Tim Gunn’s Top Ten Essentials: The Mythic Trench

I’ve been writing every now and then about my best friend Tim Gunn’s Top Ten Wardrobe Essentials. I’ve written about the Day Dress, the Trendy Indulgent Item, and the Little Black Dress.

Tim has impeccable taste, and I would never disagree with his fine judgement. But not all his pieces are really essential for all women in all situations.

For example, today’s subject: the classic trench coat. Not just Tim, but virtually every fashion book, TV show and professional blog lists the trench as one of the top pieces necessary for a basic wardrobe. And there is no denying the simple utility and timelessness of the coat.

The first trench coats appeared in the British army during WWI, as a lighter weight, water-resistant alternative to heavy wool greatcoats.

And wow, did it catch on, for both men and women. Iconic trench wearers include Marlene Dietrich, Ingrid Bergman and Katherine Hepburn.

With this lofty history, and undeniable wearability, why have I not been able to  integrate the trench into my wardrobe?? I own a cute short khaki trench, very close to this one by Esprit:

And a long, zebra print one, similar to this one from Nordstrom’s:

And while both are fine garments, I wear them very little. I think I can blame two things:

  • The subtropical climate. It’s mostly warm here, then switches to cool for a month or two, then cold for a few minutes. Then back to warm. There just aren’t as many opportunities for my spiffy looking trenches as there were when I lived Up North.
  • My casual/business wardrobe. Most non-work days, my trench seems just a tad too dressy for the rest of my look. On work days, a nice looking blazer or cardi usually completes my outfit, and is warm enough.

So there it is. I still adore you, Tim. Don’t lose my number!

What about you? Is a trench a staple in your wardrobe? If not, what are your go-to alternatives?

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  1. You made some nice points there. I looked on the internet for the subject matter and found most guys will approve with your website.

  2. I had a Burberry trench.  It overwhelmed me.  I have to admit that Gunn's silly comment about Hillary Clinton's dressing choices (He said she dresses as if she's "confused about her gender") have cost my respect.  I will never look at him in the same way.

  3. I'm not a fan of trench coats — to me, and I know that I'm in the minority, but a trench coat just always looks way too busy for me. All the pockets, buckles, belts, flaps … it's just too much on a coat for me.

  4. I love Tim too as he has impeccable taste !
    However… the trench might work for me if I lived in a cooler climate, if i wore it it would be a sauna!

  5. Hi Terri – A tent can be a very chic look for a coat, very 60's, you think? So, you dispense with the belt altogether?

  6. I know what you mean – the "overstuffed trench" sounds like a yummy dessert, but not a fashion statement.  So you go for a nice sleek wool coat, I am guessing?

  7. Thanks for coming by, Amy-Jo. I am loving both your blogs. How I wish I had known of you 10 years ago when I got married (at age 46!). I so wanted a special gown, and it looks like you would be the place to go.

  8. Sound like you've made good use of your trenches, Shelley. LOL at "what passes for summer". We have "what passes for winter"  : >

  9. Amber, thanks so much. A red trench would be awesome, especially with your dark hair.

  10. Thanks for coming by Ariane. You can't go wrong with a leather jacket for fall!

  11. My warmest winter coat is a down filled trench and my raincoat is actually more of a London Fog tent.  I love the tent and have worn it a lot.  The belt is what troubles me. 

  12. I can't make it work either but for the opposite reason – it gets too cold to just wear a trench over your outfit as it is not as substantial as a coat – I very quickly find the trench overstuffed from layering underneath and it quickly spoils the line of the trench – I never understood those puffy parka things the Italians wore until I moved to Europe!

  13. I live in Britain where the temperatures are generally on the cool side and it rains a lot.  I found that a trench coat with a zip out lining and a detachable hood (but I tend to keep it attached) was the best thing for me to wear year round except for a brief period in what passes for summer here.  It was normally work wear, but I have worn my trench with jeans – Americans can get away with a lot over here!  I retired now and am thinking of having one or two of the trenches chopped off to just long enough to cover my behind.  This would give me a little more use from some of the older ones (I've collected 3 in the 16 years I've been here – but strangely enough, in order to find hooded coats I had to buy them in the US, something I'll never understand). 

  14. My go-to is my leather biker jacket but I have a quasi-trench which is more military and I love it! I do want a true trench in a black, grey or red but that's down the road…

    I loved your yesterday look BTW! really cool and classy!

  15. Hi Patti, i just read your comment on my blog, thank you! yes, she is a beauty and plus she is very talented – Ariane

    Oh! and she is getting married next year, mom is so excited and proud!

  16. Hi Patti, i do not own a trench, the last one i had i cut the sleeves to make something out of it but did not know what exactly, lol. I do love a trench, i wish i had one but for the moment I rely on leather jacket for an edgy look this fall – Nice post by the way.

    Ariane – take care

    PS i love your cowboy shirt!

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