Tales of the Burberry Trench Coat

Photo @couturenotebook

Photo @couturenotebook

Ever since Christopher Bailey took over the direction of Burberry in 2001, he has been on a mission to reposition the image of the sleeping giant, known for its distinctive check pattern and the hard-wearing water-proof gabardine fabric used to create the classic trench coats.

This is evident at the recently opened exhibition, Tales of the Trench Coat, which presents different models from the last 10 years, juxtaposing traditional looking trench coats against more recent interpretations, from one with emerald green lace that has a fishtail flair at the hem to a version in hot pink fabric that resembles foil, or another embellished with crystals.

While gabardine, a hard-wearing water-proof fabric was invented by Thomas Burberry in 1879, the trench coat as we know it today was developed as a uniform for British military officers in 1902. The coat got its name from trench warfare during WW1.



Initially trench coats were double-breasted and tailored to the waist, in keeping with the style of other items in officers’ uniforms. The small cape across the shoulders allows water to slough off, while the epaulettes were initially included for rank identification and the pleat at the back provided ease of movement. The belt came with D-rings for accessories (such as map cases, binoculars) and weapons, while straps at the sleeve cuffs can be tightened for protection from the weather.

Post-war, the trench coat was remodeled as a garment for the middle and upper class, acquiring its iconic plaid lining in 1924. Its appeal flourished when it became the uniform for spies and detectives in Hollywood films, worn by the likes of Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca or Peter Sellers in the Pink Panther.


The exhibition underlines the different processes required to create a Burberry trench coat, from the pattern cutting to the most complicated crafting of the collar and the stitching of the cuff straps and belt.

This year, Burberry introduced the tropical gabardine. A lighter-weight alternative to the regular weatherproof cotton, it is made with finer gossamer threads, and examples are also on display.



Sadly there are no example of the one-off couture capelets (below) that were introduced in February on the London runway, an interesting upmarket move by the British brand. The capes are currently being exhibited in New York and will travel to Seoul, Tokyo, Paris and Los Angeles later this year

The Tales of the Trench Coat is running until April 23 at Burberry in ION Orchard.