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10 Coats You Need in Your Closet

Face the elements in style with these wardrobe staples

  • River Island, Everlane and Target

    Dress for the Season

    Seriously, who ever thought much about coats? A sweater kicks off chilly days, and then we hibernate in layers under a big fat puffer until spring. But recently the weather is getting weirder. We swing from freezing temperatures to soggy thunderstorms and snow alerts to wind advisories that make South Carolina feel like Illinois and California like North Dakota. Let's rethink the whole thing. Coats and their ilk matter — after all, they're the first and sometimes only thing people see you in from now until May. But which ones should you wear? Here are 10 options with staying power rain or shine.

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  • Everlane

    The Urban Anorak

    This tailored hybrid with a minimalist vibe is the new alternative to trench coats. It's knee-length, lightweight, water-repellent, hooded and equally cool with heels and a dress or booties and jeans. The ones you want are oversized right down to the spacious hood, like Everlane's City Anorak ($88) or Zara's Technical Raincoat ($90) in a cool neutral navy, black or gray.

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  • Target

    The Trench Coat

    More traditional? Swap the boxy double breasted buttoned and buckled trench for a snappy single breasted fit and flare curve pleaser. Same look-smarter details if you're busty and/or have a mushy middle or are a svelte plus-size. The single vertical row of buttons slims, the softer sash-like belt knots or bow ties at the waist for definition and the removable hood is a hair-saver. Look for fresher mid-thigh 33 to 25 inch lengths like the Via Spiga Women's Single Breasted Trench Coat with Hood ($64 to $297), Cole Haan's Women's Single Breasted Trench ($65-$128) or Target's Hooded Trench Coat by A New Day in always chic black or beige ($45).

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  • Old Navy

    The Black Leather Biker Jacket

    For extra attitude and style 24/7, this is it. Fake leather versions like the Ann Taylor Loft Faux Leather Motorcycle Jacket ($128) or Old Navy Faux Leather Moto Jacket ($60) are buttery as the real deal ... and both real and fake get better with age (just like us!). Perfect for moderate temperatures or quick in-out winter dashes — just add a long cozy scarf and done. Too tough for you? Try a black leather draped-front jacket for a feminine twist.

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  • L.L. Bean

    The Light Puffer Vest

    This outerwear item is now a year-round staple in the coat category. Featherweight ones like the Uniqlo Ultra Light Down Vest ($40) or the L.L. Bean PrimaLoft Packaway Vest ($129) are the most useful because they can be worn solo or easily layered under coats for extra warmth. Both fold to fit in a small accompanying travel pouch.

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  • H&M

    The Puffer

    The flattery secret to padded chubbies is to choose a looser shape (no more Michelin Man blousons that bunch up!), flatter channels and an unexpected pop of color, like the Zara Puffer in blue ($90), H & M Padded Jacket ($60) or Topshop Puffer ($110) in yellow. This makes a great winter driving coat — especially if you have heated seats!

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  • White House Black Market

    The Cape Coat

    Glamour and ease mingle in a short tailored ladylike coat with slashes to expose arms elbows to wrists. No more stuffed sleeves if your signature look includes stacks of bangles. Look for beltless styles like the White House Black Market Double Breasted Cape ($180) or the Zara Long Cloth Cape ($179). A belted cape cut like the Banana Republic Trench Cape or the J. Crew Trench Cape defines your waist from the front only — camouflaging side and rear views with the swingy shape. These are my exception to the no-double-breasted rule because the triangular shape and bottom width compensates.

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  • River Island

    The Tailored Topcoat

    You need one formal coat, and this structured straight reefer style inspired by menswear with notched lapels and a slim V-neck is classic and classy. Choose camel or gray as a softer and newer alternative to works-with-everything black or a bold statement red to fire up your mood like Zara's Masculine Wool Coat in red ($149) or the River Island Red Tailored Coat ($160).

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  • River Island

    The Faux Shearling

    This is a keeper in the revolving door of trendy fake furs. A cozy knee-length coat — like the River Island Camel Faux Shearling Open Front Coat ($160) and the Zara Vintage Style Coat ($119) — is sporty but elegant enough to wear to a fancy dinner over an LBD or velvet jeans.

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  • Gap

    The Utility Jacket

    This light multipocketed jacket goes by a lot of names — field jacket, military jacket, surplus jacket — but choose this thigh-length jacket instead of a denim jeans jacket. (To be honest, the latter looks trying-too-hard-tired on us.) This is a fresher option with a relaxed easy fit and multiple patch pockets (for mobile, keys, readers), and often features a cinched or drawstring waist for subtle shaping. Try khaki or black for wardrobe longevity and versatility, like the J.Jill Tencel-Twill Zip-Front Jacket ($120) or Gap Garment-Dye Utility Jacket ($90).

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  • Lands End

    The So-Worth-It Parka

    An adjustable drawstring waist and a glam fur-trimmed hood make freezing temperatures fashionable. If blizzards, snow and fierce biting cold are your winter reality, look for adequate insulation (and splurge because it'll be worth every down feather), but with a little shape and sass. A mid-thigh or above-the-knee length is more than adequate and shows off your weatherproof boots — and won't leave dripping wet, dirty hems to deal with. Opt for face-brightening winter white like the Lands' End Expedition Down Parka in Snowdrift ($299), the North Face Women's Arctic Parka II in Vintage White ($400) or the L.L. Bean Ultra-Warm Coat Three-Quarter Length in Paperwhite ($229).

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  • More Beauty & Style Advice

    For more beauty and style tips for women 50+ check out The Woman's Wakeup: How to Shake Up Your Looks, Life and Love After 50 by Lois Joy Johnson and AARP's Beauty & Style issue.

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