The appeal of the coat dress for the royals is an armour. It is a look that says, ‘I’ve arrived, but I probably won’t stay’.

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The appeal of the coat dress for the royals is an armour. It is a look that says, ‘I’ve arrived, but I probably won’t stay’.

My son asked me for help with his French homework the other day and, since I don’t speak French, I put on the classic film, Belle de Jour, hoping the answer would lie within.

I am not sure my son found what he was looking for, but I definitely unearthed some major inspiration in the form of Catherine Deneuve’s chic coat dresses.

I adored the brown leather version with matching gloves that Deneuve wears while being driven back into Paris in the film. So too, her double-breasted grey coat dress worn while visiting the house of ill repute for the first time, and the black patent leather one she wears when she returns to that house to seal her fate.

And the coat dress is alive and well today as evidenced by the examples worn at the recent celebrations for the Queen’s Jubilee.

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Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge’s visit to Wales saw her in a red version from Eponine, a nod to the red dragon on the Welsh flag.

Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, wore one in white by Dior Haute Couture for the Thanksgiving service at Westminster Abbey. The press called it an ode to Diana and printed a side-by-side image of Lady Di in a similar look.

Kate’s penchant for a coat dress, though, stretches far beyond the Jubilee. Who can forget the red Catherine Walker coat dress she wore when she arrived in New Zealand in 2014?

If I could steal one, it would be the custom jade Alexander McQueen coat that she wore to an event in Bradford, England, in 2020.

I understand the appeal of this attire for the royals: the coat dress is an armour. It is a look that says, ‘I’ve arrived, but I probably won’t stay’.

But what about for the rest of us? I asked my sister what she thought of them, and she looked dubious. “Have you ever owned one?” she fired back. I thought long and hard, and the answer was “sort of”.

I thought of an Olga Kapustina wool coat that I wore relentlessly one winter. It had a flared skirt, a nipped waist and a faux fur shawl collar. I loved it, and when I wore it, I didn’t take it off and considered it a full look.

The definition of a coat dress is not a dressy coat. It is a coat that mimics a dress and looks sharp when worn with the right amount of panache. In my opinion, a lot of coats fall into this category. If your favourite coat has beautiful lines that drape well, it could definitely be considered a coat dress.

As with everything, it is all about how you wear it, and there are some simple ways to turn your favourite coat into a major coat dress moment.

The bare essentials

Bare legs and smart heels – kitten or stiletto – add to the look. It keeps the style feminine and elegant. If it is just too cold, consider a knee-high boot.


Keep whatever you wear underneath to a minimum. Ideally this means clean lines that won’t disrupt the shape of your coat. The length of your skirt should be shorter than the coat, so it doesn’t show.


Clutching a small handbag adds to the story in the right way. A chunky backpack would shatter the vibe. Gloves have never been more current, and will add a touch of sophistication. An added bonus is they may help you avoid the dreaded Covid, if there is anyone out there who hasn’t had it yet.