Now that it’s spring, I am looking for the perfect lightweight urban raincoat — not one for hiking in the woods and not a classic trench, which can feel a little stuffy. Is there something between that and one that is overly trendy and won’t last? — Ilene, Denver
“April showers bring the need for a raincoat” is not as felicitous an adage as the one having to do with May flowers, but it’s equally true. Especially because during this weird in-between time when winter coats are too heavy but spring jackets too light, the raincoat is the perfect piece of outerwear, whether or not there’s actually moisture in the air.
That’s why the trench has become such a popular resource: It’s elegant enough to wear without a downpour and protective without being sweaty. Which is also why it has become so multifaceted: gender-fluid and replete with reference, especially cinematic, be it law enforcement (“The Pink Panther”), romance (“Casablanca”) or simple chic (“Breakfast at Tiffany’s”).
Which is, in turn, why it can feel like a wearable cliché.
There are, however, other options. For pure functionality, our sister experts at Wirecutter have a list of raincoat recommendations, but if you want to balance protection with a bit of flair — or if you don’t want to look as though you are about to set off for a hike in the Pacific Northwest — you have to consider a few more factors.
Like how much coverage you want (below the knee vs. the upper thigh); the importance of waterproof vs. water-resistant (the first can withstand torrential rains, the second more everyday sprinkles); and the issue of a hood (i.e., are you willing to carry an umbrella?). And remember: A raincoat should be a long-term investment, which means it is worth spending a bit more money on fabric and fit that will last.
I have a Barbour waxed coat, which I like because it is structured without being bulky and it has the counterintuitive appeal of a country jacket relocated to an urban setting. And I’ve been wearing it since … the turn of the millennium.
To me, that’s worth it. Where else to look? A good rule of thumb is cherchez the experts — brands born in countries with, shall we say, a climatic expertise when it comes to damp.
For example, Stutterheim, the Swedish label, offers a great daffodil-yellow quasi-slicker that may remind you of childhood but is cut with the sort of swing back that gives it a grown-up elegance. Boden, the British brand, has a color-blocked tailored style that is likewise fun — and also comes in a small floral print. Rains, a Danish brand with a name that kind of says it all, has a belted waterproof jacket with a nice minimal cool, as well as one in a juicy tangerine.
And if, after some scouting, a trench still seems the best way to go, Lands’ End offers the style in a relatively affordable rainbow of spring shades. Parade away.
Your Style Questions, Answered
Every week on Open Thread, Vanessa will answer a reader’s fashion-related question, which you can send to her anytime via email or Twitter. Questions are edited and condensed.