to put these on a website): Peacoat – Black wool Costco Michael Kors special, Rain (not technically a trench, but close enough) – Black, Nordstrom, generic.

The low budget items look just fine. Black disguises a host of unsophisticated design decisions. And yes, the list does imply some as yet unseen items. Photos will follow. One must first establish a framework; from the general to the particular.

I have been surprised in how spiffy sporting a variety of outerwear makes me feel. Spiffy is another word that needs a home.. I find I even wear the classic outer layers in the office, as warranted. The next time you think, “Oh I need a new top!” consider one of The Five in its place.

57 Responses

  1. How is it possible that you’d hit it outta the park three times in one week? Alcohol, a recipe and now this. [I don’t collect so the collections post didn’t apply to me, but mannn why isn’t Jennifer Lopez dressing Michelle for day? I love Michelle’s nightwear, but her daywear, no – well, that JL black coat is high chic, it may not be high WASP, but it’s out there in a good way.] Good Morning, Lisa, smiley face goes here ____ .

  2. Totally in agreement about black when choosing a less expensive option.
    Max Mara fabrics are sumptuous and with cashmere on board who could lose?
    My outer wear is rather minimal despite living up north of you where we get cold and damp days from fall until spring…a down coat, a wool duffle coat, rain coat (not Burberry) a Burberry quilted jacket, a generic black car coat and a vintage fur for snow!

  3. I too like a variety of outerwear. I have had my long black wool forever; someday a camel would be nice, yet again black goes with all!

    Art by Karena

  4. As of this morning I have decided my J. Crew Field Coat isn’t cutting it against the 13 degree weather and the snow. Good ideas. And my grandmother called new bags, old earrings and pink shoes spiffy .

  5. Jackets and coats are some of my favourite clothing items. I maybe have too many of them, but I live in a colder climate so I find I need several grades of winter coats.

    The biker jacket especially here has piqued my interest. I’ve been drooling over a deep brown one in beautiful buttery leather for months now, I just can’t bring myself to part with the money on yet another leather jacket. One day, maybe.

  6. You, the classics? Shocking. I’ve worn a wool trench with a removable liner for centuries it seems. I never seem to need more here in Northern CA and when I’m in Canada, I have all sorts of North Face uglies plus a few wool overcoats.
    Jennifer Lopez has a clothing line?? I must get out more often. What could be next, Lindsey Lohan hair color?

  7. We have absolutely no need for Long Wool over here, even though I fancy myself a Long Wool kind of gal. My more regular go-to outerwear during the cooler weather is my trench and the field jacket. For some reason, I can never do pea coats well. Oh well.

  8. Can’t wait to see your new biker jacket!
    Outerwear is a requirement for my lifestyle as well, and I’m pleased to have built up a decent stable of pieces over the past few years. I do keep drooling over the MaxMara long coats though — my sister bought one a couple of years ago, and it always looks perfect!

  9. We have a Cabela’s locally. I live the wild west and so Cabela’s is full of camo, guns, etc. if you can get past that, they have nice quality goods. I bought my husband a Cabela’s brand insulated field coat which he wears hiking and birding, and he gets compliments on it. I’ve been wanting a field coat myself so I’m going to check them out. Thanks!

    1. Had I investigate their full range, of course, I might not have posted the link…But I persist in my admiration of the field coat.

  10. Long wool is a necessity here where it is so cold. I have an ancient camel long wool from LL Bean in camel that has served me well for decades. It’s what a friend of mine calls a ” marrying and burying” coat.

  11. The Pacific Northwest is markedly more casual; I will have to update my outerwear wardrobe should I move out of this region! I have been coveting beautiful outerwear for years and have always said “when I lose 40 pounds” which has now turned into “when I lose 60 pounds” I will get a beautiful wool coat and a leather jacket. Let’s see if I can make that happen before I move and actually need them!

  12. I love outerwear, but have little need for it beyond a simple raincoat and my black leather “car coat” when warmth is needed. I’m thrilled that you’re counting a moto jacket in with the classics!

  13. I have my eye on a new Jacket over at Victorianox/Swiss Army –
    It’s so cold today that all I can think about is outerwear and layers.

  14. I love coats! I live in a very changeable climate and am outdoors often. The full range of price points have served me well. Just this past week, I was in NYC and wore a grey peacoat from Talbots that I wore while touring NYC about 9 years ago. Just goes to show that classics can last!

  15. I love coats and jackets. And I need them (all) in NH. You have a very nice selection here. Alas, I don’t wear double-breasted anything well, ditto for very fitted outwear. I used to wear belted coats, but feel a little dumpy these days despite being fairly slim. Still, I won’t stop wearing my belted cashmere mid-calf coat (soft dark pine green) which goes with everything, including navy.

  16. Cabela’s is the kind of old-school brand that was your grandfather’s favorite catalog to shop from–assuming your grandfather spent a lot of time in a hunting blind. It’s perfect you’ve listed them for a field coat–you’ll get a genuine field coat from Cabela’s, as opposed to a “field-style” coat from J. Crew.

  17. I too am looking forward to seeing your biker jacket. And can’t wait to see how a high WASP makes a leather jacket her own :)

    I love them from afar, but on trying them on have always felt a bit silly, as if I’d be better off in a floral pinny and a cardie. Good grief, I am barely thirty, and I don’t even wear florals.

  18. I have a lot of outerware and even more hats/scarves/gloves. A public transit commute has you out in your coat a lot.

  19. I have many more than 5 pieces of outwear, but I didn’t even try to resist that Cabela’s jacket. I was just reading Claire McCardell’s charming book (recently reprinted) — chapter 4 is titled “Don’t buy a basic coat — Collect!” Yes, Miss McCardell!

    1. Actually, the Cabela’s jacket went right back. It didn’t look elegant in person (rough stitching, coarse weave), and I couldn’t get over some other issues with the vendor.

  20. Totall agree with your 5 but as a UK resident and certified coat addict, I have 2 other classics in my collection – a parka – perfect for casual and cool weather and a camel knee length as a warmer alternative to the pea and trench coats and slightly more practical than the long wool coat.
    Look forward to seeing the photos!

  21. I have a ridiculously huge coat wardrobe…literally covers every temp/precipitation in the weather-fickle Midwest. In fact, just bought an emerald MK down vest last night at N Rack because the black TB one is too dressy sometimes. This, this is what temp bounces between 60 & 9 do to your brain, FYI.

    About Cabelas…many of the field jackets they sell unfortunately weigh about 900 pounds. Not sure how that works exactly when hunting quail. But a distinct advantage of this retailer is that you can buy kayaks or dog collars with your coat.

  22. For winter, Max Mara since I was 17, I really wish I had kept them all and Barbour for the country and shoots. Trench coats – I just look like Inspector Gadget in them or as if I’m off to my job in the bank, I just don’t think they suit my personality.

  23. Your collection is on target and beautifully curated! It makes me wish I lived 6 hours north. My beloved long, pure camelhair coat languishes here in SoCal. I am tempted by the olive trench, a perfect color for those of us who don’t do beige and are sick of black. And the moto jackets… yyyyesss, but know I’d regret faux and can’t bring myself to spend for the real deal… yet.

  24. Did you look in my closet? So right on re the Burberry trench. I spent $$$ over the years on lower end versions and now I have the “icon” I see I was wasting my hard earned money. There is no Max Mara yet but my Akris Punto is a nice alternative.

    Also J. Crew field jackets have to be the best for money although I find the quality dipping a wee bit…

    Great post as always.

  25. Daily wear here is my Barbour,still have a Burberry trench from the days when it was made in UK…dislike how they still claim their made here when they are outsourced to China,and other countries.Ida

    1. I have my Burberry coat from 1986. It is still lovely, but very LONG. The length is the reason I never wear it about town–only on trips to cold places along with its zip out wool lining. Should I have it shortened? Would it ruin the coat? Does anyone have an opinion?

  26. My trench was made in Britain but I hear you about the outsourcing as a more recent pea coat purchase was made in China and I find that the wool is itchy!

    Not sure about shortening, mine was the shorter length and it is very versatile.

  27. Oh yes. Trousseau as a word – and concept – is certainly a keeper. And I love “to go low, go faux”. May I borrow it sometime?

    I love your list. Have two kneelength coats myself in brown and black respectively, a camel peacoat with big matte silver buttons, a navy biker jacket and a trench jacket in caramel which I find to look more interesting with skirts than a longer coat. Also a puffer coat in mid grey (seriously no name, discounter ware). Depending on climate that is a new classic I think. Just make sure your model features a waist … All the younger women wear them here in winter, the older generation might still wear woolen coats.

    1. It’s all hours. Am honored. And agree that puffers are required if you live above a certain latitude.

  28. Though it’s so cold here that I am stuck in a North Face duvet coat underneath the out shell coat from December through April, I do love coats and have a number of them. My favorite is my black biker leather coat last spring at Danier. It was about 80% off, so it was a fabulous deal. Anyhow, somehow this coat elevates any ordinary outfit and adds attitude and style. I am so glad I got it and should I need to replace it one day, I would be willing to spend more since I know how much it helps my wardrobe. And this is coming from someone who shops in thrift stores and lives in a climate where a leather jacket can’t be worn (as outerwear anyways) during the 6 months of winter, because it’s too lightweight. It is so true that the right coat/jacket does wonders!

  29. I learned a new kind of classic coat spending last week in NYC. The puffy coat, aka the vertical sleeping bag.

    This is mine

    and boy was I glad I had it.

    I am also glad there were puffy coats being sold in the Bay Area the weekend before.

  30. Cabela is kind of the working mans Barbour here in the South. They buy it at Tractor Supply Company, the Farmer’s Cooperative (The Co-op), and Bass Pro Shops…

    And yes, I had fun flinging around copious usage of the word trousseau pre-wedding.

  31. This coat I bought for my granddaughter who is in college in a very cold part of the country. She loves to use it as she walks from campus buildings in the inclement weather. She says it keeps her and her head real warm

Comments are closed.