Wednesday, 30 April 2014

The Timeless Trench – April 2014

With the cooler weather settling in and winter edging closer in the southern half of the hemisphere, it’s time to layer up but it’s somewhat of a challenge deciding exactly what to wear. It’s not cold enough for a coat but it is too cool for a blazer. So, as the weather transitions why not consider a trenchcoat? The lightweight fabric makes it the perfect layering piece and the high collars, double-breasted design, shoulder and wrist straps, buttons and belt all protect against the cold conditions plus a lined interior provides extra warmth for the chilly months.

Mention ‘trenchcoat’ and the word immediately conjures a mixture of images: detectives, news reporters, investigators and distinct businessmen. Or perhaps you’re envisioning the trench completely buttoned up, belted with a pair of stilettos…Whatever your thoughts, naughty or not, this garment has irrefutably endured over the years and become an iconic clothing item. Although designers nowadays are experimenting with new, shiny and bright materials and varying the styles to keep up with emerging trends, the quintessential trench hasn’t changed much since its humble beginnings; it still maintains its original structure - a testament to its innovative design, timeless style and continued practicality.

Both Aquascutum and Burberry lay claims to the coat's invention, though Thomas Burberry developed the water-resistant fabric 'gabardine' in 1880 to create a durable, well-ventilated raincoat for British Army officers, as an alternative to the heavy coats, to keep them warm and dry during the Boer War. The coat was an optional piece of clothing, acquired through private purchase by officers only (no other ranks were permitted to wear it). Burberry was then commissioned to modify his successful raincoat for WWI to protect officers from wind, rain and mud on the front line, more specifically in trenches hence, the name. Shoulder tabs (to attach a rifle strap as well as rank insignia), D-rings on the belt (to carry weapons and other equipment) and large pockets (to hold provisions, maps and additional ammunition) were added, as were ten buttons on the front, a back rain shield, storm flap over the right shoulder and wrist straps to keep the rain and cold out and the generous size and removable wool lining allowed the coat to double up as a blanket - each and every attribute relevant and fully functional for warfare. The fact that the officers were not obligated to wear this item yet chose to do so both on the job and as leisurewear speaks volumes of its usefulness, business-like respectability and authoritative air. Following the war, the trench was introduced to the general public by the government who distributed all excess stock from the Army and then via the silver screen, made to look effortlessly stylish by the likes of Humphrey Bogart and Greta Garbo then later by both Katharine and Audrey Hepburn who all embraced the classic trench and incorporated it as a staple in their personal wardrobe. 

So, why is the trenchcoat still popular after all this time? In her book The Classic Ten. The True Story of the Little Black Dress and Nine Other Fashion Favorites, Nancy Macdonell Smith attributes the trenchcoat's lasting appeal to its versatility. "You can wear a trench almost anywhere without feeling out of place. Whether you're running out for a coffee and the paper, a job interview, or a late night drink, a trench makes sense." I agree with Smith. The classic trenchcoat is the ultimate outerwear piece to take you easily and tastefully from day into night, casual to dressy, classy to sexy without being showy. But the garment's versatility is not the sole reason for its magnetism. Smith says, "A trench makes you want to work to have a look at what's underneath...It's sexy, but it's subtle" and I believe it's precisely this 'understated sexiness' that makes the trenchcoat so alluring.     

By emphasising the outline of your figure whilst remaining completely covered up, you seduce the eyes and tease the body’s most erotic organ - the mind - as the act of concealment implies a deliberate attempt to mask what’s on the inside, your true self, from others. This discreet, passive approach invokes a mysterious edge to you, creating tension, instantly intriguing and arousing the sensation that there's a lot more to you than meets the eye, thus leaving the imagination wondering not only what you’re wearing under the coat but who you really are underneath all that clothing!

A classic trenchcoat is definitely a sensible investment because it won't date. What's more, this timeless item can be worn across the seasons and used to create numerous looks. For example, wear it to brunch over wide-legged pants and a knitted turtle neck for extra warmth in the wintertime, paired with high-heeled ankle boots and sunglasses for an ultra-chic look or team it casually with slim-fitted jeans or leggings, a t-shirt and heels for lunch or coffee with friends. Better yet, wear it all buttoned up over a little black dress to a dinner date and keep everyone, particularly your date, guessing what's on underneath until you're ready to reveal yourself. Alternatively, give the trench a corporate spin by wearing it over a black pencil skirt, crisp white shirt, a scarf (preferably Burberry) around your neck and knee high boots or pumps on your feet for a polished and professional look, or channel Audrey and match it with black capris, a top and ballet flats and run your errands, as well as brave the elements, in style.

Personally, I love wearing a trenchcoat because it is flattering. It elongates my body and the cinched waist gives me a slim silhouette, beautifully shaping my figure and accentuating my femininity. For both genders, a structured design will fit best on your body so select a well cut, tailored style with enough room to fit over a jacket or sweater. As for the length, it depends on your body shape, height and ultimately your personal taste - as long as it suits your figure, feels comfortable yet is not so big that you are overwhelmed by excess material and creates a proportional, balanced look. My length preference is either just-above or just-below the knee, belted and in the traditional beige as the neutral colour will match any ensemble. Ladies, I do recommend one with a belt as it will create curves by defining the waistline, giving you the much-coveted hourglass look.

My final words: the classic trenchcoat is a wardrobe essential which when worn well, will certainly assist in creating an impression and emitting an elusive aura. In doing so, you will exude a self-assured 'classy sexiness' that will magnify your presence and instantly attract attention to you, enticing others to want to know more about you. Every person should maintain an element of mystery to arouse curiosity and captivate. Wouldn't you agree? 

“Nothing lends an air of mystery better than a classic French trench coat.” ~ Audrey Hepburn


  1. Great article and great blog! :)

    1. Thank you so much Olga for your kind comments. Glad you enjoyed the post and blog in general.