Icons of woman's closet / TRENCH COAT

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One of the oldest army garments still widely worn, the trench coat was devised as a means of keeping the endless mud off uniforms in the trenches of World War I. This practical, versatile and utilitarian fashion piece is always discreetly elegant and combinable with everything. But as the trench coat has become a fashion staple, its iconic origin is almost forgotten.

Its defining characteristics are simple and driven by necessity - protective gabardine fabric, a standard khaki colour (used for camouflage; today's more popular in beige) and a full-length, belted, double-breasted cut with wide lapels. Draper Thomas Burberry recognized a need for a waterproof/resistent fabric that was less stinky and sweaty than the currently available rubberized cotton of that era and invented mentioned gabardine fabric in 1879.


In the public sphere, actors like Humphrey Bogart made the trench coat and fedora look the standard for a Hollywood film-noir protagonist. During the early 1920s, women wore the trench as much as a statement of emancipation as of fashion. Greta Garbo on the set of A Woman of Affairs, Gloria Swanson  in Queen Kelly  or Bette Davis in Human Bondage  portrayed the strong woman archetype. Audrey Hepburn's  Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's in 1961 is wearing this statement piece in the pouring rain. The image of her in what until then had been perceived as a predominantly male garment also created a stir, perhaps because of her petite figure.

Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca

Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman on the set of Casablanca, 1942.

Marlene Dietrich on the set of A Foreign Affair, 1942.
Four businessmen wearing trench coats as part of their work uniform, 1940.

Audrey Hepburn with George Peppard in Breakfast at Tiffany's, 1961
In later decades, Kate Moss modelled the style in advertising campaigns for Burberry, while Anna Wintour and Kate Middleton (the Duchess of Cambridge) also became fans. Few items have stood the test of time in the woman's wardrobe like the trench coat. It has proved a staple that can be reinvented time and again, whether by introducing bright colours or contrast sleeves or adding to, or reducing, the original ten front buttons.

Kate Moss for Burberry, 1999

Cara Delevigne with Kate Moss for Burberry

Burberry metallics collection, SS13


Burberry menswear, SS15

Kate Middleton

Anna Wintour


Chiara Ferragni

Burberry, SS17










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