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The history of the Trench Coat

How it became everyone's favorite style staple with a feminist twist

A true fashionista knows that the right outerwear can take an outfit from drab to fab in a matter of seconds. And when it comes to effortless chic, nothing beats the timeless appeal of a trench coat. With its sleek silhouette and classic design, this wardrobe staple has won over style icons such as the Duchess of Cambridge, Liv Tyler, and Charlotte Rampling of "Broadchurch." It's no wonder that the trench coat has become a must-have for anyone looking to add a touch of sophistication to their wardrobe. So go ahead, throw on that trench coat, and watch as it instantly elevates your look to the next level.

Beyond its reputation as a fashion classic, the trench coat has a rich history that is often overlooked. In fact, wearing a trench coat was once seen as a symbol of women's liberation. During World War I, women took on traditionally male roles and began wearing practical, utilitarian clothing, including trench coats. This marked a significant shift in gender roles and challenged traditional notions of femininity. Over time, the trench coat became associated with strength, independence, and modernity, making it a powerful symbol of women's emancipation. So the next time you don a trench coat, remember that you're not just wearing a piece of clothing - you're also paying homage to a legacy of female empowerment.

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One of the most iconic moments in cinematic history occurs when George Peppard's character finally embraces Audrey Hepburn's Holly Golightly in the classic 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany's. The romantic scene takes place in the pouring rain, adding to the drama and intensity of the moment. It's a good thing that Holly is wearing a trench coat - not only does it shield her from the rain, but it also adds to the timeless elegance of the scene. As she leans into her lover's embrace, her trench coat billows in the wind, creating a breathtaking image that has been etched into the collective consciousness of moviegoers for generations. It's a testament to the enduring appeal of the trench coat as a symbol of timeless style and romance.

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It's no secret that Audrey Hepburn's little black dress in Breakfast at Tiffany's is one of the most iconic fashion moments in cinematic history. The dress's classic silhouette and elegant simplicity have made it a timeless style staple that continues to inspire fashion lovers to this day. However, another fashion moment in the film has often been overlooked - the scene in which Hepburn dons a trench coat. At the time, the trench coat was seen as a predominantly male garment, but Hepburn's effortlessly chic appearance in the coat challenged that perception and created a stir in the fashion world. It was a groundbreaking moment that helped establish the trench coat as a must-have item for stylish women everywhere, proving that fashion knows no gender boundaries. While the little black dress may have stolen the spotlight, Hepburn's trench coat remains a testament to her enduring influence on the world of fashion.

The impact of Hepburn's trench coat in Breakfast at Tiffany's was felt far beyond the silver screen. As women around the world watched Hepburn embodying style and sophistication in the coat, demand for the garment skyrocketed. The trench coat soon became a fashion classic, with women everywhere clamoring to add it to their wardrobes. Its popularity was further cemented when style icons such as Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Joanne Woodward, and Brigitte Bardot were spotted wearing the coat. Their endorsement of the trench coat added to its cachet, solidifying its place as a timeless style staple. Today, the trench coat remains a beloved item in the wardrobes of fashion-savvy men and women alike, a testament to its enduring appeal and the power of film and fashion to influence each other.

The trench coat's rise to fashion stardom in the 1960s was not the first time that the garment had been popular with women. In fact, the coat had been used as a symbol of female empowerment and independence decades earlier, during the early 1920s. Women of that era wore trench coats not just as a fashion statement, but also as a statement of their emancipation.

It was during this time that female stars of the screen, such as Greta Garbo, Gloria Swanson, and Bette Davis, donned the trench coat to portray strong, empowered women. The trench coat was seen as a way to signal a sassy, mannish attitude - Katharine Hepburn even famously wore an oversized trench coat in The Iron Petticoat. The coat remained a popular symbol of female strength and independence until Audrey Hepburn's iconic appearance in Breakfast at Tiffany's transformed it into a more feminine and glamorous garment.

It's worth noting that Burberry, one of the co-inventors of the trench coat, designed the coat worn by Hepburn in the film. The brand's involvement in the garment's evolution only adds to the trench coat's enduring legacy and impact on the world of fashion.

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In the post-World War II era, Hollywood leading men and women, including icons like Robert Mitchum, Ava Gardner, and Humphrey Bogart, often tried to portray the trench coat as a quintessentially American garment. The coat was particularly popular among the hardboiled film-noir detective archetype.

Despite its British origins, the trench coat's rugged style and versatile functionality made it a popular choice for American actors and filmmakers alike. The garment's association with toughness and grit made it the perfect choice for portraying characters who were both stylish and streetwise. This trend helped cement the trench coat's place in popular culture as a symbol of coolness and toughness, making it an enduring fashion staple for generations to come.
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It may come as a surprise to some, but the trench coat is actually a British invention, jointly belonging to two rival companies - Aquascutum and Burberry. Aquascutum is credited with inventing the first waterproof wool, and designing a field coat for soldiers during the Crimean War in the 1850s. Later on, the company would go on to become a dominant player in the trench coat market, with its designs prominently featured in movies. Meanwhile, Thomas Burberry, a draper by profession, invented gabardine in 1879. The fabric's durable, breathable qualities made it ideal for outerwear, and Burberry won a contract to supply a trench-type raincoat for the Boer Wars and beyond. This was the beginning of the iconic Burberry trench coat that we know today.

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Despite the intense competition between the two companies, both Aquascutum and Burberry played instrumental roles in developing the trench coat into the timeless classic that it is today. The trench coat has a rich military history that dates back to World War I. It was originally designed to keep soldiers' uniforms clean and dry in the muddy trenches, but it was exclusively reserved for officers. This is why the coat features epaulettes, which were used to attach the insignia of a soldier's rank. Despite its practical origins, the trench coat's timeless style and functionality have made it a beloved fashion staple for over a century.


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