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Ajit Berg, Published January 12 2012

Fashion in Focus: Don’t give up on style just because the weather’s turned chilly

FARGO - I’m still a rookie when it comes to North Dakota winters, but the beautiful warm weather we have been having this month has been playing tricks with my fashion head.

I find myself wondering, “Is winter over before it even started? Could spring be right around the corner? Are my open-toe, high-heel Louboutins not far from sight?”

That’s probably wishful thinking, but the good news is we can still look chic even in the brisk cold days ahead with the most important item in your wardrobe for those chilly days: your winter coat.

Winters in California were a much different experience. There was never a time when I needed to wear a heavy-duty winter coat. I could always get by with a super chic car coat, a light-weight leather jacket or even a long cozy sweater.

Here in North Dakota, however, I quickly learned the key to staying warm is being armed and ready with the right winter gear. But I didn’t want to sacrifice style.

Mastering the art of finding a coat that is not only warm but fits great is the key to looking great for winter.

Here are some tips to help you find the perfect coat.

Buy the right size

Avoid listening to that voice in your head that convinces you to go for the bigger size because you need room to layer.

Even if it is really cold, you can layer a T-shirt under your sweater and long johns or tights under your jeans or pants.

Buying a coat too big overwhelms and only adds bulk. This adds on extra weight and gives a frumpy look. It’s better to buy the size that fits true to your exact size.

Follow this test: Look in the mirror and ask yourself, “Do I look like a snow bunny or the Michelin Man?”

If the answer is the latter, get rid of that coat and find one that doesn’t drown you. This year there are many puffer coats out that are insulated to keep you warm without being too bulky.

On the other end of the spectrum don’t buy your coat too small. You don’t want to look squeezed into your coat. Make sure it is not only comfortable, but flattering.

Pick a flattering shape

There is nothing more fashionable than a classic, perfectly tailored coat. In picking a dressier coat, go for a timeless look – a double- or single-breasted with a clean line.

Make sure your sleeves and hem hit at the right length. Remember your coat should always be longer than your dress hem. If not, take it to be altered for precise fitting.

For someone who is bottom heavy, a single-breasted A-line swing coat is a great look. This will accentuate your waist and hide any heaviness on your bottom half.

For a bustier body shape, a single-breasted wrap coat with a wider lapel that buttons below the bust would be a flattering style.

It’s important for all body types to find coats that define the waist. Darts and side seaming are important, even in puffer styles. With all that fabric, you need a nipped-in waist to keep it flattering, especially with very long coats that cover most of your body.

Fashion tip: Pair any with skinny jeans and a pair of boots to make any coat look less bulky and more flattering.

Choose the right color

Classic colors will match with everything.

Black is always most posh option with everything from jeans to an evening dress. Camel is a soft and glamorous, and winter white is rich and luxurious. Tweed, chocolate, charcoal grey, and navy are timeless as well.

For a splash of color, go for a beautiful red. If you want your coat to stay in style for years, stay away from bright colors and stick with the classics or with red, which never goes out of style.

In a puffer coat I would also stick with the classic colors: white, black, brown, khaki. You can get the most mileage out of it and are able to wear it with many outfits.

Glam it up

A fur collar will make any coat look more glamorous.

Throw on a cozy big scarf in a soft, cool pastel or beautiful bright color or prints.

Choose a sexy, black fedora, bohemian floppy hat, Parisian beanie or cozy skull cap to accessorize.

For a burst of color with classic-colored coats – especially on a cold dreary day – add a bright color purse to uplift your mood.

Whatever you choose, have some fun with your coat and let your spirit shine whether it’s sunny and 50 degrees or 40 below.

Ajit Berg is a former personal shopper and stylist for Barneys New York in Beverly Hills. She now lives in Fargo with her husband and daughter.