How to Wear a Sleeveless Coat This Winter

It's like a vest, but cooler — and warmer.
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Chantal Fernandez
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It's like a vest, but cooler — and warmer.
Helena Bordon at Paris Fashion Week in October. Photo: Imaxtree

Helena Bordon at Paris Fashion Week in October. Photo: Imaxtree

In our latest column, "Ask a Fashionista," you can solicit our strongly held opinions on everything from how to wear a midi skirt without looking like a tree stump to whether a certain retail CEO should go ahead and resign already.

Q: What's the point of wearing the sleeveless coats I've been seeing around, and how can I incorporate one into my wardrobe? — Jessica, Baltimore, MD.

A: It's true: sleeveless coats are everywhere. If you've been paying attention to the runway, street style or your Pinterest boards, you've probably noticed the transitional trend pick up serious steam this fall. For expert advice, we consulted stylist Sally Lyndley who says sleeveless coats are, well, basically vests. "And the point of a vest is to keep your lungs and your core warm," she says. Lyndley broke down four ways to wear them, and recommends choosing tailored, menswear-inspired styles over looser, cocoon-like ones because they are easier to layer. 

Read on for some stylist-approved ways to wear sleeveless coats, and see below for 21 of our favorites to shop online now. 

1. Under or Over a Normal Coat

"You'll see it a lot on Pinterest, where it looks like double layered coats," says Lyndley. "You can layer it on top of your coat or under your coat to get that kind of cool 'double coat' look without having that bulkiness in the arms." She recommends buttoning whichever coat is underneath all the way up, and leaving the outer one open. 

2. Over a Sweater or Button-Down

"If it's a fall or spring day, it's nice to layer a sleeveless coat over a sweater," says Lyndley. Plus, it works with both chunky sweaters and thinner ones. "It's great with a turtleneck... V-necks can look funny because it's weird to have the skin [showing]." To that end, button-down shirts are a good layering option, too. She recommends a crisp white oxford, a denim shirt or even a flannel one. "Get that extra warmth without having that sweat factor when you're going into a shop or going into the office or the subway," she says. 

Arm bulk is still a concern, though. "I think it's nice to have a tailored or tighter sleeve coming out of a sleeveless coat," she says. "You get weird pulling in the armpit and nobody wants their arms to look bigger than they are." Indeed. Lyndley also recommends pairing this combination with a big blanket scarf if you "want a little more warmth."

Caroline Issa at New York Fashion Week in September. Photo: Imaxtree

Caroline Issa at New York Fashion Week in September. Photo: Imaxtree

3. Over a Long Dress

"I love it over slip dresses and I really love it over a maxi dress," says Lyndley. "It could be the same length as the sleeveless vest or longer. I think it's strange when it's shorter, it becomes cheap."

Blogger Maja Wyh. Photo: Maja Wyh

Blogger Maja Wyh. Photo: Maja Wyh

4. Over or Under a Jacket

When pairing a sleeveless coat with a another outerwear layer, don't be afraid of big differences in length. "I'm into a cropped motorcycle jacket over it, too," says Lyndley. "You have the different proportions and you can start to do color-blocking or do it monochromatic, tone on tone." The longer sleeveless coat works over a shorter jacket, too. "It's a way to maximize your closet — you can style it a hundred different ways."

See the gallery below for 21 sleeveless coats to shop now.