My lifelong fascination with trench coats began as a kid watching Inspector Gadget cartoons after school on my grandparents’ television.
Nancy Drew, Phryne Fisher, Inspector Clouseau … whoever your preferred gumshoe, odds are they donned a trench at one time or another.
Who needs sleeves? Eva Herzigova does the reworked trench at Paris Haute Couture fashion week. Photo: Marc Piasecki
In Hollywood, trench coats have featured in movies from Casablanca to Breakfast at Tiffany’s and, more recently, the television series Scandal, starring Kerry Washington.
But for all-out red carpet drama, few trenches could top the dress Priyanka Chopra wore to this year’s Met Gala.
While the headline-grabbing garment was the work of Ralph Lauren, trench coats and Burberry have gone hand in hand since the British brand designed the garment in 1912 to shield military officers from wind and rain.
A century and change on, the trench is a wardrobe staple for A-listers and aspirational shoppers alike, with “owning a Burberry trench” on many a fashion girl’s bucket list.
Spies unlike us … actor Priyanka Chopra in Ralph Lauren at the Met Gala. Photo: Charles Sykes
Trench trends come and go, mainly in the form of colour and fabric, but this year, shapes are also shifting.
Last week’s haute couture shows in Paris produced street-style snaps of women in pink dusters – an adaptation of the trench devoid of buttons or belt – and tobacco-coloured trenches with 1970s-style wide lapels.
Closer to home, the reworked trench dominated Fashion Week Australia, earning it the “almost trench” tag from Elle magazine.
Bianca Spender removed the buttons and went lavender – another strong colour trend – while Michael Lo Sordo’s pinstripe coat was one of the most versatile pieces to hit the runway.
Dion Lee showed again why he’s the master of tailoring with sleeveless button-through dresses and asymmetric wrap jackets, while celebrities including mum-to-be Lindy Klim dressed in his off-shoulder, oversized buckle styles from the Spring 2017 collection.
Just add hot pink … Gigi Hadid does the trench-meets-Flashdance-shoulder look. Photo: Gilbert Carrasquillo
Coco Chan, head womenswear buyer at Stylebop.com, says designers have been reimagining the trend for decades, dating back to the early days of Martin Margiela.
“The enduring allure of the trench is its suitability for so many body types, not to mention its appeal to so many genres, from classic to avant-garde,” Chan says.
Chan says French cult label Vetements is also hot for a bastardised trench. To wit, its collaboration with iconic raincoat maker Mackintosh costs nearly $3500 – and that’s on sale.
Back in Paris, Maison Margiela creative director John Galliano executed some of the most dynamic trench transformations, the best of which was a dress that took the bib of a traditional trench, added some cold-shoulder bows and a ruffled skirt, all finished off with gold cowboy boots.
While the haute couture shows are outside the budget of 99 per cent of mortals, Chan has bought one of Galliano’s Fall 2017 styles featuring a sweetheart neckline and cutouts. It may not be the best protection in a thunderstorm but, dang, you’ll look great while you run for cover.
Lindy Klim in Dion Lee at Fashion Week Australia. Photo: Getty Images
So what should you look for in a reworked trench? As usual, it depends on how much you’re happy to spend. In general, my rule is the higher the price, the more classic the piece.
Seek out vintage styles, including Burberry, on eBay – they’re highly sought after but you can get lucky. Just always remember to double check for authenticity and use the buyer protection facilities.
On the High Street, some of the best styles are coming from Forever New, which has something for fans of the military trend and those who prefer a more satin finish. Wear the latter with khaki and leather to avoid bathrobe comparisons.
Also, don’t be afraid to incorporate a secondary trend into your trench, be it a colour (red, soft purple or khaki) or fabric – PVC is especially hot. Finally, buy your trench one size larger than you’d normally wear – it’s both practical and fashionable.
Six of the best
Junya Watanabe at Parlour X, $765
Forever New, $150
Vanessa Bruno at Stylebop.com, $484 (approx)
Forever new, $150.
Viktoria and Woods, $490
Forever New, $150
Need more inspiration? Shop our editor’s picks