Pattern Roundup: Trench Coats
Sew an always fashionable, always functional raincoat with crisp military touches.
A trench coat is a challenging sewing project, but the effort pays off because the useful finished garment is a timeless style. From its original purpose, protecting British officers from the elements in World War I trenches, the trench coat has evolved and branched into high-fashion interpretations. Fabrications have evolved from waterproofed linen twill to evening versions in satin and lace, and casual renditions in cotton twill.
Famous trench coats include the traditional gabardine version worn by Humphrey Bogart in The Maltese Falcon (1941). Bogart wore a trench coat in another classic film, Casablanca (1942). The characters he portrayed were smart, resourceful, and enigmatic, qualities that transferred to the garments he wore, at least in the public imagination.
In January 2019, Christie’s auction house sold a pink silk faille trench coat designed by Yves Saint Laurent for French actress Catherine Deneuve. It was part of the designer’s Boutique Haute Couture Spring/Summer 2000 collection. Deneuve was a muse to Saint Laurent for more than four decades. A single item in a large collection up for auction, the trench coat sold for the equivalent of $5,040, more than four times its auction value estimate.
If you are ready to create your own trench coat, know that sewing patterns for this utilitarian garment can vary in the details as well as the textile recommendations. These looks delve into the many elements that go into a true trench coat, such as storm shields to shed rain, wrist belts to close the cuffs against the cold, and epaulets to securely hold a bag strap. Enjoy the challenge—and the results—of sewing a trench coat.
Click “Launch Gallery” below to view six trench coat designs with classic details.
For Insiders: See more information about fabrics, designs, and sewing tips in “Sew Fashionable Rainwear” by Claire Meldrum, Threads #148 (April/May 2010), “Sewing Vinyl Fabrics” by Don Morin, Threads #184 (April/May 2016), and “Fabric Lab: Laminated cotton” by Rae Cumbie, Threads #191 (June/July 2017).
Click on these pattern links for pattern illustrations and to purchase any of the designs:
BurdaStyle magazine’s Trench Coat 09/12 #103 is available as a print-at-home PDF pattern, or it can be traced from a pattern sheet in the issue. The skill rating is intermediate, and the size range is European 36 to 44 for busts from 33 inches up to 39.5 inches in circumference. This trench coat falls to calf length and features raglan sleeves, epaulets, a tie belt, and additional utilitarian touches. Suggested fabrics are wool or wool blends. The design melds feminine elements, such as the princess seams and the rounded corner on the storm shield, with crisp topstitching and military flair.
The Isla Coat by Named Clothing is rated as a challenging design to sew, but it has many details to recommend it.
Sewaholic Patterns are designed for a body type with a smaller bust and larger hips than typical pattern blocks. The Robson trench coat pattern has set-in sleeves, rounded lapels, double front storm shields and a buttoned back cape, and a flattering full shape below the belted waist to just below the knee. The design, rated advanced, is unlined and features bound and topstitched seam allowances throughout. The Robson’s size range is 0 to 16, for busts from 30 inches up to 41 inches in circumference. The fabric possibilities are broad. Consider any lightweight woven that you are confident about sewing and topstitching precisely.
For a faithful take on a famous trench coat maker’s classic design, check out the Silhouette Patterns Barbara trench coat. It is double-breasted with set-in sleeves, wrist straps, epaulets, and a left-front storm shield. In addition to the details in the design, this pattern has two important fitting improvements: It comes with separate pattern pieces for B, C, and D bust cup sizes, and it is designed with a French dart for a more feminine shape.
A plus-size trench coat in short or long lengths, BurdaStyle magazine’s Plus-Size Trench Coat 09/10 #133 is available in European sizes 44 to 52, for busts from 39.5 inches to 48 inches. It has raglan sleeves, prominent epaulets, and a topstitched oversleeve seam that helps maintain a crease in the sleeve. The back waist is slightly gathered by elastic for shaping. The look is recommended for fabrics with body, such as midweight cotton and cotton-blend wovens.
Vogue 8884 offers a sleek rendition of the trench coat, with a strong silhouette. It does not include storm shields, a back cape, or epaulets. However, shoulder pads and a set-in, two-piece sleeve give the coat a strong shoulder line and trim sleeves. A topstitched yoke seam lends the visual impression of storm shields. The seams are topstitched throughout, and the welt pockets add another sharp detail. This lined and partially interfaced design, rated average for skill level, is a good choice to achieve the look of a refined and contemporary trench coat relatively quickly. The size range is Misses 6 through 22, for busts from 30.5 inches to 44 inches in circumference. Recommended fabrics are poplin, cotton canvas or gabardine.
Cashmerette’s Chilton Trench Coat is highly rated on PatternReview.com, and you can find images of sewn examples online. This pattern line is for curvy figures, with designs sized 12 to 28, for cup sizes C through H. The Chilton fits bust circumferences 40 inches to 56 inches and hip circumferences from 42 inches to 58 inches. Fitting opportunities are enhanced by the princess seams and two-piece sleeves. The Chilton also has many traditional trench coat details to recommend it as an interesting project and wardrobe staple. It is fully lined, has epaulets, buttoned pocket flaps, and shows off double topstitching throughout. It is a single-breasted coat. The collar is created in two pieces, for a tailored look and crisp roll. Recommended fabrics include durable mid- to heavy-weight wovens, such as gabardine, twill. Mid-weight wool coating or waterproof raincoat textiles are also good options.
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