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Everything you need to know to find your perfect ‘forever’ trench coat

Photography By Michael Comninus for RIISE
Published 14.07.22

I just turned 25 and, to celebrate this quarter-life milestone, I decided to finally build out my capsule wardrobe.

What can I say, I’m maturing. I’ve pared my wardrobe back to a collection of staples that align with my personal style, treating new clothing purchases more like a marriage than a short-term fling. That’s not to say I won’t ever go rogue and “colour out of the lines” with an outrageous purchase again, but for the most part I’m embracing this uncomplicated approach to dressing.

I’ve already ticked a chunk of capsule essentials off: a dress perfect for all seasons, a skirt I can pair with anything and jeans that actually fit in all the right places. The last item on the list, which also proved to be the hardest decision to make, was a trench coat.

There are a range of factors to consider when looking for that perfect trench: price point, style, fabric and fit are some of the biggies. So how do you pick the coat that will look best on you and last the distance? I’ve compiled the findings of my own trench coat quest (which ended with finding “the one” that ticks all the boxes for me) to help you with this big life decision. Consider this your ultimate guide to investing in a trench.

Invest in a style that will stand the test of time 

The right coat is a lifelong investment, but how much should you spend on a good-quality garment? If you’re looking for a coat that is ethically produced and made from high-grade materials, it’s going to come at a price. But once you factor in the cost-per-wear value of this item, that initial outlay isn’t so bad.

To ensure you are making a smart investment, it’s important to consider the longevity of the signature style you choose. While it’s tempting to live the full Cruella de Vil fantasy, a colour-blocked faux fur number will date quickly.

Before settling on something more simple, I toyed with multiple coat personalities, picturing myself as Carrie Bradshaw in a patchwork-esque number, scuttering across a Manhattan thoroughfare in four-inch heels, or David Bowie sauntering out of a subway station in a black leather trench (sans cigarette). Both are equally fabulous but don’t necessarily line up with who I am day-to-day: just your average millennial multitasker trying to look put together with as little effort as possible. To meet these needs, I knew I needed a coat that was easy to throw over anything and look effortlessly chic.

If simplicity and timelessness also make sense in the context of your life, we recommend investing in a classic style: something tailored, with clean lines and in a neutral colour. Arnsdorf’s beige Alessandra Trench Coat ticks all of these boxes. It’s a versatile wardrobe staple that can be worn throughout the seasons and you can style it loose or cinched in at the waist. (FYI, this is the all-rounder that won a place in my capsule wardrobe.)

If you prefer a classic coat that’s a little more oversized and relaxed, Arnsdorf’s Lauren Coat fits the bill. It’s made from 100 per cent recycled wool and has been crowned the perfect style for winter layering. 

Ultimately, you need to find a style that suits your shape, wardrobe and seasonal needs and one that you will feel comfortable in for decades to come (big boots – or shoulders – to fill, I know). As stylist Natalie Petrevski told Harper’s Bazaar: “Don’t underestimate your gut instincts. And don’t forget that while you might think you look ‘safe’, someone else is looking at you building their own fantasy of dressing that way.” 

What’s on the label matters

When it comes to the material your coat is made from, look for natural fibres or recycled synthetics. Natural fibres like wool and cashmere are perfect for cooler weather as they have balanced thermal insulation properties and are highly durable (not to mention soft on the skin).

If you’re after something a little lighter, particularly if you’re not in a location that gets freezing, linen is your go-to. Linen is lightweight and breathable making it a great trans-seasonal option too. UNIKSPACE’s Victor Linen Coat has a beautiful relaxed approach to tailoring and features hidden side seam pockets and a high centre-back split. On cooler winter evenings it’s an easy coat to layer over statement knitwear.

If you’re buying synthetics – which are often used for trench coats due to their water-resistant properties – recycled varieties are the best way to keep your environmental impact down.

Know your fits

When it comes to nailing the fit, there are a few things to consider, including your height and shape and its use. If it gets really cold or rains a lot where you live, make sure there’s enough room to fit warm layers underneath and that the material is weather-appropriate. 

My fellow shorties will need to check coat measurements carefully to ensure the arms don’t hang inches over your hands and that the hem doesn’t drag along the ground. The same goes for tall girls wanting to avoid cold exposed wrists. 

If you wear any coat with confidence you’re going to look great. With that being said, typically certain coats work better on different body types. For someone petite, extremes work well, like opting for a short jacket that finishes at the hips or something super long. Those with an hourglass figure should accentuate their hips, so look for a trench coat that cinches in at the waist or has a tie. If you’re a rectangular shape and tall, you’re in luck: oversized coats will look great (and, bonus, it’s the style that’s on-trend right now). Lastly, for an inverted triangle shape with broader shoulders, opt for a more relaxed fit where you can leave it loose and open. 

How to get the most out of your new investment

The best thing about buying a classic coat is its ability to pair with anything already in your wardrobe. For styling inspiration, you can always look to your favourite celebrities or style icons. Heading to brunch with your girlfriends? Take notes from the master of casual “cool girl” dressing (AKA
Alexa Chung) by pairing your coat with jeans, sneakers and a bucket hat. Or, if you’re looking to dress it up for a night on the town, pop it over your favourite dress for a low-lift glam look Rihanna would approve of.

There’s an infinite amount of inspiration out there to keep your coat in rotation forever – you just need to find a good-quality one that will stand the test of time first. 

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