How to Button a Peacoat

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The peacoat has stood the test of time, and for tons of reasons -- it cuts a sleek figure, keeps you warm without adding bulk, and is immediately identifiable while still offering interesting variations on its classic foundation. More than that, though, it's immensely versatile. The unisex peacoat works with a pair of jeans and boots just as well as it layers over a suit. Likewise, it offers options when it comes to buttoning up.

By the Book

The peacoat's military origins offer insight into the "correct" way to wear it -- it comes with some ground rules that serve as foolproof guidelines if you're not feeling experimental. Navy regulations encourage peacoat wearers to keep all buttons buttoned, minus the collar button. This is not only practical for military folk; in terms of fashion, it enhances the peacoat's fitted, cinch-waisted style, especially for thin or athletic men and women. You can't go wrong following these basic rules.

Breaking the Rules

Undoing the bottom button will add a dash of devil-may-care (think Robert Redford in "Three Days of the Condor"), making it well-suited for more casual options, such as when you're wearing your peacoat with chinos and a Henley or a lightweight blouse.

While the peacoat's beginnings as a uniform make it a natural fit for dressy looks -- and in turn, a garment that looks right at home buttoned up -- some of the most effective fashion statements work because they defy the precedent. So when you want to break free of the peacoat mold, go ahead and wear it unbuttoned.

More athletically cut peacoats still offer a torso-trimming effect when worn unbuttoned. For men, the buttoned-down look works well with the whole gamut of outfits -- it plays casually with jeans, a tee and boots, goes just fine with wool trousers and a conservative scarf or timelessly tops off a suit on particularly chilly outings.

Women can parallel these looks with an unbuttoned peacoat -- casual with leggings and ankle boots, dressy with a skirt, fine blouse, stockings and heels -- or take a more carefree route. Rather than opting for a traditionally cinch-waisted peacoat, try the unbuttoned look with a boxier, straight-sided variety. In cool seasons, pair it with an infinity scarf and drawstring or hobo bag for a bohemian ensemble, or a cableknit turtleneck and dark shades for a classically jaunty vibe with a touch of rock 'n' roll.

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