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It was the mid-1960s. Yves Saint Laurent presented a collection that referenced pea coats; however, these weren't the bulky, woolen numbers worn by sailors. These were form-fitting, double-breasted blazers, cropped to end at the waist. The look was embraced by style icons such as Jackie Onassis. These days, you have diverse options in pea coats, but styling them with pants rather than Saint Laurent's coordinated skirts requires some fashion savvy.
The structure and style of a classic pea coat means you can toss one on and have a timeless look. Wearing jeans with a pea coat has urban practicality, but the look gets stylish when the jeans fit flawlessly. Opt for a straight leg and skinnier fit, and stick to darker washes to strike a wonderfully wintry pose. If the sea of dark blue fabric gets to you, a scarf in plaid, houndstooth or red adds a bolt of color.
Not all pea coats stick with tradition. Designers like Peter Som and Vera Wang have created what the industry calls hybrid pea coats. They feature color blocking, longer lengths, bold prints or even fluffy fur sleeves. Such a luxe topper requires something more fashionable than yoga pants to finish the outfit. Go with silky fabrics in dark neutrals that drape over your body gracefully, skimming it without squeezing it.
In the Navy
Rather than use your pea coat as a wardrobe staple, style it with a nautical-themed outfit for a fun but chic look. Christian Dior's navy blue or white pea coats in leather rather than wool up the design ante. Reference the look of the open sea with wider-legged pants in navy or black. While a little sailor cap may be "overboard," accessorizing with chunky gold jewelry is the perfect final touch.
Pea coats are classic winter outerwear, but that doesn't mean they should fit you like a chunky fisherman's sweater. If you have a traditional, double-breasted style, make sure it aligns well with your shoulders, hits at a flattering point of your waist and closes securely without gaping or bagging. For a sleeker, more feminine silhouette, opt for a pea coat in a thinner fabric that has a belt. You want a pea coat that narrows at the waist to create an hourglass shape. Alternately, you can wear a traditional pea coat but style it with your own belt.