Fashion, Shopping Guides

Coats, coats, coats for petites

There’s an old adage that we Canadians need a different coat for every 10-degree variation in temperature. And it’s certainly true that outerwear features heavily in the wardrobe of nearly everyone. After all, our winters are long, our weather conditions are varied, and dressing for the climate is part and parcel of Canadian life.

Besides, your outer layer is generally the first or — if you’re exclusively outdoors — even only item of clothing that people will see you wearing for a good part of the year. You might have the world’s most fashionable item on underneath, but if you don’t take your coat off, nobody will ever know.

For all those reasons, I believe that investing in a good coat collection is worth it. Other items of clothing might get worn occasionally, but coats may get worn every day for months at a time. A quality, beautiful, well-made, well-fitting coat can give you years of warmth, comfort and style.

As the weather starts to turn and we head into another winter, I thought it would be a great opportunity to showcase my petite-friendly coat and jacket collection. Hopefully this will give you some inspiration for the colder months ahead.

Petite Guidelines | -10C and below | 0 to -10C | 0 to 10C | 10 to 20C | 20C and above | General Tips


Outerwear for Petite Pears: Some guidelines

If you’re petite, pear-shaped and short-waisted, like me, shopping for outerwear can pose some additional challenges, namely, fit. Especially with so many oversized coats trending lately, how does a small-framed petite find a coat that fits right on the shoulders, waist, length, and sleeves? It can feel like a daunting challenge.

Here are a few of my tips for petite, pear-shaped ladies like myself:

  • Emphasize the waist. Belts, tapering, and gentle structured shapes will offer the best fit for petite pears. Cinching in at the waist will emphasize that hourglass shape, giving you some form and avoiding the giant sack effect.
  • Fit the shoulders first. A coat or jacket can be adjusted or tailored in a lot of ways, but taking in the shoulders is expensive and basically involves remaking the entire garment from scratch. If you buy a coat whose shoulders are too wide, the arms will fit funny, pulling in all the wrong places. For this reason, look to fit the shoulders first.
  • A-lines are your friend. To fit smaller shoulders and a larger hipline, a gentle a-line or flared shape on a jacket or coat will work wonders. Look for these rather than straighter-fitting shapes to find the most flattering fit.
  • The best lengths are 3/4 or just above the knee. Cropped jackets aren’t as flattering on petite pears, because they skim over your smaller waist and draw attention to the width of your hip. Likewise, petites can often look drowned in longer maxi or midi-length coats that fall below the knee. Personally I find the most flattering length on our body shape is just above the knee, with the aforementioned waist emphasis.
  • Sleeves can be rolled or hemmed. Ah, sleeves, the bane of our existence as petites. As long as the shoulders fit okay on a jacket or coat, it’s fine to simply roll up the sleeves once or twice if they’re still too long. Alternately, you can get them hemmed or tailored on many styles of coats. Taking up a sleeve is often one of the less expensive alterations to do on a coat that otherwise fits well everywhere else. So don’t be afraid of it.
  • Hoods are good. There’s perhaps no more polarizing debate since the pineapple on pizza question. (Yea, for the record.) But for petite pears, hoods are great. Not only do they provide extra warmth in the cold, rain and wind, but they also add some height and visual interest to your head, drawing the eye upward and lengthening your visual line. Added bonus for more structured hoods, like those surrounded by a fur or faux-fur collar — which are also great to block wind and blowing snow, by the way. The key with hoods is to look for those that are adjustable or small enough so that they don’t flop over your face, blocking your vision.
  • Shop in the petites section. Some petites can get away with shopping in regulars (if you’re broad-shoulders and narrow-hipped) or even in the kids’ section (if you’re tiny all over without many curves). But, if you’re petite, pear-shaped and short-waisted like me, you really want to check the petites section first. Unfortunately, there are far fewer options in petite-specific sizes. But those that do exist will fit so much better that it’s really worth it.

My coat collection

Coats for -10C and below

The longest and coldest part of winter requires a serious winter coat. Montreal winters can dip below -10 for months, often with windchill temperatures below -30. Those freezing conditions are no joke, and require outerwear that can hold up.

Unfortunately it’s exceedingly hard to find proper winter parkas in petite-friendly sizes. I’ve ranted about this on my blog plenty. I’ve previously owned far too many parkas that, while warm, were just too big for my frame.

Canada Goose Shelburne Fusion Fit

These days, my most frequently worn coat in my collection is my Canada Goose parka, which I reviewed in this post.

Canada Goose Shelburne Parka Fusion Fit, Size Small, $995

Yes, it’s pricey. But on a per-wear basis, it actually winds up being one of the less expensive items in my coat collection, simply because I tend to wear it nearly every day for most of the winter. And our winters are long. I love how it’s one of the only winter parkas to come in a petite-friendly size, with the waist, sleeve length, jacket length, and shoulders all fitting perfectly.

I’m going into my third winter in this parka, and I expect it will last me a number of seasons to come. It’s hard to look fashionable in a puffer parka; after all, we Canadians all wear them most of the winter and they’re more about function than style. But having a coat that fits great and makes me feel great definitely helps!

Coats for -10-0C

“Warm winter” is how we Canadians describe days that are above -10 or so on the thermometer. It can be amazingly pleasant if a day is sunny, clear, and not too windy outside. But we still need winter wear to go outside in this temperature. For those warmer winter days, I have these go-to coats:

Tommy Hilfiger Duffel Coat

For warmer winter days, I love this Tommy Hilfiger duffel coat, which I reviewed here. It’s my “Little Red Riding Hood” coat, complete with loop closures, lined wool fabric, and a plaid hood that’s just adorable:


Tommy Hilfiger Petite Coat, Size PS, $85 (Black Friday deal)

Calvin Klein Wool Walker Coat

This is one of my favourite coats in my collection, and makes me lament that our shoulder season isn’t longer. If I lived in a slightly warmer climate, this might be my go-to winter coat. As it is, this lightly lined wool walker coat serves that in-between season of late fall or early spring.

To say I absolutely adore everything about this coat is an understatement. Calvin Klein as a brand just “gets” petite fit, and this is no exception. The proportions on it are absolutely perfect — the sleeves are just ever-so-slightly too long, sure, but the waist, length, shoulders, and even belt fit like a glove. I love the classic styling. My only lament is that CK Petites aren’t available in Canada.

Calvin Klein Petite Belted Hooded Walker Coat, size PS, $79.99 USD (reduced from $134)

Nils Ski Jacket

Then there are the days when I head to the ski slopes — which, I should note, could be colder than minus-10, but I layer with plenty of technical clothing if it’s very cold. Still, though, even the warmer ski days in Quebec require a proper insulated ski jacket. There are very few brands that make petite-friendly ski jackets. I searched high and low for my current one, which I had to purchase through a lengthy, complicated process from the US since there are literally no petite ski jackets anywhere for sale in Canada. None. But I love the one I bought. It fits perfectly. And it’s purple. More things should be purple.

Nils Hanna Real Fur Petite Ski Jacket, Size 4P, $400 at time of purchase

Jackets for 0-10C

Shoulder season is how we describe late fall or early spring. It’s not quite winter, but it’s also not quite warm enough to go without. This is where I start to look for warmer, richer fabrics, and start wearing the same couple of coats every day. My current lineup for those cool temperatures still on the plus side of freezing includes:

Custom-Tailored Leather 3/4 Coat

A leather jacket is a timeless investment piece. While moto and biker-style cropped leather jackets have been on trend for several seasons now, I find that my petite pear shape is much more flattered by a longer 3/4 style coat.

I got this coat from a local custom made-to-measure leather manufacturer, which is something I recommend to everyone but especially petites looking to buy leather. Buying direct from the manufacturer is a great way to save money while supporting local business. And nothing will fit quite like custom-made leather. You’ll wear it forever.

Coronet Leather Jacket, custom size, $300 including alterations

Mountain Hardwear StretchDown DS Jacket

Another jacket that’s not a petite size. Yet another Mountain Hardwear purchase. And, to be honest, another one I really only wear for travel. This is a heavier down-filled puffer jacket for those colder weather conditions when my LL Bean pack jacket just won’t be warm enough. To date, I’ve worn this on exactly one trip: to Greenland, in 2018, where I wore it either alone or layered under my rain shell for added water and windproofing.

Because it’s not a petite size, the fit isn’t perfect; the sleeves are too long, and the waist hits a little low on my frame. However, it’s a well made jacket that fits a particular niche. And the hood is useful for windy conditions. It packs up pretty small, too. Mountain Hardwear is a quality brand, but I really wish they carried petite sizes.

Mountain Hardwear StretchDown DS Hooded Jacket, size S, $187.50

Jackets for 10-20C

Early fall when the leaves start to change, or late spring as the days start getting longer, the weather in Canada can still be an unpredictable mix. Both spring and fall tend to be short seasons, but the variety in weather means I’m constantly having to decide what jacket to wear that day. Here’s my current lineup:

Boden Polka-Dot Raincoat

One of my UK brand purchases a couple of years ago was this lined polka-dot raincoat from Boden Petite. I wear this in rainy weather that’s too chilly for just a shell, since the fleece lining gives it a little bit of extra warmth. It has a hood, a gorgeous burgundy colour, and giant pockets. I’m kinda in love with it.

Unfortunately, even in a petite fit, it’s slightly too long at the sleeve. And I do wish the waist had a bit more definition, since I find it hangs a bit straight on my frame. But it’s still a cute, practical coat that gets a decent amount of fall or spring wear when the weather is very very wet.

Boden Anya Waterproof Mac in Mulled Wine Spot, size UK 8P, $257 $179.90 CAD.

Banana Republic Waxed Canvas Jacket

For more casual wear, this navy 3/4 jacket that I bought about four years ago has been okay, if not great. Again, I feel like a less boxy shape with more waist definition would suit my frame better. But the fit is good, and the jacket is very convenient for that early fall or late spring weather when it’s still too cool to go without a jacket. I wish it were more waterproof, though.

Banana Republic Waxed Canvas Jacket, size SP, $128

Banana Republic Classic Trench Coat

I also own this classic charcoal grey single-breasted trench coat from Banana Republic. I’ve had this for about a gazillion years. The lining is coming apart. I’ve worn it into the ground. I’ve tried unsuccessfully to replace it with a newer one dozens of times. But it seems like everyone insists on selling trench coats in warm colours like beige or taupe instead of cool colours like charcoal. I also prefer the single-button look, which is hard to find. And it fits perfectly.

Anyway, I still own this, even though it’s past its prime. It gets a reasonable amount of wear in those early fall or late spring seasons when I want to wear something a little classier than the canvas jacket. I just wish I could find a suitable petite-friendly replacement.

Banana Republic Charcoal Classic Trench, size PS, price unknown (old)

LL Bean Primaloft Packaway Hooded Jacket

The above jackets are my regular everyday ones at home. But this one is my absolute favourite travel jacket. It’s an insulated Primaloft-filled jacket by LL Bean that is petite-friendly, warm, has a hood, and is purple to boot! Also, it packs up absolutely teeny-tiny in my luggage. If I were to travel the world and could only take one jacket, this one would be it.

LL Bean PrimaLoft Packaway Hooded Jacket, size XS Petite, $119 USD

Jackets for 20C and above

Summer in Canada means t-shirts, tank tops, shorts, sundresses, and plenty of heat and humidity. But there are times when a coat or jacket are needed or handy — rainy days, cool evenings, windy weather, or excessive air conditioning indoors. Here are a few of my go-to summer jackets and outer layers:

Mountain Hardwear Rainshell

When it’s raining but still too warm for any other kind of jacket, I tend to pull out my rainshell. It’s one of my favourite travel jackets, since it packs up tiny and it layers over just about anything. I bought it just before my trip to Iceland in 2018, where it proved its worth and entered my rotation, replacing an older MEC rainshell that was past its prime.

This one’s actually a regular size, not a petite, which is why the fit isn’t perfect — it’s a bit too long, the sleeves need to be rolled up, and the hood is too big for my head. However, with a rainshell, it’s not as critical to have a perfect fit as with other items of clothing, since its primary purpose is to serve as an outer layer to keep me dry. And this one does that admirably. Besides which, it’s purple. Did I mention I love purple in my wardrobe?

Mountain Hardwear Women’s Thundershadow Rain Shell, size S, $165

GAP Cropped Denim Jacket

Then there’s this little cropped denim jacket, which I bought almost 3 years ago but hardly ever wear. I think it’s because the straight cropped style isn’t all that flattering on my shape. I much prefer a jacket with a tapered, defined waistline. I do keep this around in case I ever need to grab a casual denim jacket in the summertime for a cooler evening or something:

Jacket: GAP Icon Denim, size PS, $39.95 CAD (reduced from $79.95)

General coat shopping tips

I’ve assembled and curated my coat collection over a number of years, so as you’ve probably noted, most of the items above are not from the current season. Which leads me to my 5 tips for shopping for outerwear:

  • Opt for timeless over trendy. You can have fun with cheaper, lesser-worn pieces, buying things that are more on-trend. But coats can last for many seasons, as long as you buy ones that won’t look dated too quickly.
  • Pick your favourite neutrals. Since you’ll be wearing the same jackets or coats with many different outfits, opt for buying them in neutral colours that will go with everything. Darker colours won’t show dirt as easily, which can help a coat last a long time. This doesn’t mean to buy only black coats, mind you; I recommend that every woman find her favourite neutrals that bring out her colouring and skin tone. I personally love charcoal, navy blue, and rich purple and maroon.
  • Invest in quality fabrics. Wool, cashmere, down, leather, and technical insulation and waterproofing all make a difference when it comes to staying warm and dry on cold, windy, wet days. Quality fabrics will also look better for longer.
  • Prioritize good fit. Since you’ll be wearing a coat for a long time, you need to make sure it fits well. You want to generally buy a coat that’s roomy enough to layer underneath, but that still fits well enough to give some shape and structure to your form.
  • Invest in tailoring, if necessary. For petites, a trip to the tailor can seem like an expensive, albeit necessary, evil when shopping. Tailoring outerwear can be pricey, but ultimately worth it if you have a perfectly-fitting coat that will last for many seasons. Note that not all fabrics can be tailored; wool and leather can be extensively remade by the right professionals, but highly technical down-filled puffer coats are often impossible to alter.

4 thoughts on “Coats, coats, coats for petites

  1. Hello from Massachusetts and Central Maine- I’m 5′ 3 3/4″, and my daughter is barely 5′ 1″. So I know the pain of shopping for petite coats. Do manufacturers think that short women never leave the house? Not to mention we are both allergic to down, which makes it even more difficult.
    Anyway, I wanted to point out a brand that you missed. Obermeyer makes petite jackets, ski pants and parkas. In pretty colors, too. They list some stores in Canada as retailers. Also I checked and AmazonCanada carries them.
    LL Bean has changed since the 1990’s IMHO. They used to make coats for below zero temps with a stiff wind. Now I need a second jacket under my winter warmer coat if it is below 20F. I think I’ll try Obermeyer for my next jacket. Unless somebody in Canada starts making a real warm petite down free parka. I’d travel to get one.

    1. Oh yes, Obermeyer deserves a shout-out as one of the few brands making petite ski outerwear. My ski jacket before my current one was an Obermeyer. Unfortunately they’re also not available in Canada, but if you’re in the US, you should definitely check them out.

  2. I really appreciate and relate to your comments.

    I am 5’0 ,135 lbs, 55 year old, professional office worker. I am looking for a good quality (wool or cashmere) coat to wear over dresses, skirts and blazers – so need a bit extra room at the top for blazers. I have a nice one from Wilfred but it has gotten a little too snug. Purchasing such an item online, given Covid, is daunting. Any suggestions for such requirements?

    1. Quite honestly, I’ve been shopping exclusively online for more than a decade. It doesn’t have to be daunting if you get to know the brands and sizes that fit you well. I’m not sure where you’re located, but if you’re in the US, you have more options than we do for free shipping & free returns, too, so you can essentially “try on” at home. Try Macy’s petite section for quality wool coats from brands like Calvin Klein, Michael Kors, DKNY, Anne Klein, etc. I’ve also heard good things about the J. Crew Petite Lady Day coat, though it’s a bit on the pricier side.

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