How the Trench Coat Became a Style Icon

From an emblem of patriotism, to the shoulders of Hollywood stars and now the staple piece of your winter wardrobe, we explore how the trench coat became an icon of fashion.

A Symbol of Patriotism

The trench coat coined its name during World War 1. Wanting to establish status and the social hierarchy of the military, the trench coat was originally designed for soldiers. Double breasted and tailored to the waist, the coat had to be able to withstand the wind, rain and harsh war conditions in the trenches.

From the Trenches into the Fashion world

Stepping out of the trenches and into department stores, men’s fashion soon enough adapted the soldier’s coat into an ageless fashion trend. Men across America were wearing trench coats to show their solidarity with the war effort. However, in a time where women were encouraged to show their patriotism through domestic household roles, strong, female actresses were emerging in Hollywood. These celebrities sought to challenge such roles and show their support through fashion, adopting the trench coat look. This marked the very early stages of female empowerment, as women began to delve into man-tailored, female dressing.

The entertaining and talented Greta Garbo gave the stamp of approval on male influences on female dressing, during her performance in A Woman of Affairs. Her stunning trench coat, lined with tartan wool and cinched at the waist inspired women around the world. Many female celebrities followed suit, expressing their admiration for the military through upright collars and belted waists. Audrey Hepburn’s classic trench coat styling in Breakfast at Tiffany’s has continued to be interpreted into modern designs to this day.

A Modern Era for the Iconic Trench Coat

Fast forwarding over a century, what was once a sign of national patriotism is now an essential style for any worthy wardrobe. Despite being more than 100 years old, the trench coat has managed to maintain its place at the peak of high fashion. At its core, the trench still upholds its classic tailoring at the waist and double-breasted form. However, you can make it your own with a pop of colour, experimenting with different collars or alternating between buckle and waist ties for a timeless look, no matter the season. Paired with a structured dress or thrown over your favourite denim, the trench is as versatile as it is classic.

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