Monday, December 30, 2013

Spring 2014: Women's Trench Coats Round-up, Part 1

Going to switch it up slightly... All of my previous musings regarding fashion have been male oriented. This one isn't. So, what do I know about ladies fashion?

I like to think an inkling or just enough about the staples to comment. And by "staples", I mean very "bland" wardrobe items that usually work on everyone and belong in every closet. To start this foray off, let's talk about trench coats.

Spring starts in December
You wouldn't know it by the weather, but spring is here -- according to clothing stores at least. This is the time of year, post-Christmas, Boxing Day week, when stores usually put their winter product lines on sale and start showing off their spring lines. It's also the time of year when the lineups are a mile long out the doors of Hollister and Abercrombie & Fitch...

Spring means wet and moderately cold weather. How does one protect oneself from wet and moderately cold weather? A poncho and layers if you don't care how you look.

Presentable, warm, and cost effective
If you do want to look more presentable, then trench coats work too. The beauty of the trench coat is that it looks formal, but can be worn as casually as desired. It is usually long and thick enough to provide protection from both the elements and sight.

What really makes it a great item is that it's a traditional, classic, and, dare I say, older design. The trench is generally recognizable by its solid color, minimal pockets, an array of buttons, double-breasted front, rear vent(s), and waist belt. They have been around for a while, which means that a single trench coat should last across the seasons and not end up as a single, expensive, seasonal item. It is here to stay -- fingers crossed. Even if I'm wrong, a trench coat would make for a boring, bland, protective, and cost-effective article of clothing.

The best part about classic items, though, is that they've been around long enough for them to be copied over and over. Many stores, luxury and cheap, have them in stock. And because they're based off a traditional design, they all look roughly the same -- okay, that's a bit of a stretch, materials and workmanship can be easily noticeable.

Black, khaki, red, green?
Trench coats usually come in black and khaki. To me, these are the best choices. Black seems to work for every occasion while giving off a more formal, dressed up look. Khaki works for most occasions and is also formal, but slightly less so than black. There is just something about the lighter khaki color that accentuates the outfit inside and around the coat. It doesn't seem to work with just any plain old thing like black.

And then there are the rest: green, black, yellow, blue, white, etc. I've seen red work on quite a few people. It's a nice color. However, everything outside of the more "classic" khaki and black colors seem more seasonal and take away from the traditional styling -- not my cup of tea.

Length: 3/4, short, long, full length?
This is where I get a bit lost with ladies wear and fashion terminology. Most trenches that I've seen are in what I call the 3/4 or short range, which means they hover around the thigh area. I've seen full length coats and possibly shorter, but 3/4-ish and short seem the way to go from my perspective. Most stores that I stumble across seem to stick with these offerings, but maybe it's because I don't actually shop for women's clothing. This is the length range that I'd define as "traditional". Well, full-length down to the ankles would be too if I cared for the look. At the end of the day though, length may all come down to one's height and fit in relation to the coat's design.

For example, my trench. It is from Banana Republic and it's black. Blew about $250 on it. Love it. The coat is officially a "short" version that lands around upper-thigh for me. Looking at the online catalog way back when, the coat appeared to had been designed to hit right around the rear. Everything worked out though because any higher than upper-thigh, and it'd lose some of its protective ability. Speaking of, I bought a khaki trench and promptly returned it because it didn't seem to work as well with my usual outfits. The length was also longer and hit just above the knee. Unfortunately, even the adored black trench hasn't seen much action lately because I'm going through an "I gave up on life" outfit phase.

The 2014 Women's Trench Coat Line-up
And this is the part where I take a look at a bunch of trench coats available from various retailers. All details were taken from the retailer's website at the time of writing. None of the items have been worn (duh), handled, or seen in detail by the writer.

H&M Trenchcoat (US$ 69.95)
Our first contestant is the cheapest of the bunch and it comes from H&M. It's a brand known for its fashion forward designs and low price, and they live up to their name with this coat. It is 62% cotton, 2% spandex, and 36% rayon with a rear vent, epaulettes, belt, and two storm flaps. Sizes range from 2 to 14, and both beige and black versions are available. Aside from the two storm flaps, it appears to be a pretty standard looking trench coat and an excellent starting point -- I'm used to seeing just one flap. Unfortunately, no photos of the coat's rear are available on the product page. My first trench was actually an H&M version, which I loved. It didn't look as good as my Banana Republic version, but it fit well and did the job. The price was a bit higher around CAD$ 125 though.

London Fog Quilted Shoulder Trench Coat (~US$ 115) 
This London Fog coat is my random pick from Amazon. The coat is, unless I'm misreading the description, 78/22 polyester/cotton, belted, has epaulettes, comes in black and "light khaki", and ranges in size from XS to XL. There isn't a note about a rear vent, but I can kind of make out a center a vent in the product photos. The storm flaps, seems like one on each side, also have a quilted pattern. And the hem hits mid-thigh on the model. It is a nice looking jacket, similar to the H&M version except it comes in different colors and is more expensive. What sets this coat apart would probably be the quilted pattern on the storm flaps. They also appear to cover the flap across the upper back and upper arms. Can't say I'm a big fan of it, but it doesn't seem to stand out enough to be distract. The price of the coat is also pretty good and on the lower end.

Gap Classic Trench (US$ 128.00)
Moving on, we have a relatively cheap coat from the Gap that is 100% cotton, comes in "oak" (looks khaki-ish), has shoulder epaulettes, and said to dip down to the mid-thigh. Sizes range from XS to XXL. It's a fine looking coat and definitely one of the cheaper ones considering how often Gap has 30-50% off sales. The 100% cotton is a nice plus because I've seen cheaper trenches that blend materials (e.g. nylon, polyester) and just don't seem to look as good. I have some comments concerning the material's texture and color, but given the price, this coat is worth a look and consideration.

Mango Trim Trench Coat (US$ 129.99)
The most fashion-forward of this bunch -- yes, even more so than the H&M version -- is the Mango trench with epaulettes, 100% cotton, zippered pockets, belt, and a black trim. I do not see a vent in the photos nor do I see a note about there being one. It appears to land around the mid to upper thigh on the model. Love the details on this coat and it looks good, but too fashion forward for my taste. The zippers on the pockets stand out for me more than the black trim around the front and cuffs. For the price, it wouldn't be a bad investment for a few seasons.

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