Coat (clothing): Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A coat is a long garment worn by both men and women[1], for warmth or fashion. Coats typically have long sleeves and open down the front, closing by means of buttons, zippers, hook-and-loop fasteners, toggles, a belt, or a combination of these. Other possible ornaments include collars and shoulder straps.


History of the word 'coat'

The Persians, based in what is now Iran, introduced two garments to the history of clothing: trousers and seamed fitted coats.[2]

Coat is one of the earliest clothing category words in English, attested as far back as the early Middle Ages. (See also Clothing terminology.)

An early use of coat in English is coat of mail (chainmail), a tunic-like garment of metal rings, usually knee- or mid-calf length. These were very strong and could withstand snake bites.

The medieval and renaissance coat (generally spelled cote by costume historians) is a midlength, sleeved men's outer garment, fitted to the waist and buttoned up the front, with a full skirt: in its essentials, not unlike the modern coat.

By the eighteenth century, overcoats had begun to supplant capes and cloaks as outer wear, and by the mid-twentieth century the terms jacket and coat became confused for recent styles; the difference in use is still maintained for older garments.

Coats, Jackets and Overcoats

In the early nineteenth century, coats were divided into under-coats and overcoats. The term under-coat is now archaic but denoted the fact that the expression coat could be both the outermost layer for outdoor wear (overcoat) or the coat worn under that (under-coat). However, the term coat is increasingly beginning to denote just the overcoat rather than the under-coat.[1] The older usage of the word coat can still be found in the expression "to wear a coat and tie", which does not mean that wearer has on an overcoat. Nor do the terms tailcoat or morning coat denote types of overcoat. Indeed, an overcoat may be worn over the top of a tailcoat. In tailoring circles, the tailor who makes all types of coats is called a coat maker. Similarly, in both British and American English, the term sports coat is used to denote a type of jacket not worn as outerwear (overcoat).

The term jacket is a traditional term usually used to refer to a specific type of short under-coat.[3] Typical modern jackets extend only to the upper thigh in length, whereas older coats such as tailcoats are usually of knee length. The modern jacket worn with a suit is traditionally called a lounge coat (or a lounge jacket) in British English and a sack coat in American English. The American English term is rarely used today. Traditionally, all men dressed in a coat and tie, although this has become gradually less widespread since around the 1960s. Because the basic pattern for the stroller (black jacket worn with striped trousers in British English) and dinner jacket (tuxedo in American English) are the same as lounge coats, tailors traditionally call both of these special types of jackets a coat.

An overcoat is a long coat (at least mid-calf) designed to be worn as the outermost garment worn as outdoor wear;[4] while this use is still maintained in some places, particularly in Britain, elsewhere the term coat is commonly used mainly denote only the overcoat, and not the under-coat. A topcoat is a slightly shorter overcoat, if any distinction is to be made. Overcoats worn over the top of knee length coats (under-coats) such as frock coats, dress coats, and morning coats are cut to be a little longer than the under-coat so as to completely cover it, as well as being large enough to accommodate the coat underneath.

Types of coats

Coats of the 18th and 19th centuries

Some of these styles are still worn. Note that for this period, only coats of the under-coat variety are listed, and overcoats are excluded.

Men's coats

Frock Coat April 1904.jpg
Frock coat, a kneelength men's coat of the nineteenth century
Morning dress 1901.jpg
Morning coat or cutaway, a dress coat still worn as formal wear
Mens evening wear costumes parisiens 1912.jpg
Tailcoat (dress coat in tailor's parlance), a late eighteenth century men's coat preserved in today's white tie and tails
Jk35 1.gif
Lounge coat or sack coat, a coat which is also a jacket
Duke and Hitoshi Narita 2002.jpg
Dinner jacket, a men's semi-formal evening lounge coat.
Smoking jacket, a men's jacket worn informally with black tie
Justacorps, a knee-length coat fitted to the waist with flared skirts

Women's coats

  • Basque, a tightly fitted, kneelength women's coat of the 1870s
  • Spencer, a waistlength, frequently doublebreasted, men's jacket of the 1790s, adopted as a women's fashion from the early nineteenth century

Modern coats

The terms coat and jacket are used variously around the world, and we treat modern clothes as jackets.

See also


  • Antongiavanni, Nicholas: The Suit, HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 2006. ISBN 0-06-089186-6
  • Byrd, Penelope: The Male Image, Men's Fashion in England 1300-1970. B.T. Batsford Ltd, London, 1979. ISBN 0 7134 0860
  • Croonborg, Frederick: The Blue Book of Men's Tailoring. Croonborg Sartorial Co. New York and Chicago, 1907
  • Cunnington, C. Willett; Cunnington, Phyllis: Handbook of English Costume in the 19th Century, Plays Inc, Boston, 1970 reprint
  • Cunnington, Phyllis; Mansfield, Alan: Handbook of English Costume in the 20th Century 1900-1950, Plays Inc, Boston, 1973 reprint
  • Devere, Louis: The Handbook of Practical Cutting on the Centre Point System (London, 1866) revised and edited by RL Shep. RL Shep, Medocino, California, 1986. ISBN 0-914046-03-9
  • Doyle, Robert: The Art of the Tailor, Sartorial Press Publications, Stratford, Ontario; 2005. ISBN 0-9683039-2-7
  • Stephenson, Angus (editor): The Shorter Oxford Dictionary. Oxford University Press, New York, 2007
  • Unknown author: The Standard Work on Cutting Men’s Garments. 4th ed. Originally pub. 1886 by Jno J Mitchell, New York. ISBN 0-916896-33-1
  • Vincent, WDF: The Cutter’s Practical Guide. Vol II "All kinds of body coats". The John Williamson Company, London, circa 1893.
  • Waugh, Norah: The Cut of Men's Clothes 1600-1900, Routledge, 1964. ISBN 0-87830-025-2
  • Whife, A.A (ed): The Modern Tailor Outfitter and Clothier. The Caxton Publishing Company Ltd, London, 1951


  1. ^ a b Oxford English Dictionary. (1989) 2nd Ed. coat, n. 1 "An outer garment worn by men..."
  2. ^ "Encarta". Archived from the original on 2009-10-31. 
  3. ^ Oxford English Dictionary. (1989) 2nd Ed. jacket, n. "...a short coat without tails..."
  4. ^ Oxford English Dictionary. (1989) 2nd Ed. overcoat, n. "A large coat worn over the ordinary clothing..."

General: Picken, Mary Brooks: The Fashion Dictionary, Funk and Wagnalls, 1957. (1973 edition ISBN 0-308-10052-22)

External references

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