When it comes to finding a genuine women's down jacket or coat, you might be best off finding something second-hand, as many modern down products are not as well-made, but are certainly not inexpensive. For those with environmental and animal cruelty concerns, there are any number of synthetic down products that keep you just as warm without doing any harm.
Women's Down Jacket or Coat Advantages
Traditionally, what's been so ideal about a women's down jacket or coat is that it is lightweight but also keeps you toasty warm. When made properly, without treatment, it maintains this weight and warmth no matter what the conditions. Some cheap down clothing is made of poorly treated chicken feathers and, when worn in wet weather, will smell like wet chickens.
Most women's down jackets or coats are made of a polyester shell with the down inside. While this used to mean a woman looked like the Michelin Man, newer designs are much thinner and more manageable. They can even be flattering, with either belts or a slim cut in a princess line.
Which to Buy?
The reasons for buying a jacket versus a coat are wholly individual and dependent upon your needs. Jackets, being smaller, are therefore cheaper, but if you live in a cold weather climate you want to invest in something that will keep you warm and comfortable. A jacket can often be more practical. It's easier to manage in a car and perfect for a recreational walk or romping in the snow. A coat can sometimes be too warm, but a jacket usually keeps you balanced. And it looks equally great over jeans or a skirt.
A coat is more ideal for an outdoor commute or any time spent outdoors in a severe wind chill. It also works better at night, both keeping you warmer and looking more elegant, even if it is a parka. Coats protect clothes more readily and provide more complete wind protection for you as well. They can feel unwieldy, but on a bitter day, it's wonderful to keep the thighs as warm as the torso.
Most women who live in very cold climates will opt for having both a jacket and a coat, so that all the different needs can be attended. They take up a fair bit of room in the closet, but are worth it for the comfort and practicality they offer during what can be a long cold season.
The More Environmental Route
The trouble with most real women's down jackets or coats is that the birds harvested for the down are often raised in conditions of extreme cruelty. The harvesting of the down is painful and the factory conditions often unsanitary. Then the down is chemically treated so that the garment can be dry-cleaned and hold up to a variety of conditions for a long time. None of this is healthful to either the wearer or the environment.
Additionally, down can be a powerful allergen. Although common in comforters and pillows, it can actually make nights more uncomfortable. While most people can wear a down coat without grief, it's still best for those with allergies to opt for something synthetic, which these days will keep you just as warm without being harmful to either animals or the environment. Stores like North Face, REI and Cool Antarctica have a good selection of smart coats and jackets, nearly all of them eco-friendly.
The other option, especially if you have your heart set on real down, is to browse second-hand shops and eBay. It's always best to keep items out of landfills and many of the coats and jackets available second-hand are in excellent condition. You can thus recycle and save a lot of money, all the better to buy a great pair of gloves and a hat to top off your winter wear!