Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Iconic Trench Coat

It has been raining nonstop here for the past two weeks (it’s April showers in June!). Even the brightest mornings turn into violent thunderstorms by the afternoon it looks like a hurricane outside. The rain is certainly unpredictable and the only thing that has been getting me through these icky days are my trench coats.

Recently, I purchased this Brooks Brother's trench coat and have a navy one from Coach I bought years ago. I have been alternating both daily like it's my new uniform. After skimming through dozens of images on Pinterest for some inspiration on some new ways to style them (I have an entire board dedicated to them) I really began to take notice of the variety of people wearing them.
But I realized that's the thing about trench coats, everyone can wear them-
they're iconic.


I found myself wanting to know more on the history of trench coats and thought I'd share a little fashion 101.

The trench coat has come a long way from the “trenches” of 19th century warfare to become a universal fashion staple in men and women’s closets across the globe. It's timeless, fashionable, functional, and limitless in the number of ways it can be styled. Designed in a variety of styles, fabrics, and colors, it can be worn at any age, in any weather, and for every personal style.

The origins of the trench coat can be traced back to both Aquascutum and Burberry. Thomas Emary created the first waterproof cotton fabric, Aquascutum, during the mid 1800’s. The fabric was such a success that Emary designed a coat used by British soldiers during the Crimean War. Not long after in 1879, Thomas Burberry created a waterproof wool fabric called Garbardine that he designed into a raincoat used by British officers during WWI "trench" warfare.

After WWI, many soldiers brought their trench coats home, leading to the spread and popularity of them, especially on colleges campuses across the United States. By the early 1900s, the trench coat became widely popular among civilian men and women for its practical and fashionable design. Greta Garbo was photographed by the magazine Women's Wear Daily wearing one lined with tartan wool on her movie set for the 1928 film A Woman of Affairs and quickly became popular among American women. 

The trench coat then made its film debut when Gloria Swanson wore it in the 1929 film Queen Kelly. It's appeal was then officially solidified by film legends Ralph Byrd in the 1937 film Dick Tracy and Humphrey Bogart in the 1942 film Casablanca. The trench coat quickly became a permanent fixture in the wardrobes of fashion icons like Audrey Hepburn, Ava Gardner, Brigitte Bardot, and Jackie Kennedy. It's still as popular as ever among modern fashion and film icons like Kate Moss, Meryl Streep, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Kate Middleton.
Jackie Kennedy  


         Blair Waldorf

Audrey Hepburn


Charlotte York 

Burberry’s design of the trench coat is the one we often associate the iconic look with today. The trench coat was khaki, double breasted, and designed with a signature look of ten buttons down the front, raglan sleeves, large pockets fastened with a button, D-rings, wide lapels and collars, storm flaps, and belts at the waist and the wrists. Today, trench coats can be seen on runways, city streets, English moors, and college campuses across the globe. Whether in original, traditional design or in modified, modern styles, trench coats still arise an iconic sharp and classic look.
Personally, when I put on a trench coat, I immediately feel an air of poise and class. I can’t help but walk around a little more gracefully channeling my inner Jackie Kennedy or Audrey Hepburn.

Today, a true Burberry or Aquascutum trench coat can cost you up to almost a thousand dollars. Although a wardrobe investment, a college student’s budget simply does not allow for such a splurge. While I one day very much plan on buying my very own Burberry trench coat, there are plenty of other quality brands with trench coats that pay homage to the classic style at a much more budget friendly price. While searching for my perfect trench, I found labels like J. Crew, L.L. Bean, Banana Republic, Jack Wills, and Zara to have some great options. Although my BB trench coat is not the classic double breasted trench, my navy Coach double breasted trench is much more classic, but at a modified shorter length.

With proper styling, a trench can perfect for any shape, weather, season, or occasion. It’s infinitely versatile. To all big city and college tyros out there, I highly recommend investing in a good trench coat before heading off to college in the fall!

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