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TRENCH COAT. THE WORD IS LOADED.

Sathya Saran  (click here to know more about this blogger)

Trench coat.
The word is loaded.
Depending on what your emotional button is tuned to.. trench coats can mean different things. Romance.. of one kind. If your heart beats a little faster watching Bogart in 'Casablanca', or more recently Ben Affleck in 'Argo' (wearing trench coats.. what else). Romance of quite another timbre if you have been watching war films or love war stories. Of course, if you are a brand fan, then a trench coat is also a status symbol.. a way of telling the world that, even if it is a dreary rainy day, you have arrived! Incidentally, Clark Kent also wears a trench coat before he morphs into Superman!

 
Trench coats are one item of clothing that have history which also adds to their timeless appeal. Descendant of the sticky rubber rainwear that was apportioned to soldiers, the trench was created as a more comfortable, lighter alternative and used by soldiers in the British and French army during the First World War. Later changes in design and fabric helped make it staple wear during WWII. But it was the fact that only a certain class of officers were allowed to own and wear trench coats that perhaps added the first element of aspiration to what could otherwise have remained a mere raincoat. Many continued to wear their trench coats even after the war because of the convenience and lightness, making it an item of regular wear. It marked them out as war veterans who had fought for the winning side and helped wrest victory, and that gave the trench coat an iconic overtone.
 
Of course growing up in India, trench coats were things I only saw in movies from the West. Even then, I remember thinking that unlike the bulky coats most people wore in winter, this garment had movement. It flattered the wearer. Naturally all this was vicarious stuff. All I had access to during my school days in Guwahati, where the monsoon would come with alarming regularity twice a year, was the regulation sticky plastic raincoat that was considered apt by the convent authorities. Was there ever a reason to own a trench? Not really.. even when I moved to Bombay where though it pours buckets for three months of the year, it was never cold enough for a trench. And anyway, where could you get one!
 
But I did get one with no idea where I would wear it. It sat on a mannequin in a shop overseas that sold vintage garments and I stopped short. Now I am one of those who can hear clothes calling out to me and this abandoned Burberry literally shouted out. I am your size, it said, and I am so, so lonely. I hesitated. I am history, it added, the guys who made me invented the trench.. and this was a bit louder.. I might even be affordable! That did it. I took a deep breath and walked in. Of course you know I walked out with my purse much lighter and the trench was lonely no longer. In the wardrobe where it hung, there were enough clothes to keep it company while I waited for an opportunity to wear it. I think the most 'paisa vasool' opportunity came when on a train trip courtesy Rail Europe through Germany.. it rained every single day and the trench was my companion, friend and protector.. ably shielding me from the cold and wet as we lugged our bags from station to hotel or lined up for cabs while the weather did its worst.
 
Meanwhile I had read up some trench coat history trying to understand what made my coat so light and yet so hardy. It was amazing to know that the fabric was a modified version of long staple Egyptian cotton that was put through a special waterproofing treatment before weaving and again after it was woven. My father had worn gabardine pants at some point but now I knew that gabardine was a special name given by Burberry to the treated cotton that they fashioned their trenches out of. More research told me that trenches also come in leather but that it is not politically right to wear one because the Nazis favored them during the killing days of WWII.
 
I think every owner of a trench coat has stories to tell. I have one about the green khadi trench that Sabyasachi gifted me, saying he did not know anyone else who would wear it. Well I did. As we toured Burgundy recently.. tasting wines and enjoying the wonderful countryside.. the lime green trench proved handy indeed. And reminded me to keep indulgences in check.. if I still wanted the buttons to meet. And there is yet another story about the time, when at the end of a driving tour through Ireland with a colleague and friend as navigator, we finally drew up at the airport at Belfast. The weather had turned warm and sunny after a bout of rain so my vintage Burberry was folded and lay in the back seat next to the hand luggage. As she pulled out her carry bag.. the trench coat slid along and landed in a sea of slush; in one swift moment it turned one light colored sleeve a dirty black. Of course my friend was contrite.. my face must have been quite eloquently dismayed. She quickly rolled up the coat planning to carry it back home and have it dry cleaned before returning it. I knew better. As we waited for the flight.. I washed the dirty sleeve in the washroom sink and dried it with a towel, then under the hand drier. By the time we boarded, my coat was as good as new and my friend could leave her guilt behind.
 
But know something? The appeal of the trench coat never wanes. Every time I pass the Burberry store in The Palladium, there is a new coat beckoning to me. In rich new colors like purple and maroon, some quilted, some single breasted, some long and slim, others short and sassy. Who said the best way to handle temptation is to yield to it? Oscar Wilde I think. Well, I did. And now my wardrobe has a new trench, this one is black and knee high.. I am sure it will give me a story to share too.. sometime. For now I am looking for an opportunity just to be able to wear it! Any ideas?
 
SATHYA SARAN IN HER LIME GREEN TRENCH. Pic: Rakhi Agarwal
 
05-MARCH-2013
 
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7 Comments
 
10-MARCH-2013 SHASHI Ranjan
Ma'm , here is the link of his blog and facebook page. http://wearabout.wordpress.com/ http://www.facebook.com/wearabout?fref=ts
 
 
06-MARCH-2013 Sathya Saran
Where can i contact Manou, Shashi?
 
 
06-MARCH-2013 mahesh dasgupta
love your blogs Sathya
 
 
06-MARCH-2013 inder pal
loved reading it.
 
 
06-MARCH-2013 Ajit Pal
well written..
 
 
05-MARCH-2013 SHASHI Ranjan
Street fashion photographer and blogger Manou is doing Art of Trench project in India.
 
 
05-MARCH-2013 Meher Castelino
Trench coats are great but don't own one yet because I don't know where to wear it in this hot weather. Anyone making trench coats in net or chiffon??
 
 
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