After the warmest December on record, I’ve barely worn a jacket, let alone a coat. But the winter chill is here this week.
Before you rush out to buy a coat, heed the advice of Mike Parsons, co-founder of OutdoorGearCoach.co.uk. ‘What keeps you warm? Not the latest high-tech material or even good old wool,’ he says. ‘It’s trapped air. Fabrics that are knitted together are best at this as the holes trap air.
‘Padding with down from bird feathers is a mountaineer’s favourite, but can be costly. And woven fabrics are better for windy conditions.’ With a bewildering array of styles on the High Street, we put a selection of coats through their paces. I road-tested each for warmth and style by wearing them to London’s trendy IceBar, kept at an icy minus 5c.
We also asked the experts at the Good Housekeeping Institute, who regularly test products and services, to assess each coat using thermal-imaging equipment to see how much warmth leaked out.
Each coat was worn by a volunteer, with its temperature recorded at three intervals over a 20-minute period. The coats that grew warmer were identified as the worst insulators – this indicated body heat was being transferred away from the wearer and into the coat. The coats that grew colder were keeping in body heat, so were therefore better at keeping you warm.
ELEGANT BUT DRAFTY
CHARLOTTE’S VERDICT: This elegant coat looks the part. It’s a great length and has deep pockets. But I felt cold after a while, so it’s best for a night out when you won’t be outside for too long.
EXPERT VERDICT: This didn’t prove to be very warm. The polyester and modacrylic blend didn’t lock in body heat, which was lost after a short period of time during the test.
The coat was comfortable, but it needed another button at the bottom, as the opening in the middle meant heat escaped.
CHARLOTTE’S VERDICT: A jolly colour, even if the cut was a little conservative for my taste, and it kept my torso warm. But the wide sleeves let in cold air.
EXPERT VERDICT: A blend of wool and 10 per cent cashmere provided a barrier from the cold, only losing heat slowly around the chest and arms.
WARM AS A DUVET
CHARLOTTE’S VERDICT: This High Street ‘duvet coat’ is filled with at least 90 per cent down. Though not the most elegant, it’s toasty and packs into a bag – great for travelling.
EXPERT VERDICT: The natural down filling provides substantial warmth – at the start of the test, the coat was 19c. Heat was only lost slightly under the arms and at the stitching.
MORE BUTTONS, PLEASE
CHARLOTTE’S VERDICT: With the faux-fur lining and wide collar, I felt like I was on War And Peace. But an icy blast down the chest forced me to do up the one measly hook.
EXPERT VERDICT: The lining is cosy and the coat wraps tightly around the body, while the faux suede acts as a barrier, with a thick layer of faux shearling – all 100 per cent polyester. Yet it has only one small fastening, allowing heat to escape: 3 degrees after only ten minutes.
CHARLOTTE’S VERDICT: A good-looking and practical coat, I loved the removable inner gilet, though my arms felt cold after a while.
EXPERT VERDICT: At 16c, this didn’t feel too warm to begin with, which tends to be the case with polyester coats, but the double layer kept heat in at the chest – it had only leaked 1 degree after 20 minutes. Heat was mostly lost via the arms.
CHEAP AND VERY CHILLY
CHARLOTTE’S VERDICT: At first glance, this wrap-style coat looks like expensive wool. But the man-made fabric is woefully thin and I felt my teeth begin to chatter.
EXPERT VERDICT: Feels very thin and lightweight. While the coat can be wrapped around the body, the 95 per cent polyester fabric isn’t a sufficient insulator.
The neck is left unprotected, as the coat doesn’t fasten around it entirely, and with no buttons, it isn’t very secure. We found where the coat overlaps had more insulation, but heat was slowly lost in all other areas.
PHWOAR! WAR & PEACE HATS
Stylist: Amy Kester. Hair and Make-up: Oonagh Connor using KIKO. Model: Debbie at MOT.