By Wendy Donahue


Pity the shivering masses who thought they could stuff their jackets into storage closets come May and rely on cardigans until September.

A spate of rain and unseasonably cool weather in much of the country has made the notion of "summer coats" seem a whole lot less anachronistic.

Michelle Obama elevated their stature during her recent visit to Paris. Her white Michael Kors coat worn with a wide Givenchy belt to a D-Day commemoration was the buzz of the fashion blogosphere.

"The summer coat has become very important," said Sasha Charnin Morrison , fashion director of Us Weekly magazine.

"And Michelle Obama did manage to kick off an entirely new trend area that we probably will be focusing on for the next couple weeks: how to wear a belt, thin or thick, over a coat."

The addition of that accessory catapults the piece from an afterthought to an outfit in itself.

"The coat has become kind of a dress now," Morrison said. "You can wear something underneath that's as old as the hills and no one will care."

Where the mercury rises, so does the air conditioning.

So a dressy anorak or updated trench in a lightweight fabric can be kept in rotation all summer. Even if the coat comes with its own belt, consider subbing in a leather, braided, stretch, Lucite or metallic belt.

More volume at the bottom of the coat might call for a wider belt, suggests image consultant Danielle Lutz (, but use your own eye as your guide.

Coat colors such as Obama's white one look crisp and modern, especially with metallic belts. A bright coat can revive the most basic little black dress. Check out inexpensive resources such as Zara, H&M, Topshop (, Gap ( and Kohl's ( Many coats are marked down now.

Blazers present a shorter alternative.

"They're a really big part of what's happening right now trend-wise," says stylist Julie Watson (, a former senior director of women's merchandising at Banana Republic. "So I'm using that as my June warmth over dresses and with jeans and T's."

For a more casual look, the latest Gap Design Editions collection riffs on khakis and includes a couple of jackets designed by Alexander Wang , one of this year's CFDA/ Vogue Fashion Fund winners.

Finally, one of the most versatile alternatives is back: the fitted jean jacket. Morrison likes an undersized jean jacket paired with an airy tank dress, she says, "to play with proportion." Bonus: You probably have one in your closet already.


Your tabula rasa: A Daisy Fuentes anorak in white, marked down at last check to




stores and, lends itself to a variety of wide belts, including a stretchy Simply Vera Vera Wang wood buckle belt,


at Ko