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How to dress like a grown up with Shane Watson: A 'Sparka': Fashion's cure for the winter blues  

Here's a question. What, right now, is the one item in your wardrobe that could lift your mood from sad to smiling? What's the clothing cure for lockdown blues, that you'll wear every day until the sun comes out?

It's not what you'd think — certainly I'd never have guessed it would be this until I stumbled across it in Iris just before the shops shut up again in December.

The one thing I was definitely not looking to buy was a navy parka. (I love a parka, but now that we all have one — if not that then a puffa or a duvet coat — they make you indistinguishable from every other midlife woman, and who wants that?)

Yet that's exactly what I ended up buying. A navy parka, by Belgian label Bellerose (£285, irisfashion.co.uk or direct from the website Bellerose.be), which is now officially my favourite item of clothing, for reasons I will get to swiftly.

Shane Watson shares her advice for embracing this year's new coat trend. Pictured: Shane's Bellerose 'Sparka' from Iris Fashion

In the first place, this coat is all that's great about a parka (waterproof, warm, wipe clean), but it doesn't feel like a parka. It's oversize, with a lush, creamy, teddy bear fur lining, and a glamorous extra big hood, and it has a hint of something nautical about it; a whiff of sou'wester or one of those Dryrobe wild swimming coats. But don't let that put you off. Somehow it manages to be elegant and a bit sexy.

The brand is Belgian, but it feels like it was made for a cool Danish woman nipping around Copenhagen. What it doesn't feel like is the Sainsbury's dash on a bad hair day, which is how my old parka had started to feel: put it on and, whatever I was wearing, I instantly aged five years.

Put this Sparka on (that's sexy or smart parka — take your pick) and I feel Scandinavian chic. Add sunglasses and I feel like an off-duty film star.

Also worth noting, the chicness of it has been appreciated by everyone who has seen me in it, men and women.

Left: Helena Christensen rocks the look in New York. Right: Rosie Huntington-Whiteley looks chic

The secret of its success is partly down to what it doesn't have. It doesn't have one of those matted faux fur hood trims, which have definitely had their day. Or an orange quilted lining (too Oasis for us now). Or a drawstring waist, which may well be the detail that makes the difference between mumsy-looking and modern. It's a detoxified parka if you like.


Meanwhile, it's exceptionally warm and light and feels buttery soft. However grim the weather, you don't have to think about extra layers and you don't look overstuffed.

I now see that it's pointless trying to improve on a parka when they are so perfect for our needs. I have no interest in a duvet coat, just too sleeping-baggy. Instead, the answer is to upgrade.

So there it is: the coat that saved January. That said, not every one of you will fall in love with this particular coat. You might, for example, want something a bit more fitted, and a lot more furry, in which case The Kooples has a classic black parka with an extravagant faux fur lining marked down in the sale (£272.50, thekooples.com).

Also in the sale, with a huge 40 per cent off, is Gant's putty coloured arctic parka (£207, gant.co.uk). True, this is a classic unreconstructed parka, complete with removable faux fur hood trim, but what makes it that bit chicer is the colour. An off-white parka is very Scandi Noir. The only place you won't stand out is in the snow.

If you did want to go plainer, Everlane do a recycled, down, military parka (£146, everlane.com) in moss or midnight blue. The other place to look is Zara, which does a good oversize parka with a faux shearling lining and military detailing (£59.99 in the sale, zara.com), though it would be a stretch to call this smart, and the whole point this time is to maximise the glamour.

Maybe you really don't want a parka at all, and no one could blame you. But don't be too hasty, is all I'm saying.

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