Style + How To Wear It

Trench Warfare: Buying and Styling Trench Coats

I love coats. The only thing I dislike about summer is that I have to hang up my coats.  They’re the perfect way to pull together an outfit.  And my favorite of all coats, is the trench coat.

So let’s look at some of the loveliest trenches on sale this spring (most of them under-$250).  And if you already own a trench coat, we’ll talk about how to style your trench to give it new life.

The Basic Trench comes in three colors: brown, black, and navy.  A khaki or stone color is by far the most popular.  In the price range, the best reader-reviewed trench is from London Fog.  For a darker khaki, try this London Fog option.

In the market for black?  Calvin Klein has you covered.  Looking for navy?  I like this Ralph Lauren for a summery style, or this Brooks Brothers trench with navy buttons for a seasonless look.

Plus-size ladies should try this City Chic coat in khaki, also in black.  Petite ladies should try this London Fog trench in stone or black.  Maternity?  ASOS has you covered.

Alright, now that we’ve covered the basics…let’s bring on the fun trenches!  Give me color, give me style, give me life!

Stylish Trenches typically come in different colors (occasionally prints).  You can also go with a different style from the traditional buttoned down classic.

I love the warmth of this pink.  No cotton candy here.  I just love this ASOS trench in misses or petites.  If you’re afraid of a colored trench, this one is just as versatile as a stone trench thanks to the muted hue.

Last fall, all I wanted was an olive trench, but I demurred.  I thought it was a fad, that I’d be over it by spring.  Nope, not over it.  This Lucky Brand trench is a nice option.  I may splurge a little bit on this Club Monaco.  Plus-size?  Ralph Lauren has a nice olive trench.

Oh my gosh.  If you’re on board for a bright color, this Hobbs London is the truth.  For a less expensive option, this Jack Wills trench is deeper in color but just as phenomenal.  Other bright colors to try include red and teal.

Drape trenches are very popular right now.  This BCBG coat mixes three trends — the muted color, the tie sleeve, and the drape — into one chic coat.  If you’d like something more subtle, this grey trench from Nordstrom is lovely.  The Everlane drape trench is popular.

Styling Tips. My first trench styling tip is to push up the sleeves for a more casual look.  It has a relaxed chic to it.  Can’t keep your sleeves up?  Try a pair of men’s sleeve garters to help hold them up.

If you’re looking for a real high fashion look, try draping the trench over your shoulders.  It has a very devil-may-care appeal to it.

The square silk scarf is replacing the oversized scarf as the chic style for spring.  I mean, how cute does this silk scarf look tied around her neck in a vintage style?  For soft colors, try this Treasure & Bond scarf.  For something bolder, I like this Echo botanical scarf.  I also love this heart-print scarf with a blush trim.

Another option for jazzing up your coat is replacing the tie belt with a structured leather option.  This whipstitch double buckle is a nice belt.  This Zimmerman filigree belt is also a great choice.  Just remember to size up to accommodate the bulk of the coat.

Lastly, there are always the alterations options.  A few years ago, I took in an old stone-colored trench and had a tailor put a different fabric under the collar (inspired by this Zadig and Voltaire trench).  I’ve been thinking about having something embroidered on one of my old trenches because I love the look of this Karen Millen one so much.  You can also have the buckles and buttons changed out, or have a colored trim added to the lapels.

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  1. Tsampamama says:

    I’ve been looking for a single breasted trench coat forever as I find it more flattering for my body type than the double-breasted versions. Any suggestions? Thanks so much!

    March 14, 2018/Reply
    • SC says:

      London Fog makes some single-breasted ones — check their website.

      Also, this one from Nordstrom is nice.

      Single-breasted styles are more flattering on me too. 🙂

      March 16, 2018/Reply
  2. J says:

    I have the London Fog trench. The quality is “meh” at best. I will be taking it to the tailor to redo all the buttons before it actually gets warm enough to wear it. (Spring where are you!?!?) Mine is a little big. Any advice or resources on how a trench should fit? Thanks!!

    March 14, 2018/Reply
  3. Danielle says:

    If you are on the hunt for a Burberry trench keep your eyes open when you are at antique stores. l got a classic Burberry trench in immaculate condition, with wool liner, for $80 (I negotiated down from $100 for the missing hood). Burberry sizing is also odd – particularly the vintage sizing. So I always try stuff on. I’ve gotten two vintage Burberry coats this way.

    I now always run through the coats and the purses at antique stores. The piece de resistance was an authentic Balenciaga moto bag that I got for $50. They didn’t know what they had. I almost sprinted out of the store with it. I also grabbed a vintage Furla bag for $20 that has a really neat strap detail.

    It helps that I can find the most expensive thing in any store. It’s one of my skills.

    March 14, 2018/Reply
  4. k-t says:

    I would also love tips on quick and easy ways to tie the belt, both in front when the coat is buttoned, and behind when the coat is open. Seems like it should be so simple, but I get flummoxed.

    Tsampamama — I have a single-breasted trench from Lands’ End (and it is actually waterproof, unlike many), but it doesn’t look like the carry it at the moment. Worth stalking their site. Eddie Bauer and LL Bean are worth a look. Not exactly fashion powerhouses, but good for true classics. I’ve heard good things about the trench from Talbots, too.

    March 14, 2018/Reply
    • Allison says:

      Yes! When I tie them in front they never stay tied as I’m carrying stuff and navigating the bus, but when I tie it behind me I feel like I have a tail. I have one with a buckle, but honestly I throw the jacket on last thing before rushing out and I don’t want time to deal with the buckle.

      March 14, 2018/Reply
      • Anna says:

        Not sure about a trench but I have a belted wool coat, and I basically tie a single knot but don’t bring the right side all the way through, so there’s a loop sticking out up top. That stays put decently well at my waist.

        March 14, 2018/Reply
    • A says:

      I always tie a square knot, but on the second tie, loop the longer piece into a slip knot. Then I put both tails through a pull. It makes a neatly laying and secure knot that is really easy to undo.

      March 20, 2018/Reply
  5. CJ says:

    Do you have any tips on length? I have a Banana Republic trench that I bought a few years ago and almost never wear because I feel like the length is a bit awkward/too long. I want to get it tailored but I’m not sure how short to go. Any suggestions on where a trench should hit on your body?


    March 14, 2018/Reply
    • Belle says:

      That really depends on your body type. I’m pear-shaped, so I like mine to hit above the knee, about mid-thigh.

      March 14, 2018/Reply
  6. Leigh says:

    I recently bought the ASOS petite classic trench in pink and I *love* it. The color is muted and works well with a range of outfits. I wear it to work and on the town. The fit is excellent; I used the ASOS Fit Assistant (“find out what size people like you bought”) to pick the size and it was right on. I am 5’4″ and the petite sleeve and overall length are perfect. I found a 20% off coupon, so for around $70 I am very happy with the purchase.

    March 14, 2018/Reply
    • Belle says:

      I’m so glad! There are few things better than buying something and knowing it was a great purchase.

      March 15, 2018/Reply
  7. Caitlin says:

    It definitely helps that the styling on the pink trench is like, perfect. Classy enough for you to imagine it in the office, but casual and cool enough for the weekend. I have a pink utility jacket that I’m kind of meh on that might get replaced with the petite trench.

    March 19, 2018/Reply