It's the most important purchase of the season – but it needn't be the most expensive. From trenches to capes, Gemma Hayward picks the best cover-ups on the high street

Every winter, shopping for your new cover-up gets a little harder, as designers introduce further trends and variables to the mix. Looking for a long-line coat, but don't want it too princessy? Try the resurrected Crombie. Perhaps you're after a looser cape, but don't like the idea of the breeze blowing up the back? Look out for belted cocoons that have similar volume but none of the vents.

With such an array on offer, it's time to hone your vision. If you need your outerwear to be smart, try one of the new generation of cold weather trenches – Banana Republic has a great selection, which are fully lined to keep you warm, as does New Look if you're holding out for a bargain.

Houndstooth check also comes into play this season – after featuring in Alexander McQueen's autumn collection – either to smarten up a casual shape or make a buttoned-up style more current. Another twist on a classic is the resurgence of animal prints and fake fur, available from Topshop and Acne, to name a couple. Whether you choose full-on leopard or just a slight fuzziness like at Mango and Margiela, be sure to maximise your rock chick look by picking retro, boxy cuts and wearing them with an ultra-skinny lower half.

This is also the rule for the season's capes, which have matured into longer, fuller versions of last year's hip skimmers. These are more like something from Madeline; so keep them draped, fulsome and a little bit geeky. Try APC and All Saints' versions over dresses and thick wool tights, or preternaturally skinny jeans and leggings. Military styles are also still on campaign all over the high street, at Reiss and Warehouse, and are an easy way to wear the new strong-shouldered silhouette. Bear in mind versatility and shapes that go with the items you most often wear, and use accessories. Bluestocking brooches add a bohemian, bijou feel, while belts can cinch things into new shapes, depending on your mood. And how much you've eaten.