Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Cinema Connection--Film Noir Staple...the Classic Trench

As Harrison Ford just demonstrated so well in Blade Runner, one of the most classic pieces you can have in your closet is a trench coat.  This is true for both men and women.  It miraculously goes with just about everything in your wardrobe, whether dressy or casual, and takes you through all kinds of weather.  I went through my own coats and counted three--a bone-colored cotton drill London Fog, a camel nylon Michael Kors, and a blood-red gabardine Ben Sherman.  It's such a perfect design that almost any color or fabric works.  As you can see from trend spotters WhoWhatWear, fashionistas are currently wearing everything from quilted white cotton to black leather.  And they all look terrific. 

Though the trench coat is the height of fashion right now, it certainly did not start that way.  Its humble beginnings can be traced to the turn of the century as an option for French and British officers during World War I.  In fact, the nickname "trench" came from those men who wore it on the front lines.  Aquascutum, a British luxury brand, claimed the coat's invention as far back as the 1850s, but it's Thomas Burberry's 1901 design that has become iconic.  

An ad for Burberry during World War I (above)
and a WWI British officer at a train station 

Even though many in the military owned one, the massive ongoing popularity of the trench coat is really the result of classic film.  During the 1930s and 1940s, film noir and other movies showed hero after hero wearing a trench.  The best actors of the time--Robert Mitchum, Humphrey Bogart, Alan Ladd, and others (below)--all appeared in the garment with gorgeous women in their arms.  They looked so good that the audience, including women, all wanted a trench coat of their own.  Just take a look and you'll understand the impact.  Then go get one for yourself.

Alan Ladd in This Gun for Hire (1942)
and Robert Mitchum in Out of the Past (1947)

Humphrey Bogart in The Big Sleep (1946)
and Ralph Meeker in Kiss Me Deadly (1955)

 William Powell in The Thin Man (1934)
and Dick Powell in Murder, My Sweet (1944)


Marline said...

Great post, Kimberly! You're ever so right--a guy in a trench is marvelous. These men look so great in them! BUT, I always warn ladies I work with to be careful if they aspire to wear one. Many women, particularly curvy girls, look like a package tied in the middle in a trench. This menswear classic is often best left to taller gals with wide/broad shoulders and long slender bodies--and be careful what beige you pick! Some of them will drain the living life out of your face; others will nicely complement it.

Kimberly Truhler said...

Thanks for your comment, Kay. Though I agree with you, I have to say designers are getting much more astute about the trenches they're creating for women. They're far from the military options that you might find in Army Surplus Stores (though I love those as well). That particular dark khaki and olive green are indeed tricky colors, and the original trenches had far too many functional bells and whistles on them to make them flattering for women.

But today's trenches are so much different. As the photo from WhoWhatWear shows, the ladies are wearing ones in bone, dove gray, white, and black. Most, if not all, women look great in these colors. Especially the all-time favorite black! The proportions today are also much better with sizes for petite and tall women so that the garment falls in the right spot. And the fabrics they're choosing are more forgiving and cut closer to the body, which reduces bulk. As does just a simpler silhouette overall. I have even seen evening ones in silk, which are really something.

One of my closest friends happens to be a very petite, VERY curvy girl and she looks far from a "package tied in the middle" in her black cotton sateen trench. In fact, it's one of her favorite things in her wardrobe. She's a bombshell and the trench really ups that sophisticated aspect of her.

So the moral of the story, just like any other piece of clothing, is to try on a few options and see what works the best for you. With all the options out there, there is more than likely a trench out there that works for you.

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