This post is dedicated to those of us who are self confessed, trench fanatics. There are very few garments, that one can literally just throw on, and achieve the level of chic and finesse bestowed by a well chosen trench coat!
If you are thinking of joining the trench club and adding a trench to your wardrobe read on: Prior to any shopping expedition, sit down meditate and consider the purpose of your trench.
Statement or classic
What is it for? Do you want a fashion statement trench? Something to turn heads as you enter the room? Or does your trench need to do double duty, i.e. mundane tasks, like protect you from the rain and the wind? Do you drive around, cycle or perhaps something to wear at the bus stop. (for bus stop and cycle options think darker colours and washable material!)I like my clothes to do double duty, i.e. Keep me warm/cool/comfortable and elevate my look into catwalk standard. Do you think that’s aiming too high?
The weather and the lifestyle
Before choosing your good quality trench, which is an expensive purchase by any standards, consider the climate factor. Do you need a summer lightweight trench? Or something heavier , perhaps with removable lining to provide warmth as well as versatility. For me the trench is strictly speaking a transitional piece to see me through spring to summer and summer to autumn. London winter demands something heavier And I prefer to swath myself in a cashmere coat rather than a trench.
If in doubt start simple – check out the classics in a neutral colour. (black, navy, stone or tan) One has to devote time to these things and try both Aquascutun and Burberry. The art of appreciation needs to be cultivated before any successful shopping expedition begins.
Burberry has three main classic cuts, (which they refer to as the ‘heritage’ line.) The Kensington, the Chelsea and the Sandringham. They have subtle variations on the cut and they come in different lengths. They are hand made in England and the material is a lovely cotton cabartine, treated to be water repellent. Of the three cuts I tried my favourite was the Sandringham, which is fitted without being tight. The Chelsea is the most fitted, (too fitted in my view but it’s a personal thing) and the Kensington is the most roomy cut, though still reasonably fitted. The material is stiff, so they all luck the ‘swish’ factor. Alterations are complimentary and you can purchase an additional cashmere lining in the classic Burberry check, a big plus in my book, I wish more designers offered those options.
Aquascutum is the definition of classic though perhaps a tat conservative. After all mrs Thatcher used to wear them. (I am more of a labour girl myself) however if you are looking for longevity, a piece that will look stunning in your wardrobe for at least 7 years- this is the right place. I simply adore the club check. Less ubiquitous than Burberry, more stylish in my book. Their double breasted, gun flap, wind shield, bells & whistles classics are simply superb, and considerably less expensive than Burberry. They also come in a choice of lengths to suit smaller and larger ladies. In fact bring the men along, (my father and the LSH are converts) because their menswear are first class, full of truly desirable and wearable pieces. Alterations are complimentary. Excellent single breasted styles (the regent) give a cleaner, leaner silhouette, and an elegant look.
In general, I am not a fun of the double breasted, designs which tend to look better on ladies of more statuesque proportions. (think wonder woman). Yet these looked pretty good on me, which just goes to show what one can achieve with good tailoring. Aquascutum do not skimp on the art of tailoring – good tailoring can literally transform the ugly duckling into the proverbial swan.
The history of the trench
The trench coat began its life in the 19th century as outerwear for British military officers, a strictly male clothing item. It was designed, for comfort, ease of movement and warfare! Which makes it perfect for the average modern day Londoner.
The trench attained classic status in World War I, – it was actually used in the ‘trenches’ hence the name. It is matter of debate whether Aquascutum (a waterproof wool was an Aquascutum innovation in the 1850s) or Burberry (who invented gabardine a litle later, in 1879) first devised the garment.
The statement trench
Those days are long gone and the trench coat has been deconstructed and reconstructed for the catwalk. Modern trenches come in beautiful fluid designs in pure silk, draped collars and pleated sleeves. I love a long, statement trench, with ‘swish”!
Burberry is, in my view, in its own league when it comes to statement trenches. When I visited, it was hard to decide between the beautiful sky blue is silk taffeta, or the sand colour Burberry lined with Aqua coloured buttons and subtle colour coordination. I was in trench heaven, and my sister had to forcibly remove me from the store. Both options, were alas, stunningly beautiful and utterly unsuitable for my needs. (ie cycling around London, washable, travel friendly and rain proof)
Prices are high but then so is quality and style. The catwalk designs have the “swish” factor which was missing from their classics.
London summers being what they are I needed something really light to wear through July/August. Our weather is warm, but still rainy. I also needed something easy to travel with, for all those train journeys on Eurostar. Burberry has a lightweight range in tropical weight gabardine. (Their classic heritage line is really too warm for London summers.)
The ultimate travel trench
Aquascutum on the other hand just brought out the amazing voyager trench. Machine Washable and packable, and in a range of wonderful colours. Colours include all the classics: sand, tan, navy, as well sky blue and a rather delicious shade of pink called ‘sherbet.’ These are great for travelling because they basically fold into a little pouch which will fit even in the smallest suitcase, even back pack. You can shake them out and voila: your trench is ready! Choose your colour carefully because it will work best with coordinated top, the material is very thin, but it has all the detail of a classic trench, gun flap, wind shield the works! It will not provide warmth so for cooler weather, best layered over say, a coordinated coloured cashmere roll neck
For an investment purchase like this, ( remember the rules of investment dressing? well worth devoting a whole day. Start by visiting Burberry in Regent street, to try a few options. Move on to Aquascutum just a couple of minutes walk away in Great Marlborough street. Take your time to compare designs, cost and fit. The sales assistants were delightful at aquascutum and full of helpful suggestions. Stop to have lunch at the ivy brasserie near by to ruminate your thoughts and let the mind settle on your preferred option. Then leisurely go back and make your purchase. Chances are some minor alterations will be needed to ensure perfect fit, so allow plenty of time for that. Then afternoon tea or perhaps a G&T before collapsing exhausted back home, (or at the hotel) just in time for a hot bath.
the Wallet friendly option
For those of us who prefer to top up the mortgage payments (or save for a first home) rather than ‘invest’ in a trench, check out M&S (here)stormwear collection. I was pleasantly surprised when I tried this on, fluid lines, “swish” and wonderful check lining. Though if I had a say in the design, I would have insisted on a check linining on the collar… but there you go, I am sure the money people cut costs there. It looks perfect with the belt tied at the back to create some sort of waist definition. Petite ladies will need to shorten it a few inches, or risk sweeping the streets of London with it.
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the Wallet friendly option
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