How to wear...the coat dress
It’s a wardrobe staple for public figures from the royals to Brigitte Macron, so it’s no surprise Meghan Markle chose one for her big moment yesterday, writes Meadhbh McGrath
When choosing what to wear to present her child to the world, Meghan Markle settled on a familiar silhouette - the coat dress. The sleeveless trench style has proven to be one of her favourites - she's previously worn navy and blush pink versions for official engagements - but the crisp cream number she stepped out in yesterday will earn a place in the history books with the first photos of her and Prince Harry's newborn son.
The colour may have been a brave choice just days after giving birth, but the style remains a reliable one for occasions where you want to look your best with minimal hassle. The hybrid piece has become a wardrobe staple for women on the world stage, from the Royal Family to the White House.
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However different the duchesses' styles may be, the coat dress has also become a signature for Kate Middleton, who has worn (and reworn) the piece in many different colours and prints. For formal events, she favours pastels by Catherine Walker and Alexander McQueen, and on St Patrick's Day, she typically wears a festive green version.
In the last few months, she's stepped out in military-inspired red on Commonwealth Day, a baby blue caped style in Antrim and a custom design in deep teal for a service at Westminster Abbey.
It makes for a striking silhouette, and a savvy choice for occasionwear. It's an outfit in itself, an all-in-one piece that won't leave you scrambling to match a dress or skirt and jacket. It's stylish yet functional, particularly during an Irish summer when you can't predict what the weather will bring.
And, most importantly for a public figure like Kate, they're suitably modest: it's covered up, concealing the arms or any areas you may prefer to hide, yet if you choose the right shape, it won't look dowdy or dull, but chic, classic and flattering.
That's the danger of a coat dress - if you don't pick the cut carefully, it can end up shapeless. If you go for the wrong style - too light (a standard trench) or too heavy (bulky dressing gown) - you'll risk looking like a flasher with nothing on underneath. It needs to come across purposeful, decidedly a dress, but with all the best elements of a coat.
In Kate's case, this is achieved with a defined waist and an A-line skirt, which highlight her figure. Accentual details such as the large buttons, high collar and sharp shoulders add to the look.
For elegant, understated occasionwear, look to brands such as COS, Kate's beloved Goat, sustainable fashion favourite Gabriela Hearst and Peter O'Brien's collection for Dunnes, which includes three-button and belted styles in delicate oyster and ivory.
These lighter tones can carry a bold accessory, such as a vampy red sandal or asymmetric mule and plenty of bling.
If you prefer a more modern look, take inspiration from French first lady Brigitte Macron's Louis Vuitton number, a motocross style with exposed hardware. The darts emphasise her figure, while the zipper detailing and collar give the dress an edge.
Shapes like the motocross or trench need a little added visual interest to establish they're more than just good outerwear moonlighting as a dress.
In Macron's case, short sleeves and a mini hem - not to mention the fire engine red shade - do the job, while a trench style can benefit from a collarless design, light twill or satin fabrics and a slim fit.
If long sleeves feel too much of a burden, opt for a cropped sleeve like Phase Eight's full-skirted version, or go sleeveless in Caractere's bright blue utility style or COS's belted wrap number, which sits beautifully over a white shirt if you fancy that bit of extra coverage.