We all have a fashion block — an item of clothing we took against years ago and ever since have written off as ‘Just Not Us’.
I’m not talking about clothes you don’t suit (how would you know?) or have no occasion to wear (you might), but something you simply aren’t interested in.
My fashion block is summer coats. Can’t see the point of them. If I am buying a coat I want one that I can wear most of the year without thinking about it — a substantial, versatile, go-with-everything coat.
Blue belted trench, £99, johnlewis. com; white ruffle mules, £65, topshop. com
The way I see it, you can wear your regular coat and then, come the summer proper, ditch the coat and go with your light blazer, or your denim jacket, or a big shawl or a scarf, or nothing.
My feeling about a summer coat is: why would you bother? As for a statement summer coat, like the ones on these pages — a light coat that will go with a fraction of your clothes — where’s the value for money in that?
But recently I’ve been feeling something is lacking in my wardrobe, and that something (and no one is more surprised than me to discover this) is a summer coat.
When I leave the house in the evening I feel like slinging on a pretty coat. And when I head off to a wedding in July, where previously I would have worn a jacket over a dress, now what I want to wear is a light, decorative, flirty sort of coat with something easy underneath.
After all, we forget at our peril that the coat you wear to a wedding is what everyone is going to remember. And it might be cold.
Black striped coat, £356, beatriceb. com; striped mid-heel sandals, £79.99, zara.com
White trench, £189, massimo dutti.com; khaki toe-loop mules, £59, topshop.com
This sudden change of heart comes down to three things. First, this season designers from Etro to Max Mara have fallen in a big way for feminine, look-at-me coats. It took a while to get used to, but now every other coat seems dowdy and straight in comparison.
These new-look offerings are swaggery, soft and full-skirted with belts and pockets; some have trench coat details or are ‘duster coat’ in style, and all have a certain swing. The idea is you wear them like an over-the-top dress — an overcoat dress, if you like. You definitely want people to see these before you stash them in a cloakroom.
Which brings us to the next reason why a summer coat suddenly looks so tempting: the desire for a bit more polish and elegance. A decent blow dry; a nice pedicure; a bit of lipstick a bit more often; and now, after all this time, a glamorous summer coat.
Green organza trench, £79.99, zara.com; red slingbacks, £39, topshop.com
If you think of a coat as an extra opportunity to shine — not so much a cover-up as your first impression — then that requires one with charm and poise. It could be cute and white (see the Massimo Dutti one above) or sky blue (like the John Lewis version, above left).
Or you might decide to pull all the stops out and go for candy stripes.
Added to which, a certain sort of summer coat can take you to places you wouldn’t otherwise be able to go.
Take the green Zara coat above: it has all the characteristics of a sheer silk organza dress, but you’re wearing it over a light short dress, or a sleeveless top and trousers, so you get all the advantages and glamour of a cocktail frock without any of the exposure. That’s why, depending on the occasion, you may end up never taking it off.
Pink and orange striped coat, £454, beatriceb. com; striped mid-heel sandals, £79.99, zara.com
Navy waterlily coat, £280, essentiel antwerp. com; white toe-loop mules, £59, topshop.com
The statement summer coat also gives you options: you can start bold and then remove the coat and spend the rest of the day wearing a simple co-ord top and skirt, or whatever is hidden underneath.
This is a good ruse for those of us who love a bold print, but only up to a point. With a summer coat, like the one from Essentiel Antwerp, you can have your cake and eat it. It’s almost like getting two outfit changes in one.
The same goes for bright block colours: if you want to stand out, but then sit down to lunch in your understated cream, then this blue John Lewis coat is crying out for the job. (By the way, former Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman was spotted wearing this very same coat over a summer dress and sandals the other day, and I for one am copying her Right Now).
What could be simpler? If there’s an easier way to add a summer boost, plus femininity and colour to your wardrobe, answers on a postcard please.