Thursday, October 14, 2010

Wardrobe Must-Have: The Trench

The trenchcoat: Always modern. Always classic. (via The Sartorialist)

I challenge you to find a list of wardrobe staples that does not include a trench coat. Everyone from Rachel Zoe to Victoria Beckham agrees that the trench is a sophisticated, timeless way to add classic pizazz to your look - and keep you warm during the transitional weather months.

When I slip on my trench coat, particularly over a great fitting dress, I feel instantly chicer. Sometimes, a trench makes me feel more mature. Sometimes, a trench makes me feel preppier. And sometimes, all a trench does is make me feel warmer - but at least I know I look good while I'm shivering.

Alexa Chung mixes trendy Valentino flats with a classic Burberry trench. (via Stylespot)

The other great thing about trenches is you can find them anywhere. Like I said, I got mine at Zara. Gap, J. Crew, Banana Republic, any department store... all your standard mall stores will have a trench. But you should scour outlet malls and off-price retailers like TJ Maxx. For instance, my fiance bought a Burberry trench for $250 at Nordstrom Rack - that's a $400 discount!

Need some help finding great trench options for your budget? Look no further:

Gap: $79.99

London Fog, available at Macy's: $99.98
Banana Republic: $198

See by Chloe, available at The Outnet: $312.75
Burberry London, available at Saks: $995

Want to find out what to look for when buying a trench - price, fit and quality?

I'm here to tell you that a standard wardrobe piece like a trench is a great investment piece. If you can spend a lot on a coat, a trench is the piece to buy. When I can afford it, you will find a Burberry trench hanging in my closet. With solid maintenance, you can keep a nice trench around for a long time. 

But, that said, you can find awesome, well-fitting trenches at a variety of price points. For instance, my current trench was purchased for $80 last year at Zara. My only caveat is while the overall look of the coat will give you the same effect as any trench, the details aren't as high quality. For instance, it took only a couple of months of wear for a button to fall off. Fortunately, extra buttons are made for this exact reason. 

Find a trench that hits just above your knees. You want your skirt to peak out just beneath it (there's something about a buttoned-up trench where you can't see any hint of clothing beneath that screams high-priced call girl or flasher. The cropped ones are less useful as well. And I don't need to tell you to make sure it's big/snug enough. If it's too big, you'll look sloppy. If the buttons pull, you'll look cheap and like you don't know how to dress yourself.

As I just said, you can buy a trench coat of high quality and price, and it will be worth it. And you can buy a cheaper one - just make sure it doesn't look cheaper. Your quality-assurance checklist:
  • Make sure buttons, straps, belts, etc. are fastened strongly, and if they aren't, have a tailor fix them before wearing. 
  • Avoid anything with too much sheen, including material and buttons. I would recommend a cotton trench vs. sateen or raincoat-esque for versatility's sake. I also like classic tortoise buttons for a trench. 
  • Avoid anything too trendy, like princess sleeves, an excess of studs or shoulder pads, or you'll regret it next season. 
  • Avoid a belted trench where the belt is a different material from the rest of the jacket. I do not love the look of a camel trench with a black patent belt - the belt will not be comfortable, will show wear and will make the jacket less versatile.

Personally, you may love the look of a colorful trench. For me, a red trench is glamourous and chic, but a little Carmen San Diego. And black is great, but I bet you already have one (or more) black coats in your closet. I say go for a standard khaki or camel trench. My trench is a light khaki color, but I don't think you can go wrong with anything "standard" for a trench. 

Any more questions? Let me know!

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