The trench might be over a hundred years old, but ironically its entire CV could be summed up in a few short paragraphs for the humble loosely-cut rain coat easily recognised by multiple pockets, lapels, buckles, a double row of buttons and belt only required three big steps to make women all over the world feel incomplete without one.
The invention of a classic rain coat is claimed by both Aquascutum and Burberry, however it was the Burberry coat that became the official uniform for British officers in 1914 to be worn during the WW1 (hense, the name trench as "being worn in trenches"), so allow me to believe that Aquascutumn designs made suitable for all military ranks came next.
If it wasn't for Yves Saint Laurent who adapted the utilitarian original, the trench would probably never become a part of a woman's wardrobe. In 1962 Saint Laurent designed his first coat - the black shiny trench was as a part of Fall/Winter couture collection and presented worn over a white evening dress. It sparked interest.
Her wardrobe including a glossy black trench was designed by Yves. Saint Laurent's ability to make women crave anything he created coupled with Deneuve's beauty and sex appeal transformed the coat into a symbol of "femme fatale", the raw sensuality restricted by sober layers of fabric, which it retained since. A good example would be an Agent Provocateur campaign starring Rosie Huntington-Whiteley wearing her Burberry Prorsum trench and just a few pretty little things underneath.
In 1967-68 Saint Laurent's trenches in classic gabardine or jersey made it to the pages of Women's Wear Daily and Vogue Paris. Throughout his career Saint Laurent continued transforming his original idea playing with shapes and fabrics including a leopard print version that appeared in mid-1980s. Not only did he create a source of endless inspiration for many designers to come, but took a humble military rain coat from the muddy trenches into a style stardom making it an indispensable wardrobe classic.
A few trenches from the Autumn/Winter 2015 runway...
And a tempting shopping list...
Photo source: Elle US August 2011 (photography: Terry Tsiolis, styling: Lester Garcia, model: Gwen Loos), Calvin Klein trench coat in Vogue UK September 1980, Gianfranco Ferre Spring/Summer 1986 campaign in Vogue US March 1986, Elle US October 1990 (photography: Gilles Bensimon, styling: Fanny Pagniez, model: Veronica Webb), Elle UK October 1990 (photography: Pamela Hanson, styling: Brana Woolf, model: Veronica Webb), Elle France December 1991, Vogue Italia October 1990, Yves Saint Laurent trench in Vogue US August 1992, Elle France April 1993, Elle US November 1993 (photography: Gilles Bensimon, styling: Nathalie Cezilly, model: Beverley Peel), Vogue Italia January 1994, Elle US February 1994 (photography: Gilles Bensimon, model + styling: Lauren Hutton), Vogue Italia March 1995, Vogue UK January 1998 (photography: Robert Erdmann, styling: Jayne Pickering, models: Beri Smither & Annie Morton), Vogue Italia October 2000, Burberry AW 2000 campaign, Vogue US February 2000 (photography: Michael Thompson, styling: Camilla Nickerson, model: Amber Valletta), Elle US August 2000 (photography: Gilles Bensimon, styling: Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele, model: Ashely Wood), Vogue US March 2002 (photography: Steven Meisel, model: Jacquetta Wheeller), Chanel SS 2004 campaign, Vogue US February 2006 (photography: Steven Meisel, model: Gemma Ward), Vogue US February 2009 (photography: Mikael Jansson, styling: Edward Enninful, model: Agyness Deyn), Vogue Italia June 2009 (photography: Steven Meisel, model: Julia Stegner), Vogue US March 2009 (photography: Patrick Demarchelier, styling: Marie-Amelie Sauve, model: Liya Kebede), Harper's Bazaar US April 2010 (photography: Daniel Jackson, styling: Alastair McKimm, model: Mirte Maas), Elle Ukraine April 2011 (photography: Stefano Galuzzi, styling: Aliona Gluhih, model: Viktoria Sasonkina), Marie Claire France September 2012 (photography: Max Cardelli, styling: Claire Dhelens, model: Anne-Marie Van Dijk), Vogue Spain September 2012, Vogue Paris February 2013 (photography: David Sims, styling: Emanuelle Alt, model: Andreea Diaconu), Elle Spain January 2013 (photography: Xavi Gordo, styling: Inmaculada Jimenez, model: Masha Novoselova), L'Officiel Netherlands June/July 2013 (photography: Daniel King, styling: Dianna Lunt, model: Nastassia Lindes), Vogue Spain February 2014 (photography: Victor Demarchelier, styling: Marina Gallo, model: Stina Rapp Wastenson), Elle Italia April 2014 (photography: Matt Jones, styling: Alberto Zanoletti, model: Carolyn Murphy), L'Officiel March 2014 (photography: Bjarne Jonasson, styling: Vanessa Belugeon), Vogue US December 2014 (photography: Karim Sadli, styling: Grace Coddington, model: Natalia Vodianova), Vogue Paris May 2014 (photography: Mikael Jansson, styling: Anastasia Barnieri, model: Edita Vilkeviciute), Marie Claire Australia March 2014 (photography: Troyt Coburn, styling: Jana Pokorny), Marie Claire March 2015, Vogue Spain February 2015 (photography: Benny Horne, styling: Sara Fernandez, model: Andreea Diaconu). Trench coats as seen on a runway at Burberry Prorsum Autumn/Winter 2015, Chloe, Dries van Noten, JW Anderson, Proenza Schouler, Valentino, Sonia Rykiel, Sportmax, Tod's.