What Type of Coat Do I Wear With a Semi-Formal Dress?

Alexa Chung during London Fashion Week in 2009 wore a dress and trench coat to perfection.

Photo: Ian Gavan/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

When it comes to wearing a semi-formal dress in chilly weather, sometimes your trusty jean jacket or leather bomber just won't do. This is when their cozier, more cosmopolitan counterparts edge their way into your ensemble. There are really no hard or fast rules when pairing a semi-formal dress with a coat, though there are times you'll have to consider length. In most cases, your outfit will look off balance if the dress falls below the coat (whereas it's rarely a fashion faux-pas the other way around). Not to worry, however -- if you really want to wear a trailing maxi dress, there are definitely options for you too.

Classic Trench

If the weather isn't too cold, drape on a classic khaki trench coat over your semi-formal wrap dress. Model and television presenter Alexa Chung attended the Burberry show during London Fashion Week in 2009, wearing a short black silk dress, tan trench coat and black, lace-up, platform ankle booties. A sophisticated, forever-classy combination (you can always switch up the shoes, by the way, maybe go for a pair of pointed-toe pumps), this outfit is both weather-resistant as well as very versatile. Roll up the sleeves for a casual, breezy, daytime look, or add tights and high-heeled stiletto boots for a fierce, dressy, night-time look.

Black Cocoon

If it's a slightly more formal look you're going for, try donning black from head to toe. Careful though -- this look is easy to bungle, and there's a chance your outfit will end up looking somewhat dull. There's a distinct method to this wearing-black business, and no one does it better than Demi Moore. She was photographed wearing a black cocoon coat from Donna Karan's Fall 2010 collection, and an embellished, body-hugging black dress with full skirt. With black tights and ankle boots added, the whole outfit may be entirely black, but there are so many different textures involved -- silk, lycra, sequins, leather and nylon -- that make this outfit tactile and incredibly interesting to look at -- that's the secret. The cocoon coat lives up to its name on Moore, enveloping her without being too snug. And an added bonus? It looks super, duper warm.

Leopard-Print Fur

When it comes to wearing a longer dress, try a glamorous leopard-print fur coat. Seen on celebrities all over, Mary-Kate Olsen wore it well in New York City for The Museum of Modern Art's 2nd Annual Film Benefit. With a long black velvet skirt, she wore crimson peep-toe pumps, matching crimson lipstick, an old-fashioned black pork-pie hat and a leopard-print fur coat that hit just below her hips. She looks effortlessly stylish, almost like she's almost from another era, and the rolled-back crimson cuff is a nice touch. What many women don't realize is that leopard-print isn't a crazy, wild pattern that only the most adventurous ladies can wear, but rather a neutral print that surprisingly goes with lots of different colors. So wear it with abandon, and witness others growl with envy.

Brocade Swing Trapeze

if you're the type of girl who aims for an attention-getting get-up, go for a metallic swing trapeze dress in shocking silver. Gwyneth Paltrow was photographed at a Valentino event in 2009 wearing a silver belted and collared trapeze dress that hovered just above her knees. A super retro style, this coat looks great both open or closed, and is flattering on any body type, since its shape sways slightly outward -- like an A-line cut adapted for a coat. With caged booties on her feet, Paltrow mixes up old-school and new-school fashion, which certainly works for her. Experiment and see what works for you!

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