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Trench coat trends - Time for a Trench

Archana Achal | Updated on: Oct 06, 2011
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It's that time of year again to get the trench coat out of the barracks and into your fall wardrobe. More than a century-old in style, the trench coat is making a comeback…and how! ARCHANA ACHAL guides you through the history and style of this garment which will take your autumn outfit from ho-hum to oh-so wonderful.

As the season changes from sunny to chilly, our wardrobes change too. Out go the flowery dresses, casual linens and cotton shorts making way for woollens, ankle boots and tough denims. But you need not let all the heavy material bog down your fashion sense. Pick up a trench coat to throw over your outfit as this versatile coat will keep out the weather even as it helps you stay stylish!

Through the ages

The trench coat has a long history in the fashion world, starting in the late nineteenth-century and continuing up to this year's fall fashion lines. It has moved from being a raincoat for soldiers to a trendy staple for all wardrobes.

Around the 1880s, Thomas Burberry, a dressmaker from England produced and patented a water-resistant and tough fabric which he called gabardine. Gabardine was initially made out of worsted wool. The fabric was porous despite its tight weave and therefore breathable. He then used the material to create the tielocken, an overcoat that would cover most of the person who wore it, making it highly useful for military men who braved inclement weather.

The tielocken is the predecessor to the trench coat as we know it. Thomas >Burberry then added a few details to the tielocken, like the shoulder straps and metal D-rings to create the trench coat. The use of gabardine also made the trench coat much more comfortable than the rubberised raincoats available during those times.

This style was picked up by the British army in the 1900s as an optional garment for the infantry. Worn by the men as they fought in the trenches in World War I, the coat proved both necessary and efficient at protecting them during adverse weather conditions. After the war, the trench coat continued to be seen on the streets of England and soon became a fashion staple. Given its military beginnings, it is no wonder that the trench coat now has an army of loyalists.

Style factor

Today, trench coats or trenches as they are called, are made out of a wide array of materials including leather, poplin and other cotton or polyester blends.

The timeless style of the trench coat has been a topic of fascination and much discussion for the fashion-conscious. What constitutes a trench coat? Is it the length, sleeves or embellishments that separate a trench from all other long coats? The answer is all of the above.

A traditional trench coat is knee-length or just a few inches above the knee. It is usually double-breasted with six buttons or more, has wide lapels and shoulder straps. It might have a buttoned yoke over the shoulders and D-rings on the belt. Full-length, raglan sleeves with cuffs are considered the most comfortable for movement and providing warmth. The coat has a woollen lining which is often removable to make it versatile.

Modern and fabulous

The biggest trend in trench coat style at present is the woman's trench coat. No longer considered a man's garment alone, trench coats in bright colours and varying lengths have caught the eyes of women worldwide. Gone are the days of dark brown, beige and black trench coats.

Fashion labels today brighten up their fall collections with coats in neon red, yellow or green. The straight cut is sometimes given a miss for a fun flared, ruffled or pleated style.

Plain Jane trenches can be swapped for coats with checked patterns or bold animal prints. The belt is sometimes skipped to give the coat a mod look.

Even the world of goth fashion has embraced the trench coat, although goth trenches are almost necessarily black and made out of leather. Trench coat dresses with half-sleeves or no sleeves at all are a sassy way to twist the trend!

Men's trench coats continue to be the must have addition to winter wardrobes. Floor-length trenches add a touch of old-school military charm while shorter coats complement the prep-school style perfectly. Men can wear the coats casually unbuttoned for a night out or buttoned up for a corporate look. Teamed with the right shoes or boots, the trench can be dressed-up or tuned-down, depending on the occasion.

The trench coat is a sure-fire way to add class and stylistic appeal to your wardrobe. It flatters most body shapes and can be twisted and tweaked to suit one's personality. With most brands holding on tight to this trend, one will be spoiled for choice in the trench department.

>archana.a@thehindu.co.in

Published on September 21, 2011
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