How to Choose a Flattering Coat Length


I was asked by Ingrid of Norway how to choose a flattering coat length, and I know all you in the Northern Hemisphere are getting to grips with colder weather, so here is a quick guide.

Longer coats work best on longer people, shorter coats on shorter people.  Of course if you live somewhere that gets super cold, who cares if you’re short and the coat swamps you – at least you’ll be warm (which in the end is the most important thing when you’re in sub zero temperatures).

Short coats are great for the petite, as well as average height women or for climates that don’t get too chilly.  They also work for spring/autumn weather in colder climates.

Medium length (mid-thigh) coats are good for the more petite, where you want more length for warmth, but not so long they overwhelm your frame.

A 3/4 length coat (one that is just above the knee) is flattering for most average height people.  If you’re petite a slightly shorter (medium length) coat is often better.

Long coats – 7/8th or longer than knee length are best for those 5’6″ and over, they are best when shaped at the waist (not necessarily belted) to create a flattering silhouette.

Also consider the fabric and weight of the coat, does is suit your frame and figure?  Stiff fabrics stand out and make you look larger.  Very heavy or bulky coats will make a petite person look swamped.

Body shape tips:

  • Along with the length of coat, don’t forget to consider the shape and where the pockets are.
  • If  you have wider hips and don’t want to draw attention to them, avoid coats with big pockets on the hips.
  • If you have a larger bust, look for a coat with a lower opening, rather than one that does up high.
  • If you don’t have a defined waist, avoid belted coats


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  • Thanks Imogen that is very good to know. I am about 163.5 cm and I have a number of longer coats.I am guessing I should probably alter them. Should I vary the length i raise the jackets too, some are wool, some are courdroy, and some lighter fabrics and one is also made of velvet.Does this same rule in length also apply to how long a long dress could be if its longer than your knee (which I was told was the best place to wear my skirt).

  • You're so right! Once again! I finally learned that coats that hit just above the knee look good on me (5'6") and anything longer squishes me down and makes me look about 4'9". We are definitely about to break out the coats in this part of the world.

  • Thanks for your answer! I kind of like the 3/4 length best (it seems to be easier to find ones that show off your waist in that length), and now I know I can wear them too 🙂
    (I'm about 180 cm)

    Ingerid (the one who asked)

  • You are so right! I enjoy my long ( def. below knee ) coats. So great to emphasize the waistline with a belt too. I have no shorter ones per moment; I feel totally unbalanced wearing shorter ones. One of my favorite combinations is wearing long boots, cuffed jeans and a long coat, which reveals just the right amount of the jeans.

  • This is great in theory, but if one is short and living in a country where very few clothes shops cater to short women, then it's really hard to find a coat that isn't far too long. It's like, I have to buy a short coat if I want something comes to my knees but the proportions will be all wrong.

  • but but but…..what about us ladies fighting the bulge, any suggestions that could sorta slim down or at least create the illusion of slimmimg down the tum tum. Honestly no am't of dieting is getting rid of that pot, muffin or whatever the heck it is called. Help! Need new winter coat but don't want to waste a bundle to end up looking like the Michelin tire add.

  • Anonymous, I'm sure Imogen will have expert advice but I like a coat with lapels (so there is a v at the neckline), worn with a scarf or light muffler with the ends on longer than the top of the chest, which draws the eye up. I stay away from belts (which also make the seat look wider), and look for princess, swing or A-line styles. You also look thinner if here is a solid line from coat to boot- so your tights match your boots, and the coat coordinates.

  • Katherine – dresses are different – unless you're wering a floor length gown, I'd avoid wearing longer than knee-length.

    Jesslyn – great that you've figured this out!

    Ingrid – heaps of coats out there that flatter your waist with belts or shaping.

    Metscan – you are lucky to have height and get to wear the longer coats (especially as you live in a climate that really needs them!

    Violet – I see you're from NZ – I know that I've taken petitie clients to David Lawrence who do some shorter length coats that hit mid-thigh. They are out there!

    FB – hope you find a great one at a fabulous price!

    Sal – this is where your personality takes over and breaks all the rules successfully!

    Anon- great answer by Duchesse – avoid any belted coat, just look for coats with some shaping, avoid anything that closes too high up – a deeper V closure is way more flattering. Make sure there aren't patch pockets on the waist or hips – look for coats with concealed pockets.

    Duchesse – thanks for your great advice!

  • Coats are a huge component of fall and winter fashion! A great coat is a necessity to being stylish (and warm) all season long. People often overlook the importance of a fabulous coat, but its the single item you are seen in most during colder months.

  • This is so right. I am 5'7 and long coats have naturally been my favorites ones always but recentely I was sticking to theidea that I should try a shorter coat or vest. I bought some and never wear them. This is a very good thing about your teaching. Now I know why and I will drop the idea that a short coat HAS to fit me. 'll spend less money and 'll know who to give the ones I am not wearing: to a smaller friend.

  • I live in a country (Québec) as frigid as Ingrid's, but as I'm about as short and buxom as the Queen (though at least a generation younger), I can't abide long coats. Agree with everything Duchesse said – though swing coats mustn't be TOO wide, as they make my figure type look like a last-chance pregnancy.

    It is hard to find beautiful, warm fabrics. Remember a gorgeous cachmere coat Linda Grant had bought at the Thoughtful Dresser site. Duchesse will know I'm mourning the boutiquisation of a certain upscale department store where I used to find great deals, on velvety coats that were an appropriate weight for here.

    Imogen, no matter how cold it gets, it is very depressing to have to give up and look like **** in a Michelin-Man down coat for months a year.

  • This is so true! I am 6′ so finding anything with the right shape is quite difficult but I have coat ready for this winter (northern england) and at the front it comes to my knees although it is a tad longer at the back. I have the height to carry super long coats (I think this one was described as extreme long) without looking swamped or trailing on the floor. Black skinny jeans, ankle boots and a tartan scarf finish the look.

  • Hi Imogen!

    Can you suggest any shoes and boots that would pair nicely with mid thigh and just above the knee puffer coats?

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