Today, I would like to thank my old $100 grey wool coat. Bought from a store whose name I don't even remember back in 2017. It was a nice oversized piece with a pretty, light grey color. Here, I brought it to my trip to Japan too.
Osaka, Japan, 2017
Because I loved it so much, I wore it out in less than one year and sadly had to prematurely part with it. (It didn't even make it to my yearly recycling/upcycling collection to be dropped off at Goodwill).
After this heartbreaking goodbye, I never purchased "affordable" coat options. Then I started out my own label of durable, high quality clothes at a more approachable price point. And I studied more about how a winter coat is made, what goes into its pricing, and what makes a wool fabric high quality. And I want to share with you what I have learned.
1. What is the true cost behind a wool coat?
I'm going to let you in on a little secret to understand the cost behind coats.
Simply put, good quality wool fabric generally costs from $25 to $50 per yard. And it takes about 4 yards of fabric to make a women's coat. Then you do the quick math; the fabric alone, before any other costs associated with design, pattern making, labor, manufacturing, marketing, etc. runs from $100 to $200 ($25 x yards to $50 x 4 yards). From there, all other costs and margin gets added.
I often source my fabric from the same store in Italy where luxury brands also get their fabrics. Just to paint the picture, I know one wool fabric Balenciaga got for one of their new coats was $200 per yard, and it wasn't even the most expensive one in the store. That's about $800 just for the fabric alone.
Now, you might wonder how the fast fashion brands keep their coat prices so low. The cost of fabric drops if you order a large quantity. Fast fashion brands make at least hundreds of millions of clothes every year, using the least expensive (and often unethical) labor. And to keep the cost low, they opt for low quality wool, which enables them to make $100 and below coats.
2. What is the right price range for a good quality coat that lasts?
From a non-fast fashion brand, you can expect about $350 to $800 (depending on the quality of design, fabric, etc.) for a well-made, good quality wool coat and know that you're paying the least markups.
From fast fashion brands, I wouldn't pick a coat that's any more than $150. Frankly, the biggest perk of shopping from fast fashion is their low price. If you're paying anything more than $150 for a coat that we all know won't last long, you will be spending more money in the long run because you have to buy replacements more frequently.
On the other hand, IF you're looking for a colorful coat or patterned coat, fast fashion brands may be a good starting point. Something you wouldn't wear as often hence, will last a bit longer. I honestly think I should've bought H&M's houndstooth coat from last year.
3. More wool composition, the better?
Not really. Quality of wool ranges widely. It's more the actual quality of fabric than the percentage that makes up the fabric. Also more wool composition doesn't guarantee heat retainment. My $100 grey coat had about 90% wool. But it was neither high-quality nor warm.
Generally, if wool is blended with angora, it's warm and lightweight. If it has a cashmere composition, it's warm and soft.
4. Why are some coats so heavy?
Some wool fabrics are just heavy, which doesn't mean low or high quality. And some of the premium quality wool is medium to heavy weight mainly due to the density of the material and/or coarse weave. Words like "coating", "boiled wool", "felt", and "worsted" often mean medium to heavy weight.
For a winter coat though, I don't recommend a heavy weight coat. Wearing a heavy overcoat on top of all the layers is honestly very tiring. If you're shopping online, asking the store how much their coat weighs is also a good idea.
5. Is oversized fit a trend?
I don't think so. It's more of a style and preference that's been around ever since the era of French fashion (1920s) and the inspirations of Ms. Coco Chanel.
Photo Credit: Pinterest Diana Cloudlet
6. What colors are must-haves?
Black and camel first. Then maybe creme and grey (or navy). After those, maybe patterned or colorful one.
7. Can a coat last as long as 10+ years?
Depends. But the quality of the coat has to be good to begin with for a coat to last long. And this is why it's worth investing in premium quality coats. You can't expect a $100 coat to last for years without pilling or losing its shape. Even if you don't see a big hole or rip, you will see its shoulder, sleeves, and overall shape deteriorate significantly over time as it did with my $100 grey coat after a year.
Also, wool (including cashmere, camel hair, alpaca, angora, etc.), by nature, will never not pill. No wool lasts forever. That's why the right maintenance will make a difference.
8. Maintenance tips for wool coats?
Follow the care label instructions. (Please. Please don't throw it in the washer when it says Dry Clean.) Use wool-friendly laundry products. Store it in a garment bag. And don't over use it.
9. More expensive, the better?
As much as I hate to admit it, I'm learning more and more that quality and price go hand in hand, really. That said, not every single item needs to be of the highest quality, expensive, or designer brands. Some items are just worth investing in. And a winter coat is definitely one of them, not just for the wardrobe's sake but also for keeping you warm through cold months, money-saving reasons, and for the environment.
10. How do you know if your wool coat is of good quality?
Photo credit: redbook
Firstly, time will tell. Good quality wool doesn't lose its shape and natural luster for a long time.
Secondly, not always but often, wrinkles. You can tell whether your coat is made of good quality wool by how much it wrinkles. Good quality wool tends to be somewhat wrinkle-resistant and, even when it wrinkles, a short steaming session (with a handy steamer) should easily get the wrinkles out.
11. So, which coat is right for me? Checklist before pulling the trigger?
☑️ Determine which style and color you need. If you have a long brutal winter where you live, (high-quality) puffer coats or fur coats may be a priority before a wool coat.
☑️ Decide the price range: Fast fashion (Below $200) vs. High Street ($200~$600) vs. Bridge Brands ($600~$2,000) vs. Luxury ($2,000+)
☑️ Do some research according to your needs and price range.
☑️ IMPORTANT: Check measurements, garment details, fabric composition, and care instructions. Ask for the weight, if possible. It is the customers' right and responsibilities to obtain as much information as possible.
☑️ Pick the one that you think will pair well with most of your existing wardrobe pieces.