For years, style editors have pointed out that French women, with their very distinct and classic style, have elevated the trench coat to its never-ending chic status. And for years, I wondered, how can millions of French women – and secret agents – be wrong?
A WARDROBE ICON
Trench coats have become iconic among French women, rivaling berets and striped boat-neck shirts. The British have also been known to wear high quality, chic trench coats, but more out of necessity than anything. I mean, when you live in a place where rain is always in the forecast, a coat becomes part of your everyday wardrobe and who wants to wear drab coat everyday? It’s almost as if the Brits wear these fashionable trenchies in pure defiance of mother nature. They remind her that, with the right trench coat, you can be sexy and practical at the same time.
STYLE LESSONS FROM THE TRENCHES
Although the French may have put trench coats on the map when it comes to style, what I learned about trench coats actually came from my mother. Every Christmas, my family would attend midnight mass on Christmas eve at the church where I also attended school. I remember asking my mother on several of these occasions what she intended to wear – to which she replied “I’m just going to wear my trench coat.” Now, to many, this may imply she would ONLY be wearing her trench coat. But to her, this meant that what she wore underneath really didn’t matter when she was wearing her high quality trench coat and did not plan on taking it off. How can she get away with this, I used to think. I would stress for hours on what I would wear to mass – the place to see and be seen for my middle school class – and she would waltz in wearing a plain jane outfit, covered up by her coat and navy paisley scarf. All of this time, I think I secretly envied her that, even without trying, she looked as good, if not better, than any of the mothers in the congregation.
MY FIRST TRENCH COAT
As a young adult, I’ve always admired a nice winter coat or stylish fall jacket, but for years, I had shunned trench coats because I was not going to be just like my mother. However, in my early 20s, I was shopping with my mother before moving to the big city to take on a new job. She suggested I buy a trench coat for work. I, of course, laughed this off knowing her history with and fondness of trench coats. But after trying a few on, I realized that the trench made me look put together, and even more business-like, and very stylish. I ended up buying my first-ever basic black trench coat with my mother and have worn it for at least a decade.
FROM BLAND TO BOMBSHELL IN AN INSTANT
After many rounds at the dry cleaners, my first trench coat has started to look a bit worn and less fresh than desired. Earlier this year, I decided it was time to venture, once more, into trenches in search of a more updated version of the classic trench.
In mid-March, I purchased one of the most stylish coats I have ever owned – a strawberry-colored Gap trench coat. Although the coat came in the standard beige and navy, I decided to branch out from my typical bland and go for something a little more splashy – strawberry red. I have since considered this trench to have awesome style power beyond a normal black trench coat. I am not a flashy person by nature, but whether I am wearing jeans or a summer suit, the coat seems to draw attention wherever I go.
I have worn the trench several times, including on business meetings and casual outings. I have received no fewer than 6 compliments on the trench in the first month of wearing it, including one from a Starbucks barista who said she remembered me because of my “fun” bright red trench coat. The biggest compliment I received was from a “higher up” at work. She said she loved my new trench and asked where I bought it. A few weeks later, she bought the same trench, but in a different color. I have to say – I still like mine better!
NOT JUST FOR SECRET AGENTS
Compliments aside, owning a colorful yet classic trench coat can even create a whole new persona – making you feel much more than your typical self. When I pair the trench with my large, bug-eye, black sunglasses and my creamy Aveda lipstick, I, somehow, feel like a Bond-girl and a popparazzi-avoiding celebrity – a la Katie Holmes or Victoria Beckham – all rolled into one. Now that’s style power!
As you can see, I was not always a fan of the trench coat. But, over the years I have come to love this timeless wardrobe piece and even consider it one of the top items every woman should have in her closet. But, whether your goal is to look like a distressed dame from a Humphrey Bogart film or simply a chic socialite, add a classic trench to your look and you’re sure to stand out from the crowd.