Homage to the classics: The trench coat (no.3)Deliciously sunny morning in London, so I ventured out without a jacket. A couple of hours later, whilst shivering in the rain and  trying to hail a cab, I remember why we invented the trench.

Trench in london

'I am so cool in my trench' This delightful illustration generously donated by a friend, will be auctioned for charity.

‘I am so cool in my trench’ This delightful illustration generously donated by a friend. The original A3 size drawing, will be auctioned for charity.

Lightweight and robust, we British invented the trench and proud of it we are. It may have been Burberry that made the first and allegedly the very best, used by the army in ‘the trenches’, First World War. Not a promising start. Burberry invented the gabardine fabric which is light, robust and waterproof. Original trenches would have a removable lining for extra warmth. Genius!

My own trench is not Burberry, (which are excellent quality, but I don’t necessarily need anything that hardy) I prefer a simpler cut, without epoulets or a belt. So I got a European version, traitor that I am… Trench coats can be a wardrobe classic, for those of us who live somewhere like London or Paris, where sunshine is a rare occurrence and we suffer under the constant threat of rain. It has become a bit of a fashion statement, but beware. Do not wear the trench in the snow or anywhere hot and humid.

Avoid anything too loose, keep meticulously clean - you don't want the grime of the city to show. Avoid smoking?

Avoid anything too shapeless, keep meticulously clean – you don’t want the grime of the city to show. Avoid smoking?

How to wear the trench Lady Sarah’s tips
Keep it meticulously clean, choose something washable and pay attention it fits well in the shoulder area. I had one from H&M which lasted for years, do not assume the more expensive ones are best for your needs. If your trench coat is a classic design, with a belt, the gods of fashion say : never do the belt up. Wear it tied at the back defining your trim waist, and roll the sleeves up a little, for that impromptu ‘just dashed out ‘ look. If you have an original Burberry trench, for heavens sake, do not accessorise with matching scarf.
Did you know?
“Traditional trenches have 10 crossover buttons and come in classic colours (khaki, beige or black), with extra lining on the underside (the original coatscontained a lining that could be removed and which clung to the legs and body). Traditional raglan sleeves, cuffs gathered with wrist straps and shoulder straps (originally used for attaching stipes, leather gloves, hats or bag straps to) give the trench its unique character and chic.”

There are plenty of inexpensive options, but the trick is to try them on.

There are plenty of inexpensive options, but the trick is to try them on. The best ones do not necessarily have much hanger appeal.

Modern trenchimage
Trench illustration

So- what are your own wardrobe classics?

Going shopping? Check this post in detail.

© Ladysarahinlondon
Sent from my iPad


23 thoughts on “Homage to the classics: The trench coat (no.3 in a wardrobe series)

  1. hungryhungryhippo404

    I have to say that sadly this is one piece of clothing which I would love to embrace, but I just find it so tricky to figure out the right occasion to wear one. Either it’s too cold to wear one outside, or it’s just too warm to even think about it. I don’t seem to have figured out the middle ground for when to wear one, which is most frustrating because I think they can look simply fabulous!

      1. hungryhungryhippo404

        I suppose when I eventually make it to Europe, I might just get the perfect opportunity to embrace the trench coat. Now just to find the perfect one! And actually get around to planning that trip one of these days 😉

  2. Pret A Porter P

    I love a trench coat, but sadly I don’t wear them as often as I used to. Living in the tropics, I got tired of the snide comments. I can’t wear the classic beige as the color looks awful on me, but I have black, denim, leopard, and even some printed ones.

    1. ladysarahinlondon Post author

      Dear Pret A a Porter, you are so stylish in absolutely everything you wear, a lesson for us all. I ve seen trenches made from lightweight silk, so presumably something like that would work in the tropics. Though if I lived there, it would be straw hats and lovely prints for me…sorry I hope you don’t shudder, at the thought of me in straw hats.:-)

  3. Virginia

    I love a more modern take on the trench. No double row of buttons for the full bust woman, and I agree with the no belt option. Almost a slight princess seam and navy color- I guess that makes it not a true trench coat at all! But that is me, not a classic shape so the classics have to be changed up a bit.

    1. ladysarahinlondon Post author

      These are good points you are making Virginia all true, exactly my view about adapting the classics to fit our lifestyle. I am thinking a navy trench is a really good idea, but I already have a spring coat in blue.

  4. happyface313

    Mine is actually from Land’s End and I’ve worn it for a very long time…too long I think – I should try finding a new one soon… thanks for the advice!
    Have a very HAPPY week 🙂

  5. silkpathdiary

    I have a classic Burb trench but it’s quite a light stone colour so don’t wear it as often as I should plus a longer, dark beige version by Aquascutum. I really like yours – simple single breast and so easy to wear – my version is vintage by Aquascutum in a small red/navy/beige check not their house check. The original trench I had was by Donna Karan believe it or not and I wore it so much, still have it I think. It was everything you describe in your post but it had to be retired sadly.

    1. ladysarahinlondon Post author

      I love the light colours for summer though, a black or a navy is more practical but still. My old one was H&M in cotton and very easy maintenance despite being a light colour, stuck it in the washing machine and would come out lovely and fresh.

  6. Fan of Dickens

    Sorry to utterly miss the point, but I really love your artwork; it has such a distinctive style. Back on topic, I once dyed a trench coat purple because it was only cut which suited me and I couldn’t find the colour I wanted. It really worked a treat, so I imagine it would work with any washable coat, don’t you think? I agree that it must be impeccably clean, like a white shirt!

  7. Fan of Dickens

    It wasn’t a lurid purple, I hasten to add! I think maybe you used the same artist for your blog about the bookshop in Soho (which I am dying to test out)? I’ll be the first in line if you produce these cards. Really enjoying these blogs – you have a lovely enthusiasm and a wonderful eye for detail. I particularly appreciated the blog about tea; I must broaden my taste experience beyond drinking builder’s tea by the gallon!

  8. Fan of Dickens

    PS Just realised that I was looking at the small illustration when I wrote the above because it reminded me of the illustrations in the blog about the Soho bookshop. Is that one yours?

  9. Philippa

    Mine is APC, black, has epaulettes, wrist straps and a belt, which I do quite often belt. So, um, I fall at all your hurdles. But I love it, and it rivals only my denim jacket in The Coat to Rule Them All in this house. I made a special trip to Westbourne Grove (this was before APC had a shop on Dover Street and was sold in Liberty) to buy it after passing some exams with shockingly shining colours. (Never to be repeated at med school, as it turned out). I couldn’t afford it at all. It goes with everything, keeps me warm or cool as required and always looks perfectly smart-casual, has been to rural rugby and dinner in Paris and will even double as a picnic blanket. The fabric-covered buckles on the belt and wrist straps are now fraying at the corners. Any advice on what I should do about it? I want to be able to keep wearing my beloved trench for years!

    1. ladysarahinlondon Post author

      Personally I don’t mind a little fraying at all, but why don’t you get in touch with APC and see what they suggest?
      Currently in the process of combining a list of designers/retailers who provide their customers quality aftercare and repairs, putting a halt on throwaway culture. Get in touch if you have any good ones. X

  10. Philippa

    A little fraying is fine, but I don’t want my poor coat to become unwearable!

    Emailing APC is a jolly good idea. I’ll let you know how I get on.


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