The classic beige trench coat has both a traditional and contemporary appeal. It’s a masculine garment, developed for troops, which is easily altered to communicate a very feminine aesthetic instead. With sharp cuts it will accentuate your shoulders and by tying its belt you will highlight your waist.
Despite all the glory of a trench coat, its name reveals a tragic backstory. It was in the trenches on the western front of World War I that the item, with shoulder straps and D-rings, got its claim to fame. When the big war began in 1914, the coat was widely worn by French and British troops, but it was invented – or at least developed – more than a decade before by British fashion pioneer Thomas Burberry. Burberry’s gabardine coat was water repellent, crease resistant, breathable and untearable, and when he introduced it to the British forces in 1901, it was incorporated into the officers’ uniform immediately.
After the turmoil, devastation and unfathomable tragedy of war, the troops that returned from the trenches in Belgium and France kept the practical and dapper coat, and it didn’t take long before it was transformed from a symbol of disaster to a symbol of business and success. From the 1920s and onwards, it was incorporated into the female wardrobe and became a staple for the stars of Hollywood's Golden Age.
Wear one that fits well and you will look influential, wear one that’s oversized with shoulder pads if you want to be fashion forward, wear it with jeans if you’re running errands, wear it with a cocktail dress if you’re going out, or just wear it any time, any season, anywhere, because the trench coat is as timeless as it gets. Get a good one and you’ll thank yourself for years to come. Few – if any – overcoats are as versatile as the trench coat, and will serve its purpose on so many different occasions.
After having been around for at least 116 years, the trench coat has definitely proven its well-deserved place in fashion history. Wear yours when you want to channel your inner Audrey Hepburn or Kate Moss, when you’re slaying at a business meeting or when you’re walking the red carpet at the Oscars.