Of all garments with a military heritage, the trench coat remains the most sophisticated. Reigning from the early 20th century, it is one of the oldest army pieces still worn. The iconic style still stands today, reminiscent of times when soldiers had a dress code for war. No piece of outerwear is as romanticised as the classic trench coat, carefully balancing the lines of function and class for over 100 years. 

But when a coat has so much history riding on its back, how do you wear it without looking ready to go to a fancy dress party, or worse, creepy? There remains little guidance especially on how to style a trench coat for women, given it’s patriarchal past. But that’s where we have come in.

Read on for our ultimate buying styling guide on trench coats. From everything from length and sizing, suiting it to your body type, how to wear the trench coat in the warmer seasons and how to style it with jeans or dresses.

The Basics and Sizing

What size trench coat should I wear?

Given the versatility of a trench coat, it is important that you choose a size that will fit over various pieces of thick clothing but also look well-proportioned over a summer dress. Choose a size that is spacious enough to be worn over a blazer or thick-knit jumper. You could either stay true to size or choose one size up. This will entirely depend on the sizing of the manufacturer, so make sure to check the size guide against your own measurements if you are shopping online.

When trying on a trench coat to ensure the right fit, try it on with a chunky-knit jumper or your favourite smart blazer underneath. This way, you can ensure there will be enough space for layering. Our Audrey Oversized Trench Coat is a timeless style that can be thrown on over your thickest knitwear or blazers and still look effortlessly elegant.

How to wear a trench coat if you’re short

Fashion traditionalists would dictate that you cannot wear a long trench coat if you are short. However, with a new decade, comes a new disregard for fashion rules.

Don’t be afraid of trench coats if you’re on the shorter side. Trench coats can be very flattering on shorter frames due to the long lines’ ability to lengthen the leg. Just try not to choose a coat that is too long otherwise it could overwhelm your body frame.

A medium length trench coat is the safest, staple option for petite frames. It will also suit practically all outfits, from trousers to mini skirts. Our Freya Trench Coat typically sits above the knee on our garment models but could be worn longer depending on your height.

When choosing a petite coat for a smaller frame, you should also consider what you are wearing underneath. Opt for high waisted bottoms underneath to create the illusion of more length in the leg. Pair this top styled in a french tuck or something cropped for a well-balanced silhouette.

Freya Trench | Gloverall

How long should a trench coat be?

There is no right length for a trench coat. Rather, you should choose a coat based on your body type. As mentioned, above the knee trench coats are ideal for shorter frames as they will realistically be slightly longer on them. However, don’t be put off by maxi-length trench coats as they can look effortlessly chic too - as long as they don’t drag on the floor.

The only hard rule that we would recommend is to ensure that your trench coat is no shorter than above the knee (longer is fine). Any shorter would not offer the same showerproof benefit or sophistication that the trench coat is known for.

How to wear a trench coat belt

The classic way to wear a trench coat belt is to use the D-buckle. Simply wrap the belt through the loopholes and cinch at the waist using the D-buckle for an especially put-together look. This will also help provide the ultimate warmth and protection on a rainy commute.

Another way to wear a trench coat belt is to tie it around your waist, except rather than using the buckle, tie the belt into a double knot. This provides a nonchalant and effortless air of sophistication.

In the warmer months, try tying your trench coat belt behind your back into a bow and keeping the coat open. This will help hold your coat open whilst still maintaining an elegant silhouette. Ensure that your belt is looped into the back loops (ideally behind the sides of your back) then tie both ends into a bow behind your back. By tying the belt behind you, it opens your trench coat just enough to show your outfit without being too exposed.

The Seasons

How to wear a trench coat in the spring

The trench coat is the perfect springtime coat. Lightweight, easy to wear with a certain je ne sais quoi. To wear a trench coat in the spring, consider wearing it draped over your shoulders for a cool and relaxed look. For a nod to streetwear, style your trench coat by rolling up the sleeves, a bold pair of trainers and a cross-body bag.

For a more feminine look, pair your trench coat in the springtime with a floral midi dress or skirt. Loosely tie the belt behind your back for a less stiff approach. This will also show off your carefully curated ensemble whilst letting the spring breeze in. 

How to wear a trench coat in the summer

For a staple trench coat that you can wear in the summer, look for one in a neutral colour that will fit all seasons. Opt for beige, camel or light grey trench coats over black and navy. This will help reflect the sunlight and keep you cool in the warmer months. Carefully consider the fabric choice too. Choose trench coats that are created out of the classic showerproof fabric that this coat is known for over thicker fabrics.

To wear a trench coat in the summer, pair it with your usual semi-smart casual outfits. We’re talking light-wash jeans, flowy blouses and fresh white trainers. Or bohemian style summer dresses and tunics. The trench coat will look great with essentially every summer outfit, other than shorts, given their length. For a shorter jacket in the summer, we would recommend something like our Daisy Cropped Jacket to maintain a balanced silhouette that doesn’t drown you.

Daisy Cropped Jacket | Gloverall

How to style your trench coat

How to wear a trench coat casually

The trench coat is one of the few outerwear pieces that can be worn smart or casually. The surefire way to dress down a trench coat is to pair it with trainers. And given the neverending sportswear trend of the past year, it’s the perfect way to dress down a trench coat. The sharp angles of a trench coat’s lapels and paneling provide a rebellious contrast when paired with an oversized hoodie in a sumptuous cotton and neutral colour. Level up your look with a cross-body bag (luxury designer or an actual sports brand works) and a roll-up beanie or baseball cap.

If sportswear isn’t your type of thing but you want to know how to wear a trench coat casually, pay close attention to your colour palette. Try sticking to lighter colours for a casual feel. We’re talking beige or light grey trench coats paired with a crisp white t-shirt and light washed jeans for the perfect, nonchalant winter outfit.

How to wear a trench coat with a dress

Styling a dress with a trench coat will depend on the occasion and dress itself. After all, a trench coat is probably the only outerwear that could match your work-appropriate dresses. If your workplace has a business-formal dress code, invest in a few shift dresses in varying lengths (mini or midi) and a trench coat for the ultimate capsule work wardrobe. To play it safe, stick to neutral tones like black or beige - this way you can ensure that it will match any coloured dress underneath.

However, if you’re a longstanding member of the “all black everyday” colour palette party, why not branch out with your trench coat colour? Our Audrey Oversize Trench Coat is available in sophisticated, stormy tones such as a forest green and navy. The perfect choice when you want to inject some colour into your wardrobe without being an eyesore.

When faced with a formal do, we often come to the realisation that there are not a lot of outerwear options that suit formal dresses. That’s where the trench coat comes in. For formal occasions, trench coats are the perfect choice of outerwear for evening gowns and cocktail dresses. It’s a great, sustainable alternative to the usual fur coat that you might pair with a party dress, considering its materials and ability to be reworn countless times.

Audrey Oversize trench

How to wear a trench coat with jeans

Given their smart silhouette, trench coats have the innate ability to allow you to dress casually whilst still looking refined. To ensure that your ensemble is well-balanced, prioritise jean shapes that will not throw-off the flowing nature of a trench coat. Think skinny, straight leg and mum jeans over bootcuts or flares. For the ultimate, no-thoughts outfit that still provides Parisian chic, pair your trench coat with well-fitted skinny jeans, a breton striped t shirt and pointed heels.

Wearing jeans with your trench coat also provides a stylish but safe basis to be more adventurous with your shoes too. Have you got some loud trainers or boots that you are too shy to wear? Pair them with a fail-safe pair of mum jeans and a neutral toned trench coat to inject some personality into an otherwise classic outfit.

Despite the trench coat’s patriarchal roots, there are plenty of ways that women can wear trench coats and incorporate one into their everyday wear. For women looking to live a more minimalist lifestyle, a trench coat is the ultimate outerwear choice to incorporate into a capsule wardrobe given its ability to dress up or down. 

Given the trench coat’s versatility, it is important to invest in a staple piece that will see you through many years. Prioritise well-made pieces that are made by skilled craftsmen over a product of the fast fashion economy. Investing in a trench coat allows you to reap the benefits of the luxurious, showerproof materials and practical panelling that the historical piece was once known for, rather than buying one that might last you one commute of torrential downpour.