Tips and ideas from The Vintage Tack Room on how to find the perfect coat.
Buying a hunt coat is one of life's great pleasures*. Hunt coats are made to last and the coat you buy today should be flying over timber and hedges in 20 or 30 or years' time (ideally with you still inside it).
But FINDING the perfect hunt coat can be daunting.
In the lead up to the hunting season (and this week is the Countryside Alliance 'Newcomers Week' 21st-28th October 2017) we've put together a few thoughts on how to narrow your search.
Our thoughts generally apply to men and women equally.
At The Vintage Tack Room we tend to think about hunt coats in three categories - vintage, new and secondhand.
Vintage coats from the Master equestrian tailors, like Huntsman, Giddens, Weatherill and Frank Hall, have no equals anywhere in the world for quality and style. They also offer incredible value for money.
But often our starting point when speaking to customers about a coat search is to ask how tall they are.
It may seem a strange starting point but if you're a 6ft 3" gentleman rider or a 6ft lady rider you will start to struggle finding a vintage coat long enough to fit. A new or secondhand modern coat will be more appropriate.
Vintage coats will be easier to find for a gent if he is around 6ft or shorter with a 38-42" chest, or a lady who is 5ft 7" or shorter with a 34-38" bust. That's not to say taller riders can't find a beautiful vintage coat to fit, but it may take longer.
There is no 'technical' definition of vintage, but at the The Vintage Tack Room we use the term to denote genuine quality. This means quality of cut, fabric and detail, all of which will stem from the tailoring house or maker. The label 'vintage' will often also encompass provenance including who the coat was made for and the story behind it.
Vintage coats will stand the test of time not just in their structural quality, but also their style. A beautiful vintage coat is unlikely to ever look 'out of style'. And value? A bespoke coat today would cost upwards of £3,500, but a vintage equivalent will typically be in the range of just £250-700.
So it's wonderful if you can find an older, vintage Savile Row coat to suit you, but what if you can't? Or what if you prefer new, and want modern features like waterproof lining?
Fear not. There are some excellent ready to wear hunt coats being made today.
The Vintage Tack Room has designed its own ladies' frock coat in collaboration with British womenswear designer Gabriela Rose after countless conversations with women riders who want an elegant, longer cut coat with style. Designed and made in London it features stunning printed lining, helpful modern features like zipped internal pockets and a showerproof skirt, and is made from Yorkshire's finest cavalry twill.
And as well as our own hunt coats, there are some big name brands making excellent off the peg coats.
At this point we often ask buyers about their body shape as this can help steer you toward a specific brand or cut.
The Caldene Wessex is a modern frock-coat with a seamed waist, and slightly longer tails. We find it often suits very slender-waisted young women. It can also work well for women who have a bust but a more slender waist.
The Caldene Roxburgh - sister to the Wessex - is incredibly easy to wear. It is a hacking style fit - that is, without the waist seam - and in our experience suits most body shapes. It's also our top pick for curvy women. Tall lady riders also have the choice of the Mears 'Ledbury' - another modern, heavyweight frock coat - which comes in regular, long and extra-long fittings.
For men we particularly like the Mears 'Grafton' coat in cavalry twill which comes in regular, long or extra-long cuts.
And what about budget? The beauty of vintage coats includes their value for money. Typically, new and quality vintage coats will be in the same price range of around £300-£500. Over the coming years we'd expect to see a widening of the prices between them as the value of quality bespoke British vintage coats rises over time.
A great quality secondhand hunt coat is typically in the range of £70-£250.
Here are some other questions we might ask if you came to us for help with a search:
- How often will you be hunting? Coats made from Melton wool are less expensive but not as tough as those of cavalry twill.
- Heavyweight or mid-weight? Does having a wool-lined coat matter? Do you prefer a medium-weight coat if you tend to overheat? Or do you need a real heavyweight beast to keep you warm? A waistcoat is a wonderful way of adding warmth without bulk and finishes a look beautifully.
- Black or navy? Traditionally unmarried young women wore navy, and married ladies wore black. But for women of most hunts today a black or navy coat is acceptable and it comes down to personal preference. Check with your hunt Secretary or your hunt's website.
- Can you return the coat if it doesn't fit? The Vintage Tack Room offers a 14-day return period in case your purchase doesn't fit. No matter who you buy from, do make sure you're buying from a genuine business. A simple test such as calling its phone number can help. Ask people who ride for recommendations - businesses like ours are based on reputation.
We hope this little guide is helpful and if you'd like help finding a coat, or talking through the options, don't hesitate to call us on 01403 700 953 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can visit by appointment in West Sussex, near Petworth.
* it's even better if you can convince someone else to buy it for you.