the north face ski jacket A classic trench coat is a closet staple

(Trench coat season has arrived! This week’s column is a timely excerpt from Kristyn Schiavone’s e book, “Career Chic for Young Professionals: A Simple Style Guide,” available for Amazon Kindle, Apple iPad, Barnes and Noble Nook and Kobo for $2.99.)

In Chicago, we don’t mess around with our outerwear. We own a lot of coats, hats, scarves and mittens because when you need to bundle up so often, wearing the same thing gets terribly dull. I will forever tout the importance of chic outerwear in any situation, but when you’re on a business trip, entertaining a client or heading to an event, people are especially likely to notice your coat.

Of course, the weight you choose will depend on the weather. But what if you’re traveling from Michigan to Texas, or from New York to San Francisco? My travel outerwear solution 90 percent of the time is a crisp, classic trench. It transcends seasonality in a way no other type of coat can.

Having been designed for use by British and French soldiers in World War I and dubbed a “trench” coat by those on the front lines, this baby will protect you from all the elements. For contemporary women not huddled in trenches, splattered by rain and mud, this functionality is useful primarily for spilled coffee. But the thing I love most about a good quality trench coat is that it is, by some miracle, completely indestructible. This is incredibly handy when traveling, as you face things like stuffing your coat in a security check bin.

This summer, I’ll celebrate my seven year anniversary with my first trench coat, a black, double breasted, belted Nine West number. It accompanied me to college, serving also as my bar and event coat. I got it for about $120, and it’s waterproof, which I figured made it beer proof, as well. It’s been one of the best clothing investments I ever made.

In addition to the things I’m aware of that have happened to this coat spilled coffee and other beverages, falling in puddles (with and without me attached), being stuffed under bleachers and the punishments of public transportation, to name a few I’m sure it endured countless other hardships when I left it alone on a bus or in a restaurant booth. Last month, I lent it to a friend, who took it on a business trip and wore the coat despite it’s having been to hell and back with a suit. I didn’t miss it, because I now also have a tan one from Banana Republic and another whimsical white and gold striped one from Target.

Pick a color you won’t get tired of. I’ll say it again, ladies: Seven years. I’m not in the business of recommending colors, because a coat is one of the only apparel items that can be whatever hue you choose. I once retired a nice North Face puffer after just a year and a half because it was baby pink, but maybe you want to wear only baby pink for the rest of your life, and that’s fine, as long as you’re sure. A “classic” trench is khaki, double breasted and belted, but you can play with the style on the front of the coat.

It should be a little roomy but not too big. There are two reasons for this. First, you’ll be wearing the coat over all different types of clothes because it’s multi seasonal. Second, what are the odds that you’ll be the same size for the duration of your coat’s life? Slim (or not) to none. In addition, find a flattering length. Lots of trench coats are too long, which is fine if you have a monocle and a sidekick named Watson. Similarly, lots are too short, and the look becomes more casual and limits what you can wear them the coat. The right coat lands somewhere between mid thigh and the tops of your knees.
the north face katavi A classic trench coat is a closet staple