How It Should Fit: The Overcoat

December 11th, 2014

As part of our new Menswear 101 category we’re kicking off a new series called “How It Should Fit”, in which we break down the proper tailoring of menswear garments, one piece at a time.

For the first article in this series we’re taking a look at the classic overcoat.


    Generally speaking, a topcoat is lighter and trimmer than an overcoat, although today the terms are often used interchangeably. Like suits, overcoats can be single or double-breasted (the latter is warmer due to the two layers of fabric over the front of the body) and come in a variety of fabrics and colors. This one is pure cashmere with a velvet collar, which is sometimes referred to as a Chesterfield (named for the nineteenth-century Earl of Chesterfield).


    The Shoulders

    The shoulders are the trickiest part of fitting an overcoat, since most guys will wear it with and without a jacket and/or heavy sweater underneath. Look for a coat that is a touch snug with a heavyweight suit under it, like this double-breasted flannel. The shoulders should be gently hugging the body, with no hang-time over the line of the arm. This way, if you throw your overcoat over just a thin layer, it won’t look boxy or ill-fit.

    The Length

    The length is crucial. Generally speaking, I recommend an overcoat hitting a couple inches above the knee, like we see here on Will. This offers the most versatility, since it can feel more casual when worn with jeans or odd trousers. For shorter guys, however, I would consider letting it drop below the knee a couple inches.  The last thing you want is a classic overcoat to look stunted or boxy. It’s not a peacoat. It’s important that the coat has enough length to balance out the girth in the shoulders, especially since it’s often worn over another tailored jacket (two sets of shoulder padding). Balancing the body’s natural proportions is the key to good tailoring.


    The Collar

    When selecting an overcoat, you can apply similar principles to fitting a suit. The most important element of an overcoat’s fit, similar to that of a suit, is the collar, since this is where the garment hangs from. The collar should wrap around the neck closely and smoothly, without any gapping. You shouldn’t be able to see the suit collar from the back, nor any of the suit lapels from the front. You’re looking for full coverage of the suit jacket.

    The Sleeves

    Unlike a suit jacket, an overcoat is made for full coverage. Therefore, the sleeves should cover the wrist and graze the hands. You shouldn’t be able to see any shirt cloth or jacket sleeve at all (this coat is actually a half inch short in the sleeves for Will, as you can see the french cuffs peeking). The sleeves should also be as trim as possible without feeling restrictive over a jacket. A trim sleeve is an important element of a flattering fit.


    Thanks, as always, for reading. If you have any questions about our online custom menswear, feel free to contact us anytime. We look forward to serving as your personal tailor and stylist. 

    Yours in style,

    Dan Trepanier

    Shop Bespoke Outerwear Made in America


    Take me to the Shop

    • Cowboy Hank

      looks much to short imo

    • GSinn

      I’m a casual fan of the site, I almost never comment, but I gotta call you guys out here because the “go for the trim fit look” is very bad advice with topcoats or overcoats. While you don’t want to be swimming in it, you need significant room especially in the sleeves so as not to bunch up and wrinkle your suit sleeves and shoulders. I know slim fit is really the backbone of the tsb aesthetic, but that’s just amateur recommending that to dudes.

    • Tom

      This approach to blogging is like the JC Penney of menswear blogging.

      It’s also just weird that the author is dressing up a model in his own wardrobe much of the time.

    • Juan Zara

      Love the idea for the new series, but most of all, I’m always mesmerized by your color (and pattern) combination abilities, Dan!
      I never would’ve dreamed of wearing two different shades of navy, let alone combining them with purple and grey-blue, all the while mixing stripes of different widths and dots. I must say, I’m amazed by how well it works.

      Having said that, though, I must agree with what some of the other fellas have already expressed in the comments. And that is, to put it bluntly, but meaning no disrespect whatsoever, that it is quite obvious the clothing pieces featured in this article were not made to Will’s measurements.

      The suit jacket is a bit loose through the chest and waist, not to mention a bit short (last picture); the overcoat’s sleeves, as you said, are a tad short as well; and, most important of all (since this very article emphasizes how essential this is), the overcoat shows some subtle but definitely noticeable collar gap in pictures 2 and 3.

    • Harrison Krupnick

      Such a fantastic overcoat! I also wholeheartedly agree with Daniel about missing Towni and Wes and even Alex’s seldom appearances!

    • James Wong

      I’m confused – whats the difference between an overcoat and a pea coat? I originally thought that a pea coat was a type of overcoat.

      • TO

        A peacoat is (from a historical perspective) a military-issued naval coat that was never intended to be worn with a suit but as a part of a national uniform (so as not described to fit ‘over’ a suit). An overcoat is designed to be worn over a suit- hence ‘over’coat.

        Things get more specific/detailed from here- I didn’t even really consider a topcoat v. overcoat as the article above presented.

        • James Wong

          Thanks TO

    • tommyjohn_45

      Very helpful.. Looking into an overcoat now so this couldn’t have been time more perfectly. Thanks as always fellas.

    • tml

      For a single breasted top coat, is it okay that the buttons when fastened have some pull on them, sort of like when buttoning a suit jacket? Or should the coat when buttoned be pull-free? And is it proper to leave the very bottom button unfastened?

      • TO

        Leave the bottom buttoned unfastened for sure- topcoats, overcoats, peacoats included. You ideally want no pull when buttoned though, but its understandable if you are wearing more layers than usual and the buttons pull a tiny bit! Same applies for a suit, no pull is ‘ideal’.

        • tml

          I have to have a slight pull on my suit jacket. Not much but just enough to show an ever so slight “X”. Otherwise to me it comes across as being too big of a jacket.

          • Bill

            I dont own an overcoat, but i button the bottom button of my peacoat if its cold enough. NY winds in winter are no joke.

        • tml

          Yeah I’m on the fence about whether to fasten the bottom button. I’ve gone fastened and unfastened depending on my mood but every time I go he unfastened route it just feels wrong for some reason. Those on styleforum say button the bottom one because unlike a suit jacket the buttons on a topcoat is functional so definitely fasten the last one.

          • Kevin

            Leaving the bottom button undone is really only for suit coats/blazers. Overcoats and Peacoats can absolutely be buttoned all the way.

    • Justin

      Great post! Can you cover the pea coat and how that should fit?

    • Daniel

      Sorry to say, but I miss the old TSB with Wes and Townie. They brought their own styles into the mix, while Will Howe appears to just be a mannequin.

      • Dave

        I want to second this opinion, not as a knock on Will, but because I feel like highlighting proper fit on a person with a model’s proportions is less helpful than showing how it would fit on an average dude.

        • ChrisD

          Yea, the fit points (while I agree with them) are asking for millimeters of tolerance in something like the shoulders.. so basically get a topcoat custom made by an expert topcoat-maker.

      • Ali Naaseh

        Townie and Wes had personalities, too. We knew Wes played basketball, had a dope brother, and used to collect sneakers. Townie went fishing and liked the country, stuff like that. We knew how those traits affected their style choices, but we know nothing about will.

        • Guest

          I agree. I visit this site because I like the personalities as well as the style. Wes, Alex and Townie felt like friends even though we’ve never met.

      • Mark

        Will is great too. Sometimes a model just needs to be a model. Wes and Townie excelled at showing off their own style and flair, but some of these posts are showcasing looks and tailoring that can work on every man…not just “Hey look at the slick duds Townie put together today…try and be him!”

      • Jeanscuffed

        I only liked this comment because I miss the crew as well, but in the newbie’s defense the sight has just been rebranded so I figure we will have time to discover WHO the new guys are. When I 1st discovered this site I had no idea who Dan, Alex, Townie, or Wes was until I kept reading article after article to discover their style and personality. Just give them a chance guys. I’m sure there will be a post solely dedicated to fully introducing and re-introducing the team.

        • Gavin

          I miss the “Who Wore It Best” and the WIWTWT posts. Bring those back!

    • Jeanscuffed

      “You shouldn’t be able to see any shirt cloth or jacket sleeve at all (this coat is actually a half inch short in the sleeves for Will, as you can see the french cuffs peeking).” Yo Dan, is this statement purely going off of functionality here? I ask because I wonder if an extra half inch is going to provide that much more warmth. At this point, I’m pretty sure the extra half inch is personal preference. Everything else you mentioned as far as fit goes is spot on. Thanks for this post!

      • Jim

        ^agreed. like the look of shorter sleeves, showing the layers

      • tml

        I agree with Dan. Topcoats don’t look right with cuffs showing in my opinion. Having said that, it can be tricky to get the sleeve length correct. Show cuff and it looks off. But if it goes a tad too far past the wrist bone it will look like an oversized coat.

      • Juan Zara

        I think it’s more about functionality than anything else.

        By having your overcoat’s sleeves shorter than those of your suit jacket (which, remember, are already shorter than those of your shirt,) not only you are letting more cold air into your sleeve, but should you also wear the overcoat with just a sweater underneath, you’d probably be showing a full inch of sweater cuff.
        Not ideal. To me, at least.

        Additionally, I tend to think having short overcoat sleeves looks bad because when I wear gloves throughout the winter (which is when I mostly wear my overcoats anyway,) I like the wrist portion of the gloves, which tends to get messy (as in, under my shirt cuff, etc etc,) to be covered.