Insights • Inspirations • Destinations • Design

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Trench Coats And Other Fashion Question Marks

So. This post's gonna cause a lot of up-in-arms. (Although judging by how stylish you all are, they'll most likely be Marc Jacobs-clad ones.) But I think there are some things that need to be said. Or at least discussed in a reasonable fashion.

It has to do with just that.

I've been browsing through the glamour blogs – or 'glogs', as a friend of mine calls them – and I've started to realise that some of the things many of us think of as 'fashion classics' – such as the beige trench coat, the white shirt and so on – are actually rather challenging to get right.

Before you all start to pummel me with your Kelly bags, let me try and explain. And then give me a ten-minute head-start to get away.

The Beige Trench 
Ah, the ol' trench coat, as Maxwell Smart would say. Now I know a lot of women love trenches, so I'm gonna try to be tactful about what I write. I can't promise anything though so if you're wearing a beige trench right now, look away.

Beige is not an easy colour to wear. It makes many blondes look bleached, and many brunettes look even more consumptive. I don't know about you but I'm not aiming for the TB look this year.

Designers often try to lift the colour up a notch, but it still tends to sit on the dull, dishwater-y side. I mean, look at the shade of the Burberry trench above. What would you call that? Gobi Desert?

Even the colour sounds a little boring. Beige.

And I know we shouldn't mention the war, but beige trench coats make me think of the French resistance. And of course English troops too. (NB Did you know that only officers and Class 1 Warrant Officers were allowed to wear them? No other ranks were permitted to. I suspect the other ranks were quietly pleased about this.)

So. I'm thinking that it's time to let the epaulettes go. Rest in peace little shoulder pads. And as for that little D-ring that was supposedly for the attachment of hand grenades? Well, I mean who's carrying hand grenades around nowadays? John Galliano?

Yes people, it's time to let the beige trench die a dignified death.

Oh – one other argument. Beige trench coats are so ubiquitous now that I'm tickled pink when I see one in colour. Wouldn't you rather be standing next to the pink girl (above) at a Trench Coat Convention? Me too. Doesn't she look much more FUN?

In saying this, there's always an exception. The always-glam Janet from The Gardener's Cottage blog looks splendid in her J.Crew number.

(By the way, French fashion law dictates that trenchcoats should be tied, never buckled, with the tie positioned slightly to the right. Or the left – I can't remember. Even better, leave the belt untied. It gives a more elegant line. And the sleeves should be pushed up slightly to show the wrist. Or so I've been told. But again, Janet proves you can do what you want and still look hot.)

Short Skirts on Women over 20 Years Of Age
Coco Chanel believed that women over 20 should never show their knees. (Okay, over 40. I'm just stretching the truth for the argument.) And I have to say, I'm beginning to feel the same. Knees are ugly. Have you ever see a pretty one? Even Ms Wintour's are a little on the bony side. Skirts are SO much prettier when the hems are not up around your eyeshadow. Chanel believed that skirts should skim the knees. And so do I. A hint of knee is elegant. An entire kneecap is frightening.

Feel free to disagree with me on this. I know a lot of friends who do.

White shirts
I've had a love/hate relationship with white shirts for years. I know the collars frame your face well. I know the white lightens your complexion. (Which is why Chanel often put white collars on her black dresses.) I know the cuffs look sexy. And I know the whole outfit makes people think you are clever, competent, and classically stylish. But busty girls can't wear them. I don't know why but it's true. Maggie Alderson once did a column on this. She agreed with me. I can't even wear Anne Fontaine's designs. (The High Priestess of the White Shirt Wearers – pictured above.) My boobs would look very bad in this.

White shirts look best on lithe figures. If you're a girl with cleavage and you want to wear a white shirt (as I do), then you need to find one that's fitted. Such as this. Isn't it pretty? Just love those cuffs. Such a sexy part of a shirt, don't you think? I call this the 'Librarian Chic' look. Love it.

Suede is fashion's biggest farce. I know many of you agree with me on this. Whoever thought of it really needs to be taken out the back and horse whipped with cow hide. It's a fabric that only looks good in the store. Once you put it on – especially shoes – it picks up bits of fluff and dust, wears thin within the first week and attract water like nothing else. Seriously. I once had a pair of suede shoes in London that I didn't dare wear. Eventually I took them out of the closet for a big First Date. It was supposed to be sunny that afternoon but wearing suede is like doing a rain dance: a shower is bound to fall. And when it does: so long suede. You can kiss those little cuties goodbye.

(PS Sorry Christian Louboutin. Normally I loved your shoes. But just not in suede. Not even hot pink suede.)

[Image at very top via Kate Spade]


  1. Janelle - loved this post. And I think you have raised your head above the firing line but you are right on the fact that the colour of the trad. trench coat is sometimes hmmm, well a little bland! (And love the comment about John Galliano and the D ring for attachment of the hand grenade!!).
    The white shirt - and again try as I might (and I have, many times) never yet found one that makes me look that fabulous. Perhaps I should have a go at the one you show.
    But suede, gorgeous suede - I have a love affair with suede even though it doesn't look gorgeous for ever. It pulls me in every time. S x

    1. Yes I fear the fashion firing line is right Sarah! I don't know what I was thinking? The beige trench coat lovers are going to lynch me!
      And I do know about suede. I love it too. But it's just so.... impractical! Or perhaps it's for women who can afford Town Cars to carry them around? Or perhaps you are just far more ladylike than me and don't step in as many puddles?

  2. So true Janelle, so true.
    I thought Janet looked absolutely gorgeous in her trench, so much so that I want to steal her style! Would you believe, last night received an email from J Crew advising now shipping to Australia (also stating free shipping for the first month, but the prices do look like shipping costs are built in). So is it a sign?

    1. Yes Claire, Janet should have her own TV show! Glam on $10 A Day! It would be a huge hit. She could make a burlap sack look fantastic.

      Yes, I received the J. Crew email too! How spooky...

  3. You and I have a mutual friend who could tell you in minute detail why only the beige will do and exactly how wrong the pink one is!!!
    Personally I wear Sass & Bide ankle length denim, no skirts, cannot live without my white shirts and absolutely have to have that one!!!
    I do love long trench coats on men!!!
    P.S My daughters would both like the pink coat and yes, that's who I want to be standing next to too!!!!! xxx

  4. I'm so happy to be corrected. I love a good fashion debate! And yes, the pink isn't very French. More English perhaps. (And I couldn't wear that pink.) But I do like it that colour is coming into the trench coat world!

    You, Jules, are so beautiful, that I imagine you'd look great in anything, even the simplest of white shirts! (They're a wardrobe staple in the magazine world, aren't they?)

    BTW, I always wear dresses and skirts. Even in the garden. How odd is that?

    PS Sass & Bide... ? I KNEW you were stylish!

  5. Funny you should write this - I'm getting around in my beige burberry trench today (it's raining)! I love it (it's a bit more interesting than the classic as it has zips on it in a few places. Actually that sounds hideous, but it does work). I recently had a passport photo taken while I was wearing it. I hadn't put any consideration into what I was wearing for the photo and just happened to be wearing it, but my GOD, did I look like I needed a holiday - so washed out (plus looked like I was trying to masquerade as some sort of cold war era spy).

    Just back from Italy, and have to say, you NEED to stay at JK Place in Florence. It is divine. Truly, every little detail. We only had one problem - my husband set fire to the newspaper one morning at breakfast in the conservatory as the table was all decked out with little candles (very atmospheric, but dangerous!). The bar you featured on here was great - we pretty much collapsed in there after walking for hours!

    1. Hi Heide,
      So lovely to hear about your trip! Thank you for telling me. I can't wait to stay at JK Place. Is it really as gorgeous as it looks?
      Do hope you and hubby had a romantic time there. Great story about the newspaper!
      And thank you for your funny comment about the beige trench too. I'm sure it looked beautiful though.

  6. I still love it in beige but am enjoying seeing the ones in delicious colours. Fiona

    1. Well, I'm sure you're one of those who looks absolutely beautiful in beige Fiona!

  7. I cracked up when I read this Janelle. I have been in search of the perfect trench for the longest time and have decided that I am fashion challenged. I have gone into Burberry, Aquasutum and the likes and you would think that I just might find something. No! I am not saying I do not have a few beige creations floating between closets over the past years but at this point in my life...I agree, it is boring.

    If I could find a light slate grey/bluish raincoat, a cross between uber-chic and the ultimate travel coat for all climates and seasons, I would be happy. How hard could this be? I reckon the bluish grey colour would go with the oodles of scarves that are now collecting in my closets as it seems every time I go in search of a raincoat, I come home with another scarf. This may be why I love easy! I would jump at a well tailored cape raincoat. Enough on raincoats!

    White shirts..another challenge. I just bought out H&M men's button down white shirts for around the house and more. I love them.

    Suede...I bought black suede boots from Moloh on Pimlico Rd when I moved to London and I adore them. They are lined in the softest red leather, say no more. I have brown and black suede pumps. All very traditional.

    As for the pink beauties above...give me an elegant cocktail bar and the right 'frock' and just maybe, I would do the walk in them. It might be one off..but it sure would be fun.

    Sorry for the length of this just bring it out in me!

    Best wishes

  8. Mmm, I love H&M, but had never thought of buying a man's shirt. Great idea!

    And yes, a pale blue trench would be PERFECT! I saw one on a woman tonight while we were walking the dogs. It was the perfect coat.

    Glad I made you laugh.


    Oh – and those black suede boots sound fab.

  9. ahh janelle, i just found this post. so sweet of you to include me in your trench report. thank you for your most kind words too, i'm truly honored. xo janet

  10. Hi please could you tell me where I can get the white wrap-around shirt?


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