Trench Coat Exhibition – ‘From Field to Fashion’!


A poppy garland hangs above the stairs, outside the gallery.


Calling all fashion and textile designers! The trench coat exhibition at the Winchester Discovery Centre is one not to be missed!


Bridgette Bardot in 1966

On walking in you are greeted by numerous glass cases and mannequins displaying variations of the trench coat design. Further examples are hung on the walls through images of fashion shoot models, Hollywood stars and wartime photographs.

I feel I have naively overlooked the history, versatility and iconic status this garment has been and still is today!

In 1879, Burberry trademarked his tailored fabric ‘gabardine’, a cotton weave with a secret formula, which was both warm and durable against the weather. The Hampshire shepherds’ cotton smocks, coated with lanolin oil, had been an inspirational part of Burberry’s creation. It’s thick weave keeping them warm and the oil giving a waterproof coating to the fabric.

In 1901, Burberry was employed to design the officers raincoat and on display from Hampshire County Collection is this edition of Burberry’s trench coat. The wartime images and memorabilia on display takes you on a journey of how the trench coat became an emotive symbol of change during the war as it crossed boundaries of social class, tradition, fashion and practicality.

Hampshire County Collections also loaned a trench coat design from Jean Paul Gaultier’s ‘Les Parisiennes’ 2000 collection. Gaultier designed numerous examples of the trench coat, amongst other well-known designers, which the adaptations and journey of this garment can be seen throughout every era since its introduction.


The Duchess of Cambridge in a trench coat by Burberry

Hollywood and style icons such as Audrey Hepburn, Bridgette Bardot, John Wayne, Michael Caine, Brad Pitt and even Royalty have all donned variations of the coat. From film to music industries, from high end fashion to High Street fashion, the trench coat has stayed as a staple of the catwalk and wardrobe.

Also on exhibition are loans from other designer’s collections. There’s a trench coat from designer Gareth Pugh’s 2014 Autumn/Winter collection using translucent film, which is semi-translucent when it is lit from behind, similar to that of a two-way mirror. From the 2008 Spring/Summer collection of designer Comme Des Garcons, there’s a beautiful example which takes the main features of the trench coat and exaggerates them. It looks as though it is two coats in one, ruffled features create layers giving an under skirt illusion, along with exaggerated, oversized pockets.

coat2 - Copy

Shiyuan Liu’s design can be seen at the stairs leading up to the gallery.

Two WSA Alumna’s pieces are also on display at the exhibition!  Fashion and Textile students submitted designs for a contemporary trench coat as part of an award, funded by Hampshire Commemorates. Fashion designer Louise Gray and the Fashion and Textile department at WSA chose the designs to go forward for the award, which then funded the garments to be made for the exhibition. Jonathan Wadland and Shiyuan Liu’s designs were chosen and Jonathon has gone on to work with Burberry as a result of his design!

The exhibition merges fashion, history and style icons with sensitivity and depth, linking and displaying this iconic garment’s journey through the eras and its influence upon the wardrobes of masses.


Robynne Willowby, October 2014