~a trench coat~

Until now I have resisted making a trench coat for myself, as belted waistlines don’t really suit me-and-my-short-waist-that-is-not-getting-any-smaller, but rummaging through some of my fabrics I found some stone coloured stretch twill, and thought I’d give a slim-line trench coat a go. 

I thought I had a pattern somewhere for this one, circa 2000:

We produced this one in viscose coated polyurethane with an embossed snakeskin texture – a rather cool fabric in its day, but the pattern must have been one of the many I discarded, thinking I would never use it again.  Famous last words!

You know when sometimes things that you think are going to be relatively straightforward, just don’t end up that way?  This was one of those times.  Anyway – third toile later – I am finally onto the sleeve and collar draft, but here is the body so far:

As you can see I don’t believe in the concept of a ‘wearable muslin’!  For me a toile is simply to check fit and design lines, so I draw all over them.  Here you can see my outline of the storm flaps, pockets and buttons – these are all transferred to my pattern and the toile goes in the bin.

I think it looks more flattering without the belt (my son’s!) but I can’t imagine a trench coat without one so I’m running with it.  I will take it in a bit under the bust as pinned, and although it looks A-line in this photo, it straightens when belted so I’ll leave that.
I’ll stick with the classic design details – adaptable collar, epaulettes, L shoulder gun flap and back storm flap, welt pockets and cuff straps.  I have the exact same fabric in an inky black, so might even try a cropped version if this one is successful.

I was checking out trench coat designs online, and the history is quite interesting.  Thomas Burberry developed a durable waterproof wool gabardine in 1880, and this was used in coats worn by soldiers in the Boer War, and later by exploreres such as Admunson, Shackleton and Mallory. 

In 1901 Burberry submitted a design to the British War Office for an Officer’s raincoat which was subsequently adopted, and in 1914 the War Office commissioned Burberry to develop a practical and protective storm coat to be worn by the frontline soldiers in the trenches during WW1.  Adding epaulettes, D-rings and straps and using a fine twill gabardine, it was soon nicknamed the trench coat.  It is estimated half a million Burberry trench coats were produced from 1914-1918, and Aquascutum also produced trenchcoasts for the allied soldiers.

Civilians adopted the practical trenchcoat after the war, and the iconic Burberry check was patented in the 20’s and began to be used as a lining.  During WW2 trench coats became a part of every enlisted soldier’s kit, and were also adopted by the US forces.

Trench coats featured in many iconic films – glamourised by Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, Katherine Hepburn, Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffanys, Catherine Deneuve, and as classic detective attire by Inspector Clouseau of Pink Panther fame.
With all this history and mystery, I think I’m going to enjoy wearing my new trench coat even more! 
Are you a trench coat fan too?
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I'm a designer/patternmaker who loves to share my sewing knowledge with others! Follow me as I sew my personal projects, sharing my favourite tricks of the trade along the way.

4 thoughts on “~a trench coat~

  1. How interesting! I love that you went into the history, I didn't know that about Burberry. So glad I found your blog, looking forward to seeing more on your trench.

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  2. Thanks for sharing the history – fascinating!
    I love trench coats too. Living in rainy Vancouver, where it's never too cold either, a trench is the perfect layering piece. I haven't made one yet but it is on the to-do list.. look forward to seeing your version!

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