A classic trench coat is the key piece every wardrobe should have

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Billie Bhatia
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“A trench coat changed my life”, Stylist’s fashion news editor Billie Bhatia expresses her love for a life-changing wardrobe essential.  

A huge part of my teenage years was spent writing a journal. It wasn’t so much a documentation of day-to-day happenings as a charting of lust. My journals were stuffed full of printed MSN conversations with boys I fancied, incessant adoration for Paul Walker and love letters to fashion pieces I believed had life-changing powers. If only I had a pair of Topshop skinny jeans then Charlie from the year above would for sure like me. Had I managed to squeeze my feet into those elegant Office pumps, I know with 100% certainty Josh would have asked me out.

In adult life (if I can call it that) the act of journaling has been replaced by a career in writing but the virtual list of life-changing items remains. If only I had that Bottega Veneta bag I would feel like a real grown-up woman. If I had a wardrobe full of Raey cashmere jumpers my daily getting dressed saga would be cut in half. If I had a constant stream of box fresh Adidas Yung 1 trainers my chic points would be through the roof. (Currently below average.)

The items on the lust list varied depending on my mood, the weather, what I was reading, watching, who I was spending time with. They could swing from the expected to the downright wild – a giant tulle dress occupied a whole week’s worth of daydreaming. However, one item that never made it onto the list was a trench coat.

A bit boring by my bomber jacket-loving standards, trench coats never served enough bite for my sartorial appetite. Sure, they had their merit in practicality, but overall, my feeling was ‘meh’. Beyond their blandness, trench coats’ overwhelming popularity nullified their appeal. Plus, and perhaps most importantly, their traditional aesthetic surely wouldn’t work with my sporty clothes; you can’t add a beige belted coat to new-season Yeezys, can you?

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Everything changed one miserable November day. The Stylist fashion team decided the much-needed antidote was a steaming bowl of pasta from local haunt Ciao Bella. As we trotted out of the office, joyful with the promise of complex carbohydrates, I realised I was the only one not wearing a trench coat. Each person had on very different looks: a printed dress, jeans and a sweatshirt, a slip skirt and roll-neck, and a trouser suit, but all of them finished, indeed finessed, with a classic trench.

And they looked great. With the annoyance of a teenager not invited to a party, my penne arrabbiata was served with a pang of jealousy. Was I missing something? Had I misjudged the trench coat? Had I confused bland and unassuming with versatile and effortless?

There was only one way to find out. I wanted to be wrong, but as soon as I slipped on the coat – I chose the sell-out Asos checked version that fused traditional design with modern details – over my sweatshirt and tube skirt combination, I knew I was due a serving of humble pie. The angels sang. Their song of choice? The classic ballad, This Trench Coat Just Changed Your Life (a Eurovision hit in the making if you ask me). I didn’t expect the feeling to be so overwhelming. The compliments came rolling in almost immediately. Elevated, grown-up, polished and chic were adjectives now being thrown my way.

My love affair could not have been better timed as the trench coat remains one of the most sought-after fashion items of the season. The spring/summer 2020 catwalks were once again awash with designer versions from Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta, Celine, JW Anderson, Givenchy and so many more. But this season, the high street is really where the trench coat has come into its own, with varied colours, exciting details and directional cuts to suit every appetite and budget.

H&M’s oversized fit brings an easy elevation to an outfit, & Other Stories’ linen trench coat is about to be a summer staple, Topshop’s pleated number adds a soft femininity to this utility trend and Mango’s leather offering has ‘sell-out’ written all over it. Since dipping my toe in the trench coat pool four months ago, I have amassed a further three. (To put this into context, that’s a faster rate than my trainer consumption and you know how much I love those.) Now sitting pride of place in my repertoire is a vinyl khaki trench coat (another Asos find), a longline stone-coloured classic from Marks & Spencer, and Arket’s directional leather black style that has a whiff of Morticia about it. Chic, non?

A trench coat certainly was not what I lusted after with the same fervour as Wentworth Miller in season one of Prison Break, but its effect on my wardrobe has been something similar: total awe and adoration. I love you trench coat, thank you for changing my life.

Image: Jonty Davies

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