The spring or summer trench coat is something we’ve been seeing a good deal of this season. A garment which fits nicely with the minimalist 90s styling we’ve seen around, and which doesn’t jar with the sport-luxe trend, the summer trench coat is a versatile garment which can help to pull your spring/summer wardrobe together. We’ve pulled some style, fabric and pattern suggestions together here – and you can see more on our dedicated Pinterest board.
From historical origins…
The trench coat took the shape we know today during WW1, although elements hark back to earlier practical military styles. Both men and women adopted it after the war, during which time it evolved into a number of variations on a loosely-cut raincoat with practical pockets, a lapel which could be buttoned up to the neck, a self-belt and, most often, double-breasted rows of buttons. Quintessential (then) British company Aquascutum was an early manufacturer; Burberry too – both producing officers’ raincoats with their waterproof fabrics. Both companies managed to translate the eminently practical trench coat into a fashion garment which has proved to have extraordinary longevity. Aquascutums’ rain capes were (apparently) popular with Suffragettes, whereas Burberry helped equip both Amundsen and Shackleton in their respective explorations of Antarctica.
…to popular culture.
Humphrey Bogarde, Hepburns both Audrey and Katharine, Catherine Deneuve – all people it’s difficult to envision without thinking of the trench coat.
Dietrich, Monroe, Streep – these and more have helped the trench coat become a style staple in cinema. Over the years Yves Saint Laurent has played with it – and more recently, Kate & Cara have been playing in it…
The SS16 summer trench coat – defining the decade?
The latest reincarnation of the trench coat was first spotted by an eagle-eyed colleague in September 2015. Suranne Jones as Doctor Foster was seen in at least two (possibly 3) versions.
Our personal favourite was a very 1990s-looking long flowing number – possibly in a cupro twill if we’d had to put money on it. That image has proved elusive but it was enough to set our minds a-racing. The 1990s theme is a strong one at the moment – we’re seeing wider, more flowing garments across the board, with long, triangular silhouettes prevailing as you can see from these recent catwalk examples.
Having evolved on the catwalk over the last 2-3 years, these longer lines have filtered down to the High Street – we snapped this display in Anthropologie just last week… It’s a big adjustment – we haven’t seen long skirt/long coat combinations this dramatic since the early 1980s and we’re intrigued to see where it all goes.
In this month’s Vogue, Sarah Harris pondered the styles that might come to be emblematic of the current decade. She referred to a 1975 Vogue article by the much-missed Angela Carter, in which Carter referred to that point in time as the ‘hinge of the decade’. Harris conjectured that less structured, more sporty, urban and comfortable styling would in time be seen as the defining style of the current decade. (She then hedged her bets by suggesting also that individuality and rebellion were also very much defining themes of fashion right now, effectively leading to no single overriding trend but we’ll move on…)
Defining the SS16 summer trench coat
Certainly the current incarnation of the summer trench coat would bear this out. We’re seeing much less in the way of detailing. Collars, lapels, pockets and belts are still there but some of the SS16 models don’t even have sleeves. Shoulder tabs, gun flaps and even buttons are strictly optional. Lines are longer, cuts less fitted, fabrics less structured; more flowing. We’d go so far as to say that the SS16 summer trench coat owes as much to the 1930s housecoat as it does to the traditional trench coat.
We’ve lots of fabric inspiration for you if you’re thinking about a summer trench coat – you can click here to see our suggestions.
They include medium and heavier-weight linen fabrics which are perfect if you like a breatheable garment that feels cool and drapes well. These will rumple while being worn, so have a more casual – but still elegant – appearance.
Cotton drill fabrics come in a variety of weights – drills tend to be more structured – while twill fabrics will drape more, depending on their weight. These are usually cotton-based fabrics so again, are breatheable – and some have a spandex element, providing some stretch and ease for more fitted styles.
Viscose-based fabrics move well – they tend to have a more flowing drape – and as a natural fibre will still be comfortable to wear. Many will be lighter-weight dress and top fabrics but there are heavier ones which will be perfect.
These are all fabrics that should be washable (check with our fabric care advice or ask us for more details). However if you choose to line your summer trench coat then bear in mind that as with many lined garments where the lining is a different fabric composition from the outer fabric, dry cleaning is recommended as the two fabrics may well respond differently to washing.
Those of you who’ve not embarked upon coat-making should be reassured that it’s easier than you think! Yes indeed, welt pockets and collar insertions can be a bit scary but have a go – you’ll surprise yourself. As Esme Young said on the GBSB this week – ‘Keep sewing’ – the more you do, the better you’ll get. We think the unlined, unstructured summer trench coat is a fabulous entry point to coat construction and we’ve found the following patterns.
This Linen coat pattern by BurdaStyle is one we’re dying to try. You don’t need to use a linen, but the casual styling of the coat will suit the fabric well, we think. It’s cut on the cross so we think it will suit that ‘lively’ natural drape that linen has. If you try it before we do, let us know how you get on!
This pattern for an unlined trench coat is also from BurdaStyle. Scroll fown to find out more about it – and how we got on with our make.
Vogue Pattern 8884 isn’t one we’ve tried – but we liked the neat fit and the empire-line detail breaking up the front and lending a little bit of structure to the design.
The independent pattern companies tend not to have as much outerwear to offer but we found the ‘Isla’ trench coat by Named Patterns. It has lots of classic detailing which may not be what you want this season – but it’s worth bearing in mind that you can subtract these elements more easily than you can add them.
About our summer trench coat
We must have unwittingly tapped into the zeitgeist when we created our summer trench coat using our Muted olive green linen mix fabric. No sooner had we finished our garment and scheduled photography than our remaining stock flew off the website – although we’re delighed to report it’s now back in stock. We suspect its popularity may have had something to do with the M&S ‘Frances’ trenchcoat as styled by Alexa Chung in their recent archive-inspired collections. It sold out within days – but people are obviously deciding to make their own – and why not?
We also have lots of alternative fabric options for you to consider.
As mentioned, we used BurdaStyle’s Trench Coat pattern 04/2010 to create our summer trench coat. We found that the sizing (based on measurements) was reassuringly accurate. You’ll need to be aware that there are pattern pieces in your printout that belong to another pattern style – be careful and cut only the ones you want. Likewise, there’s a pleat in the back of our trenchcoat that we decided to keep in the end (partly-stitched as an ease pleat from the waist upwards) although this too was not meant to be part of the style we chose. It affected our pattern cutting layout quite a lot but we weren’t wise to it until we were attaching the collar (although if we’d had our wits about us perhaps…) We added about 15cm to the length to balance out the additional fabric.
We particularly like the sleeve pleat details – which we echoed in the accidental back pleat in the end. For now, we’ve left off buttons and buckles just to help give a relaxed air to our trench coat. We did like the well-cut collar and lapels – also we bound all our seams before construction since this isn’t a lined coat.
The only tricky bit was the welt pocket – with experience and patience these turned out well but if you’re new to them, it’s worth practicing a couple of times with some fabric scraps, perhaps using a more expansive, illustrated set of instructions rather than the usual read-between-the-lines version of events provided by the ever-concise BurdaStyle… We think this sew-along guide from Colette Patterns is a useful one you might like to practice with.
On the plus side, our summer trench coat has raglan sleeves, meaning that there’s no tricky sleeve-setting to worry about.
Despite a false start amid a rain storm, we finally managed to take some pictures in the evening sun… Our summer trench coat is set to get plenty of wear – let us know how you get on!