Q: Are there faux-fur coats out there that don't scream "synthetic"?
A: This is a touchy subject. Although O never shows real fur, activists may also hate fakes for glamorizing what is, to them, a crime. But I believe there's absolutely nothing wrong with imitating fur's luxurious, dressy texture as long as no animals are harmed in the process. Today's faux coats are a lot more realistic-looking than those old, phony, probably flammable "fun" furs—and are offered in a variety of contemporary styles that don't make you seem like you're trying to get a look for less. It's an enlightened way to be chic.
For an instant dresser-upper, shrug on a faux-fur cape-like jacket from Adrienne Landau ($495), a designer known for using real fur who is now doing a terrific job working with fake.
This khaki trench features simulated pelts and a jeweled waistband (Gryphon New York, $828). The cozy scarf (Donna Salyers' Fabulous-Furs, $49) is also cruelty-free. Q: Will a parka look weird if I wear it over my work clothes?
A: There's nothing cooler than wearing a casual, utilitarian coat over more formal things. Remember, though, even if your parka is puffed up, you needn't be. My slimming guidelines:
Vertical or diamond-shaped quilting, never horizontal.
A full-length zipper or placket (elongates the body).
A belted or curved waist (to avoid that mattress-pad look).
A less bulky fill; synthetics may be flatter than high-calorie goose down.
Although parkas are innately sturdy, they need maintenance to keep the stuffing fluffy (try Down Wash by Nikwax, $5) and the outside fully water-repellent.
This low-fat version of the winter jacket has subtle ruffles and a smart belt (Add Down, $378). It looks even more polished with a patent leather bag (Dooney & Bourke, $385) and shoes (Jimmy Choo, $585).
Turtleneck and skirt, Cacharel, $225 and $311.
Q: Is it acceptable if my skirt sticks out from under my coat?
A: More than okay. Hems that match are fussy and antiquated; it's far more modern to play with different lengths. I insist only that the coat extend far enough down to cover your jacket or any longer top (three visible hems are overkill). Some people sidestep the issue with maxicoats, but unless you're six feet tall, those to-the-ankle jobs look like bathrobes. I prefer a knee-length classic with crisply tailored shoulders, a slightly shaped waist, and a not-too-narrow bottom (to allow for fuller skirts).
Layer with flair—uh, make that flare—in a flyaway coat (Michael McCollom for Fleurette, $850).
Dress, Boss Black, $1,195. Brooch, Robert Rose, $48.