The Hunt: The Perfect Winter Coat

AH, FALL: GAZING AT THE burnished leaves; breathing in the crisp, cool air; burrowing under the blankets in mortal dread of the looming winter months. This is hardly the time to indulge in early hibernation, though, not with the fashion opportunists among us already calling dibs on the season’s best outerwear. Whether your taste runs toward budget-friendly coziness, everyday chic, or hot new trends, our scouting report will ensure you’re covered well before the temps take their inevitable subzero plunge.

[sidebar]THE BARGAIN BASIC Like a monogrammed Goyard tote or a two-bed in the South End, the winter coat has traditionally been considered an investment piece. It still can be, but for those seeking a cheaper warmup, there are plenty of stylish options this season for less than $200. For classic lines, consider the L. L. Bean quilted riding coat ($139), which channels Betty Draper elegance in five rich colors. On the puffier side, nothing beats Yeti weather like a down-filled coat—and no store beats Nordstrom’s selection of well-cut styles, our favorite of which is Guess’s ruched-bodice parka ($88). Another resource for on-trend outerwear at off-market prices is the Hub’s robust lineup of vintage stores, including Brookline’s Café Society and Jamaica Plain’s Dame. Poor Little Rich Girl in Somerville, for example, carries girly ’60s swing coats and menswear-inspired belted trenches ($46–$98).

THE SPORTY TAKE Getting serious about fending off the elements no longer requires looking like a pillow wearing a hood, not when today’s casual cold-weather coats use feminine details (defined waist, elegant quilting) for a fresh, often slimming effect. A belted style like the North Face’s insulated Grace jacket ($249) guards against the chill while accentuating your curves. Another figure-flattering buy is Patagonia’s slim-fit Fiona parka ($300), which is both ultralight and ultrawarm (and counts Caroline Kennedy and Sarah Jessica Parker as fans). For a bit of indulgence, Serenella offers Versace’s silk ski jacket ($2,950), which performs the Herculean task of making down feel glamorous.

THE TRENDY LOOK If you’re the type who wants your outerwear to not merely match your outfit, but make it, you’re in luck. Dramatic silhouettes like the A-line Noblesse coat by Odd Molly ($584), a favorite at Mint Julep, marry funky with functional. If you’re looking for an office-appropriate silhouette with a dash of rock ‘n’ roll, check out Roberto Cavalli’s studded wool trench ($3,615), a lively take on the classic, at Serenella. And for the eco-conscious, there’s an array of jackets made from sustainable materials—such as the sweatshirtlike organic cotton of the Prairie Underground town coat ($340) found at Turtle—that are comfy, planet-friendly, and cool enough to make your friends turn a different shade of green.

THE WORTHY SPLURGE A well-tailored coat in a traditional cut will last for years and go with everything. And if you do the math (price divided by times worn over our long, long winters), upgrading in quality can make a lot of sense. Flattering on nearly every shape, Biella Collezioni’s three-quarter-length wool-cashmere coat ($1,600) is so popular that upscale boutique Tess & Carlos has made the style its sole outerwear offering this season. At Serenella, that wear-it-forever potential is epitomized by Narciso Rodriguez’s ladylike wrap coat ($2,650), whose deep plum hue is a creative alternative to basic black.

From top: 1960s-era double-breasted coat, $84, Poor Little Rich Girl; Fiona parka, $300, Patagonia; Roberto Cavalli studded trench, $3,615, Serenella; Biella Collezioni coat, $1,600, Tess & Carlos.

Boutique Fabulous, 1309 Cambridge St., Cambridge, 617-864-0656,; L. L. Bean, 6 Wayside Rd., Burlington, 781-505-1460,; Mint Julep, 6 Church St., Cambridge, 617-576-6468; 1302 Beacon St., Brookline, 617-232-3600;; Nordstrom, Burlington Mall, 75 Middlesex Tpke., 781-345-7800, and other locations,; the North Face, 326 Newbury St., Boston, 617-536-8060,; Patagonia, 346 Newbury St., Boston, 617-424-1776,; Poor Little Rich Girl, 255 Elm St., Somerville, 617-684-0157; 166 Newbury St., Boston, 617-425-4874;; Serenella, 134 Newbury St., Boston, 617-262-5568,; Tess & Carlos, 1241 Centre St., Newton Centre, 617-965-8377; 20 Brattle St., Cambridge, 617-864-8377;; Turtle, 619 Tremont St., Boston, 617-266-2610,