A coat is a garment
worn on the upper body by either gender for warmth or fashion
. Coats typically have long sleeve
s and are open down the front, closing by means of button
s, hook-and-loop fasteners
, toggles, a belt
, or a combination of some of these. Other possible features include collar
s, shoulder strap
s and hood
''Coat'' is one of the earliest clothing category words in English
, attested as far back as the early Middle Ages
. (''See also'' Clothing terminology
.) The Oxford English Dictionary
traces ''coat'' in its modern meaning to c. 1300, when it was written ''cote.'' The word coat stems from Old French and then Latin ''cottus.'' It originates from the Proto-Indo-European
word for woolen clothes.
An early use of ''coat'' in English is coat of mail
(chainmail), a tunic-like garment of metal rings, usually knee- or mid-calf length.
The medieval and renaissance coat (generally spelled ''cote'' by costume historians) is a mid-length, sleeve
d men's outer garment, fitted to the waist and buttoned up the front, with a full skirt in its essentials, not unlike the modern coat.
By the eighteenth century, overcoats had begun to supplant cape
s and cloak
s as outerwear, and by the mid-twentieth century the terms ''jacket'' and ''coat'' became confused for recent styles; the difference in use is still maintained for older garments.
Coats, jackets and overcoats
In the early 19th century, coats were divided into under-coats and overcoats. The term "under-coat" is now archaic but denoted the fact that the word ''coat'' could be both the outermost layer for outdoor wear (overcoat
) or the coat worn under that (under-coat). However, the term ''coat'' has begun to denote just the overcoat rather than the under-coat. The older usage of the word ''coat'' can still be found in the expression "to wear a coat and tie", which does not mean that wearer has on an overcoat. Nor do the terms ''tailcoat
'', ''morning coat
'' or house coat denote types of overcoat
. Indeed, an overcoat may be worn over the top of a tailcoat
. In tailoring circles, the tailor
who makes all types of coats is called a ''coat maker''. Similarly, in American English, the term ''sports coat
'' is used to denote a type of jacket
not worn as outerwear (overcoat) (''sports jacket'' in British English).
The term ''jacket'' is a traditional term usually used to refer to a specific type of short under-coat.
[Oxford English Dictionary. (1989) 2nd ed. jacket, ''n.'' "...a short coat without tails..."]
Typical modern jackets extend only to the upper thigh in length, whereas older coats such as tailcoat
s are usually of knee length. The modern jacket worn with a suit is traditionally called a ''lounge coat
'' (or a ''lounge jacket'') in British English and a ''sack coat'' in American English. The American English term is rarely used. Traditionally, the majority of men dressed in a ''coat and tie'', although this has become gradually less widespread since the 1960s. Because the basic pattern for the stroller
(black jacket worn with striped trousers in British English
) and dinner jacket
in American English
) are the same as lounge coats, tailors traditionally call both of these special types of jackets a ''coat''.
An overcoat is designed to be worn as the outermost garment worn as outdoor wear;
[Oxford English Dictionary. (1989) 2nd ed. overcoat, ''n.'' "A large coat worn over the ordinary clothing..."]
while this use is still maintained in some places, particularly in Britain, elsewhere the term ''coat'' is commonly used mainly to denote only the overcoat, and not the under-coat. A ''topcoat'' is a slightly shorter overcoat, if any distinction is to be made. Overcoats worn over the top of knee length coats (under-coats) such as frock coat
s, dress coats
, and morning coats
are cut to be a little longer than the under-coat so as to completely cover it, as well as being large enough to accommodate the coat underneath.
The length of an overcoat varies: mid-calf being the most frequently found and the default when current fashion isn't concerned with hemlines. Designs vary from knee-length to the ankle length briefly fashionable in the early 1970s and known (to contrast with the usurped mini
) as the "maxi".
[Christopher Booker (1980) The Seventies]
Speakers of American English
sometimes informally use the words ''jacket'' and ''coat'' interchangeably.
[''Oxford English Dictionary'', Oxford University Press, 1971]
18th and 19th centuries
Some of these styles are still worn. Note that for this period, only coats of the under-coat variety are listed, and overcoat
s are excluded.
File:Voet-duque de medinacelli-prado.jpg|Justacorps, a seventeenth and eighteenth century knee-length coat, fitted to the waist with flared skirts
File:Frock Coat April 1904.jpg|Frock coat, a kneelength men's coat of the nineteenth century
File:Morning dress 1901.jpg|Morning coat or cutaway, a dress coat still worn as formal wear
File:Mens evening wear costumes parisiens 1912.jpg | Tailcoat (dress coat in tailor's parlance), a late eighteenth century men's coat preserved in today's white tie and tails
File:BlackWatch Jacket (Borodino Battlefield Museum).jpg|Coatee, an early 19th-century military coat, still worn with Highland dress.
File:Duke and Hitoshi Narita 2002.jpg|Dinner jacket, a men's semi-formal evening lounge coat.
File:NewYearsEve01.jpg|Smoking jacket, a men's jacket worn informally with black tie
File:John F Kennedy Official Portrait.jpg|Lounge coat or sack coat, a coat which is also a jacket
File:Duster coat used by one of the Younger Brothers.jpg|Duster coat or simply "duster" worn when riding horseback
, a tightly fitted, kneelength women's coat of the 1870s
, a waistlength, frequently doublebreasted, men's jacket of the 1790s, adopted as a women's fashion from the early nineteenth century
a type of coat; the name is derived the English "riding coat",
The terms ''coat'' and ''jacket'' are both used around the world. The modern terms "jacket
" and "coat" are often used interchangeably as terms, although the term "coat" tends to be used to refer to longer garments. Modern coats include the:
* British Warm
* Chesterfield coat
* Covert coat
* Duffel coat
* Pea coat
* Trench coat
*Antongiavanni, Nicholas: ''The Suit'', HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 2006.
*Byrd, Penelope: ''The Male Image: men's fashion in England 1300-1970''. B. T. Batsford Ltd, London, 1979.
*Croonborg, Frederick: ''The Blue Book of Men's Tailoring''. Croonborg Sartorial Co., New York and Chicago, 1907
*Cunnington, C. Willett
; Cunnington, Phillis
(1959): ''Handbook of English Costume in the 19th Century'', Plays Inc, Boston, 1970 reprint
*Devere, Louis: ''The Handbook of Practical Cutting on the Centre Point System (London, 1866)''; revised and edited by R. L. Shep
. R. L. Shep, Mendocino, California, 1986.
*Doyle, Robert: ''The Art of the Tailor'', Sartorial Press Publications, Stratford, Ontario, 2005.
*Mansfield, Alan; Cunnington, Phillis: ''Handbook of English Costume in the 20th Century 1900-1950'', Plays Inc, Boston, 1973
*Stephenson, Angus (editor): ''The Shorter Oxford Dictionary''. Oxford University Press, New York, 2007
*Unknown author: ''The Standard Work on Cutting Men’s Garments''. 4th ed. Originally pub. 1886 by Jno J. Mitchell, New York.
*Vincent, W. D. F.: ''The Cutter’s Practical Guide. Vol II "All kinds of body coats"''. The John Williamson Company, London, circa 1893.
*Waugh, Norah: ''The Cut of Men's Clothes 1600-1900'', Routledge, London, 1964.
*Whife, A. A (ed): ''The Modern Tailor Outfitter and Clothier''; 4th revised ed. 3 vols. The Caxton Publishing Company Ltd, London, 1951
General: Picken, Mary Brooks
: ''The Fashion Dictionary'', Funk and Wagnalls, 1957. (1973 edition )
Category:History of clothing (Western fashion)
Category:Medieval European costume