The style of a belted wrap coat – with Whitcomb, Saman Amel and The Armoury

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Just before Christmas, I took my belted coat into Whitcomb & Shaftesbury to have it converted into a normal overcoat. 

As detailed on my original article, this was always a possibility. 

I began the experiment of a bespoke wrap coat with the awareness - based on previous bespoke experiments - that as it was something I’d never made or seen made before, it might not turn out as envisaged. 

I therefore planned in the ability to convert to something more standard if needed. 

The work to do so will not be small. Adding the needed buttonholes (the original coat had none on the outside) will take considerable time. 

But it was always going to be better than wasting the entire coat, by making something I just didn’t like the style of. 

When I asked readers for their opinion on that original article, most recommended that the coat stay as it was. And it did look good. 

The problem was that the belt and general wrapping didn’t function too well. This was a result of several things, including the belt itself and the cloth. 

But most important, I think, was the normal structure of a bespoke overcoat: the internal layers of canvas, the shaping in the hand padding, the tension in the collar. 

All of these are designed to make a bespoke coat clean and sharp - not loose and easy to belt and cinch. 

This was brought home particularly when I compared it to a made-to-measure belted coat from Saman Amel - pictured above. 

The Loro Piana herringbone cloth it’s made from is lighter than the Dormeuil of the Whitcomb coat. But it’s also denser, and therefore not necessarily easier to belt. 

The difference is the structure. There is some light fusible in there around the collar, but otherwise the Saman Amel coat has no canvas, padding or hand stitching. It’s just cloth, designed to drape from the shoulders and be belted to shape as desired.

There will be Neapolitan tailors that could make a belted coat with almost no structure. 

But on my experience I’d say such designs are best kept to ready-to-wear or made-to-measure. Brands like Eidos, King & Tuckfield and Stile Latino have offered nice versions in the past. 

This functionality is crucial, because the whole appeal of a belted coat - whether wool herringbone or cotton trench - is the way it can be cinched.

Tying the coat closely is flattering - both because it emphasises the waist, and because it creates fullness in the chest and back. 

In the image above, you can see how this cinching (together with the upturned collar) makes the back and shoulders appear larger. 

It helps that casual, off-hand tying of the belt also looks relaxed and unfussy. 

If taken too far, the effect can look a little effeminate. But it’s easy to control that by sizing up or down. 

And an alternative is to tie the belt at the back - as most often seen on trench coats.

This has the advantage of shaping the waist of the coat, but also keeps the front clean and uninterrupted. 

In the image above, you can see how the Saman Amel coat - despite being very roomy through the body - now has some nice shape from the chest down into the waist, as a result of the cinching at the back. 

And the tightness of that cinch can be adjusted, even having the coat flowing and A-line if it’s the look you prefer. 

As ever with Saman Amel, I think they’ve done a great job with the styling of this coat, and the cloths they offer it in. 

The Loro Piana Pecora Nera herringbone is a lovely grey/bone, and very versatile. You can also get it in a range of cloths from the normal tailoring bunches - popular ones the guys recommend are some coverts, and a water-repellent cotton.

The only things I would personally change about the coat are to move the in-breast pockets up and make the collar a little larger. 

The collar point is a subjective one, and is affected both by my style and by what I think looks good on me personally. 

But the position of the pockets is more functional, as at the moment they sit behind the belt of the coat, meaning anything inside gets in the way slightly of tying the coat. 

As with all such suggestions, it’s something I’ve already mentioned to Saman and Dag before doing so publicly. 

I think it’s also interesting to include some pictures of the ‘Marc’ coat from Coherence that I got from The Armoury last year.

This is ready to wear, and I was unsure about which size to get - medium or large - based on the points of cinching above. 

When belted, the large has rather more room in the chest and skirt, making it more dramatic. So I went for the medium instead (pictured) which is more subtle but is perhaps a tiny bit shorter than I’d ideally want. 

It’s still a great example of how good cinching in a coat can look, however. I love the fullness in that dark-green microfibre across the back. 

And the room in the skirt is incredibly practical. It’s not until you sit down in a coat like this - on the train perhaps - that you realise how much easier that is when there’s volume below the waist. Pockets are easier to access too. 

The Marc is only available at The Armoury, and was a simplified version of the original ‘Mutt’ model from Coherence. 

It is much easier to use than that original, and one of the my favourite features is the collar, which stays upright and buttons perfectly under the chin. Very reassuring when the cold rain is battering down. 

The only small downside of this design, perhaps, is that it can’t be worn open easily. Even if belted at the back, the volume in the front is too much to be left unfastened. Unlike slimmer models like the Saman Amel. 

The Marc costs $1900 and is available in all sizes from The Armoury in the microfibre. It’s also available in large in wool ‘Cravecord’.

The Saman Amel belted coat is available made to measure from them at trunk shows, and starts at £1800 (the Loro Piana cloth is rather more expensive, at £2400). They are in New York on January 20-28 and back in London in early February.

The Whitcomb coat can be seen in detail on the previous article here

Photography of the latter two, Jamie Ferguson. Shots of the Marc, Alex Natt. 

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Haackk

I have the Nisse belted coat from Berg&Berg, and it has the same problems as the Saman Amel: Too small of a collar and inside pockets under the belt. Very unpractical. It’s also a little short and too slim. So I don’t get the ‘dramatic’ fullness when belted. I tried sizing up, but it seemed like the pattern wasn’t made for the ‘oversized’ look I was going for.

In fact, I find the B&B is so similar to the Saman Amel coat that I can’t help but think it’s made at the same facility.

Haackk

Also – a front view picture of the Saman Amel coat with the belt tied would be appreciated.

J

I understand your point on these different coats. I had a vintage USA army officer coat from the Korean War. It was made in cotton and longer than most coats are now. It had a lot of volume. Wearing it with a belt made the shoulders look bigger end it was very practical because of the extra room. So much fun to wear when it was raining. However, it looked way to military and some people thought it was the perfect coat for a flasher.. After that I sold it.. My point is, it has to be perfect not looking to forced or over the top in my opinion. The fabric, the fit, the style. I keep it simple these days..

BespokeNYC

Your logic makes complete sense although it’s a real shame as the W&S one looked fantastic (at least in the pictures) and very different from many of your other overcoats. Would it ever be possible to remove some of the structural elements? I realize that would involve some pretty extreme alterations, although I’ve seen some examples Dirnelli has posted that seem to have worked out OK.

VSF

This is a good decision. It’s very easy for belted coats to look effeminate which is reason enough to avoid the style. Belted coats look best on women in my view so, you model change to a more traditional masculine looking coat is the right call. Please let us see the final result.

Evan Everhart

Hi Simon,

Interesting article, and sartorial investigation, or safari even.

I was thinking, that perhaps it might prove helpful to study how a certain style of coat was made in the golden era of the 1930s, or even just find a good vintage example that is made well and seems to function, that is fit and work, as you would like it to, at that point, do some study on what fabrics were typically being used for which garments, and follow suit. In the past, form, structure, and fabric, in tailored garments largely followed utility and functionality. Some garments might selectively be made up in a cotton or woolen gabardine, or some in a sturdy twill, or some in a soft Shetland or stiff Harris tweed.

Typically, what I like follows the lines of vintage menswear as it has cleaner lines and is designed to function with and flatter the body more effectively than most modern tailoring is, which by and large chases modern cyclical fashions at a much accelerated rate…..But I digress, my best top coats are from the 1930s to the 1950s and are all quiet and classical and have high arm holes.

The long and the short of this rant, is this; why re-invent the wheel, when likely more technically skilled tailors of the past have already done all of the foot work of trial and error for you.

Have you considered having anything made up by Tailor Caid, or have you already done so? I don’t recall. Or Boston Tailor (a Japanese maker of excellent skill). I would be very interested in seeing a review of either of them, as they both offer bespoke.

Evan Everhart

Hi Simon,

Interesting that you perceive it to be square. My understanding was that he specialized in soft Ivy League and reproduction 1930 drape style tailoring, neither of which is particularly square. Or did you mean square as in prosaic and uninteresting? I have seen some of his work which is quite sublime. Boston Tailor is absolutely soft tailoring.

What are yr thoughts regarding my comments on re-inventing the sartorial wheel?

Have a Wonderful day, Sir! I always enjoy these posts!

Evan Everhart

Interesting. His suits are arguably typically made up as 3 roll 2 models, so not too boxy, as a straight 3 button coat, and he is known for his relatively soft shouldered approach. I’m intrigued by yr perception. Granted, his stuff’s not as soft as some others, but it is still decidedly soft compared to most others. I think it would be interesting to explore some Japanese purveyors of bespoke though. Very interesting. Thanks for the clarification, too.

Fastship

That is very true. I myself had a wrap coat made to a 1930’s pattern, in camel hair. It seems this style of coat originated in England as a loose-fitting, casual style of overcoat originally worn by polo players in between chuckers (and designed as a wrap coat) – hence it became known as the Polo Coat. They became particularity fashionable in high society America in the 1920’s.

Of all people, my coat was inspired by none other than Stan Laurel when I saw a photo of him wearing one such coat on the Queen Mary in 1947:comment image

David

I liked the article, but I got a bit lost between the different coats. For instance, the second photo in the whole article – was that the coat after alterations had been made? Maybe captions could have help? Maybe I needed to pay more attention, but frankly I got lost between belted and unbelted and which was pre and post alteration. Otherwise, a good idea for a piece and well reported.

Ben

Can I recommend some picture captions? At several points in the article, I had to stop to determine which coat’s pictured or being referred to. I thought maybe one of the pictures is of the W&S with buttons already added. I also thought you may be referring to the other guy’s forest green coat, which is also belted at the back.

Quite separately… a belted coat that’s both fastened and cinched at the back looks very strange to me. I do it with safari jackets that I wear unbuttoned, and the look feels appropriately relaxed. But there’s too much material in the front for it to work with a db trench, and with a buttoned overcoat the belt just seems redundant.

Oliver

Simon

I hope you will take this comment in the constructive intent of it, but I have to say I was so happy to see your Colhays piece as the models for the garments seemed so natural in their poses.

In most PS posts, this one included, it is you, and more often than not it seems to be you smiling with a bit of the article being written about on display, rather than the article itself, and most of them are the opposite of natural.

A coffee cup, a shop window, a street scene; all so posed.

Personally, I want the product to speak; the wearer of it in a moody pose is a distraction to my eye.

Paul Boileau

I would like to see the re-modelled W&S coat. If I were to get a polo coat, it would have to be a heavy cloth and be an easy fit. My inspiration would be the Noel Coward one. The stars won’t align re. cloth/ ease and design in RTW and I don’t want to go bespoke so this won’t happen. The W&S certainly has insufficient ease in the sleeves and appears too “tailored”. The Saman Amel is certainly better in this respect. A picture with the coat belted would be useful to get the full effect of the coat and give a better indication of balance of ease between chest and sleeves. Not being able to use the inside pocket easily would bug me. Thanks.

ja_sando

I have the same problem with an SEH Kelly tielocken, which I’ve been trying to get along with for over a year now – I’m short and slight, and while I love the coat, the wrap and belt fastening just doesn’t work on me. Do you know of any alterations tailors that could convert it to a single or double breasted coat as you have with your W&S?

JB

The thing that was visually most off to me with the W&S coat was the strong shoulders on a robe model, just too contradictive.
With the saman coat it looks a lot more natural, while remaining smart due to the half raglan shoulder. While I do love a full raglan, I’d argue this kind of shoulder bumps it up from weekend coat to office coat.

Dr Peter

I like both looks, especially after viewing your previous article on the Whitcomb.

Two thoughts that occurred to me: there are other modes of outerwear that can be usefully substituted for a loose, but warm outer coat or greatcoat: the cape and the poncho.

The nineteenth-century cape, (sometimes with a second shoulder flap of cloth — around the shoulders and falling to just above the waist) has always looked elegant to me, especially on tall men. It will look striking with a tall hat or top hat, definitely a Victorian look. I’ve never owned one, but often look in thrift shops for a genuine example.

The South American poncho is something I have worn, while living and travelling in Ecuador. The type I like especially is the ones they wear in the sierra, made of stout dark blue wool, with a nice black wool (or felt) collar. It hangs about the shoulders and to the waist, and is perfect for long treks in the Andean hills and mountains — up to a certain altitude. In Otavalo, at about 6000-8000 feet, it was perfect. Arm movements are actually not too restricted, especially since the forearms are not covered by the drape of the poncho. It’s a great look, and supremely warm and comfortable, especially when paired with wool flannel slacks. Foolishly, I did not buy one to bring back with me to the States, and have regretted it! But some day…

Treyce

This coat is very interesting it appears to have a standard set sleeve from the front but the image you post of the back looks to be a raglan style.

Luca Simoni

A little, late note: the origin of the belted coat seems to be find in the very archetypal Polo Coat, in the 30’s, U.S. East Coast. If you note, on your weel tailored specimen there are peal lapels, patch pockets and turned up cuffs, as on a proper polo coat nowadays. Those old models however, where simple, practical garment designed with the sole purpose to be worn between the chukkers or after a polo match. To stay warm while sweaty. Consider them like heavy dressing gown. nothing else. Not suitable to walking, travelling or any other activity than stay relaxed on a polo field side. And not for long. That’s why you and the other readers who have chosen this model have had stability, lacing and other problems. If you do not play polo, keep it for large country houses with no central heating.

Kiran Rao

Coat look awesome and very warm. It suits you.

Ignatius

Struggling a little with how long I want my raglan coat. How long is your Saman Amel coat? Looks to be below the knees?