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The big fashion cover-up: Coats

Make hay while the sun shines but remember cold weather is closer than you think. Now’s the time to invest, says Rebecca Gonsalves

It may seem counter-intuitive to contemplate buying a new winter coat on a bank holiday Monday in August, but as it should be one of the biggest investments of your new season wardrobe it can pay to do a bit of homework first.

Firstly, the obvious – as sure as night follows day the warmth of this month will soon give way to first damp and drizzly weather and then winter proper. As such it is a good idea to have a few styles in your coat arsenal. A parka is no longer just for casual autumn days and a suitably luxurious version can look great when worn with smart trousers and heels.

A duffle may bring schoolyard memories flooding back, but  the practicality of being able to  undo its chunky toggles with gloved hands will be a godsend when there’s snow on the ground.

Candy colours have replaced more traditional autumnal hues this season, although black, oxblood and deep green are still options for those who want something with more longevity – or don’t want to commit to regular dry-cleaning costs.

As well as ticking off the key trends, its best to consider quality when purchasing a new coat. Look out for the real thing – wool (or a wool rich blend) and leather will look nicer and age better than their synthetic counterparts and should keep you warmer too.

Which – as anyone who has shivered and stomped their feet as they wait for the bus will know – makes them worth their weight in gold.

Think pink

Pastels are usually the domain of the spring/summer season, so the abundance of candy colour coats on the catwalk last February had fashion followers suitably excited. Pink is the leader of the pack of  pastels with a slew of gold stars awarded to just the right shade of dusky pink, as seen at Carven. This is undoubtedly a feminine shade, but  a mannish cut or oversized silhouette will ensure that you don’t feel too girlish. It’s worth bearing in mind that dusky can soon become dirty and a light coat may not be the best option if you need to hide a multitude of sins. £85, marksandspencer.com

Up the duffle

First things first: Paddington may be one of the most famous duffle coat wearers of all time, but there is more to this style than a clumsy bear from deepest, darkest Peru.

The hooded, toggle-fronted jacket has so many connotations, from bookish students to bearded sailors, that can be something of a barrier but fashion is all about experimenting with something new, even if that new thing is actually rather old. Trousers  – preferably cigarette slim or tapered – look best with the cropped length of most versions, while a tea dress  and biker boots will create a pleasingly grunge-inspired ensemble. £239, hobbs.co.uk

Warm and fuzzies

From a distance at least, faux fur looks like the real deal these days, which perhaps explains why so many designers took real pelts into muppet territory. Many that didn’t show fur experimented with teddy bear wool, feathers and ponyskin. Faking it is standard on a budget and brands have mimicked the fuzzy textures of the season through man-made fabric manipulation. Brushed or felted wool and boucle are an alternative to full-on furry finishes, but whichever you choose expect some moulting – a lint roller will prove a wise investment. £125, topshop.com

Camo chameleon

Camouflage can be tricksy to pull off. Anything too utilitarian can end up looking a bit “army surplus” – not necessarily a bad thing but more than likely not the military motif you were aiming for. Instead, modern interpretations of the traditional pattern are a better bet. A jacquard that shimmers when it catches the light, a more linear take on the usual abstract splotches or even a re-imagining in different colours will all prove your fashion credentials. Keeping things casual is key, an unstructured parka-like coat will sit nicely atop boyfriend jeans and a chunky knit. £225, whistles.co.uk

Checks and balances

Checks are a big motif for the new season – both figuratively and literally as blown-up versions criss-crossed catwalks, referencing punkish plaids and tartans to menswear inspired, tailoring fabrics like Prince of Wales and windowpane checks. Greyscale, monochrome and muted colours offer a somewhat sombre take, although the inclusion of even a narrow bright band will add a highlighting accent that will be cheering when the skies are leaden.

A boxy double-breasted silhouette, mirroring as it does the angles of the pattern, will work especially well with bright checks or those of clashing or contrasting colours. £89.99, zara.com