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noun [countable]

a long knitted jacket with long sleeves which is worn over other clothes and looks similar to a coat

'Need something to take me through to wearing my winter coat and like the idea of a cosy coatigan. Anyone seen any nice ones that I can go looking at?'

message board on mumsnet.com 23rd September 2013

As the nights draw in and we notice a bit of a nip in the air, we might feel the need to throw on an extra layer of clothing, either to keep the chill off when outside or to avoid turning on the heating. But if you're not quite ready to drag out your full-blown winter wardrobe quite yet, then the concept of the coatigan might be just the ticket to bridge that gap between early autumn and the actual winter.

a coatigan resembles a cardigan … but has the substance and functionality of a coat

A trendy new garment which has begun to make its mark over the last couple of years, the coatigan is simply a cross between a coat and a cardigan. A coatigan resembles a cardigan (a knitted sweater which is open at the front and usually fastened with buttons) but has the substance and functionality of a coat.

For any readers who are fashion aficionados and therefore care about the details, it should be pointed out that a coatigan is something slightly different to a sweater coat, which is a casual, elongated sweater thrown over other clothes and looks very obviously knitted. A coatigan, by contrast, has a more 'rigid' structure, and details such as leather trims or double-breasted buttons which make it look much more like a conventional coat when viewed from a distance. Of the two, the coatigan is the rather more formal, sophisticated alternative.

The domain of fashion has always been a fertile breeding ground for new terms, as the style gurus seek catchy, appealing ways to refer to their ideas when they leave the catwalk and hit mainstream stores. Other more recent additions to the fashion lexicon include the phrase double denim, referring to the practice of wearing denim 'top and bottom' (i.e. denim jeans/skirt plus denim shirt/jacket), and bodycon (also body con), short for 'body conscious' and used as an adjective to describe a style of tight-fitting women's clothing revealing contours of the body e.g. bodycon dresses/skirts, etc.

Background – coatigan

The word coatigan is yet another example of the fashion world's penchant for coining blends in order to describe 'hybrid' items of clothing which incorporate a combination of features characteristic to particular garments. Other examples include: skort(s), a combination of skirt and shorts used to refer to a pair of women's shorts with a flap of fabric in the front which gives the appearance of a skirt; shants, a combination of shorts and pants used in American English to describe short trousers ending at the knee, and the word jorts as a natty reference to jeans shorts. Continuing the denim theme, there are also junderpants, boxer style briefs made to look like jeans, and jeggings, closely fitting stretch-fabric trousers (leggings) that look similar to jeans. And even footwear has had the blend treatment with for example flatforms, a combination of flat and platform (shoes) coined to describe shoes with thick soles which add height but keep feet flat.

Blends such as these are distinctly ephemeral, often disappearing as abruptly as they emerged when the fashion gimmick to which they relate goes off the boil. It's often difficult to predict which ones might stick – jeggings for instance, though provoking mixed reactions when they first appeared, seem to be staying the course for the time being and so their descriptor is still alive and well. But other coinages aren't quite as successful, such as for example the ill-fated drop, which was coined in the early 2000s to refer to a long length top for women (dress plus top). Though the concept it represents still remains very popular and fashionable, the blend has never taken off.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

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This article was first published on 5th November 2013.

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