Cool weather is finally upon us, and that can only mean one thing: Coats. Every woman has a few standby items of outerwear to see her through fall and winter—her go-to macs and pea coats and padded parkas for when the wind is up and the snow is coming down. But the statement coat, that's something else. As dramatic as a ball gown, in its way, the statement coat declares that the beauty and romance of fashion need not be forgotten when it's cold. Over the course of his career, Mr. Valentino created some of the all-time statement coats—classic pieces that have never really gone out of style.
For proof of the timelessness of Mr. Valentino's statement coats, look no further than his white wool belted number bedecked with cock plumes, from his Haute Couture collection of Fall/Winter 1968/69. It was featured in the Valentino ad campaign the season it was created, and it looked just as good in the year 2000, when Ellen von Unwerth photographed it on Claudia Schiffer for the Valentino Red Book. Another coat, of similar vintage, has likewise stood the test of time: Chris Von Wangenheim shot one of the most eye-popping and iconic Valentino campaigns for the Haute Couture Fall/Winter 1971/72 collection, dressing two models in identical black velvet side-button coats with ermine collars - a look just as high-impact today as the day it was made.
Mr. Valentino's coats also feature some of the most gorgeous handwork ever produced by the maison. For Haute Couture Fall/Winter 1990/91, for instance, he created a cognac-colored matelassé wheel coat comprised of geometric inserts adding up to a 360-degree pattern. That's the kind of craftsmanship that sets couture apart from everything else. And the same could be said of Mr. Valentino's bell-sleeve evening coat from Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2006/07, one of his last collections. Every detail is stunning, from the pleated taffeta edging on the sleeves to the hand-stitched, ethnic-inspired embroidery that covers the coat almost in its entirety. These are occasion pieces, and they just don't date. There's only one thing that would keep a woman from wearing them: Summer heat.