In a lot of ways, it was the Meghan Markle coat. Pregnant with Archie and well into her second trimester, Meghan stepped out for her first official royal engagement of 2019 dressed in head-to-toe red via a Sentaler wrap coat so elegant and eye-catching, it was tough to notice anything else. (Sorry, Harry.) Of course, we’d seen that signature ribbed sleeve before: Kate Middleton also donned a Sentaler style—a cropped version in grey—on a tour of Canada in 2016. Meghan even chose it for her first Christmas with the royal fam in 2018.
So, what is it about the Toronto-based brand that makes it a royal favorite? Well, it’s sustainable for one thing. And every coat is made from luxe and ethically sourced Alpaca wool, which is responsible for its warmth, but also that bright and vibrant sheen. Still, the devil’s in the details, which is why we dialed the brand’s designer Bojana Sentaler for a virtual styling session and the chance to pick her brain about how to wear any winter coat like a royal.
1. ADJUST THE LOCATION OF THE BELT LOOPS IF YOU’RE PETITE
Sure, Meghan Markle is 5’6”, but one of the biggest myths about coat-wearing is that you have to be tall to pull off a full-length style, Sentaler explains. “Longer coats are very popular now. You just need to know how to wear it,” she says. The best-kept secret for making it work? It’s all about the belt loops. “If you’re short, you want to elongate your legs. One of the best ways to do that is to have the belt hit your natural waistline, which is the narrowest part of your middle. If a belt falls too low, it will shrink your body, but if you alter it to sit at your natural waist, the coat will look like it was made just for you.” (Before you take your coat to the tailor, you can test this theory—and the fit—simply be removing the belt from the belt loops and tying it at your natural waist.)
2. CHECK THE SHOULDER FIT BEFORE ANYTHING ELSE
Per Sentaler, coats—from the body to the aforementioned belt loops—can be easily altered except for one critical part: the shoulders. “It’s really important to have the shoulder sit so that your sleeve falls straight down,” she says. “It shouldn’t crinkle or dip or pull and it shouldn’t stick out too much.” Bottom line: The shoulders are what tells you if the coat fits or not.
3. NEVER SHY AWAY FROM ALTERING THE SLEEVES
Clearly, tailoring happens, but especially with ready-to-wear styles, it’s the difference between a perfect, ahem, royal fit and a coat that looks too big. For the sleeve, the general rule of thumb is, when your arm is down, the hem should reach the indent or nook right between your thumb and forefinger. “Typically, shirt or suit sleeves fall a touch shorter than that,” explains Sentaler. “This goal of this length is to ensure that the sleeve of your clothes is always covered by your coat.” But bonus: A sleeve with that extra bit of coverage also adds to a coat’s warmth come wintertime. And, it makes it so it hits right at your wrist when your arms are up, say, when you’re driving.
4. WRAP COATS ARE CLASSIC FOR A REASON
It’s Sentaler’s signature style—a wrap. But a winter coat is an investment (this we know) and one that has to check two boxes: It has to be comfortable and it has to be warm. “Wrap coats are one of the best investments, especially for women since our weight fluctuates,” Sentaler explains. “If you’re wearing a dress, wrap it tighter. A thick sweater? Just unwrap it a little before you tie the belt. Also, if you get pregnant, it’s easy to adjust and expand as your baby bump grows. It’s a style that can follow you through the different stages of life.”
5. A WELL-STYLED COAT ALL COMES DOWN TO THE BELT
Mastering Bojana’s signature and meant-to-look effortless bow tie may take a couple of tries, but it’s a flourish that’s worth it—and the difference between a winter coat that looks polished and chic vs. one that’s not. Her instructions: Adjust the belt so that one side is longer than the other. Next, loop the longer end over and under into a single tie knot, but don’t pull it all the way through. (The end result should look like the above with both ends even at the bottom.) “It looks neat and put together, but also nonchalant, like you spent zero time,” says Sentaler. Another trick for when you’re in a rush? Simply leave it looped through the back of the coat, but tuck each end into your pockets. “This is perfect for when you’re in an indoor space, but don’t want to take your jacket off. It’s easy and protects the coat at the same time.”