The Best Trench Coats Offer Women an Instant Outfit Upgrade

The timeless jacket will be the backbone of any spring wardrobe.

model wearing a trench coat for marie claire shoot
(Image credit: Kat Irlin)

'Timeless' is a term tossed around a lot in the fashion sphere. In the case of the best trench coats, it's fitting. The outerwear is reliably polished and practical, feeling elevated without being stuffy. "In one word: universal," remarks Renia Jazdzyk, a fashion content creator whose "wardrobe is dominated by trench coats."

"The classic trench never goes out of circulation and will always work," Jazdzyk tells Marie Claire. The United Kingdom-based influencer credits the coat's sleek, double-breasted design for making it resistant to fairweather fads and aesthetics. "Even if your trench coat is several years old, it will match the latest [outerwear] trends," she states. (Jazdzyk's oldest trench, a 30-year-old coat she bought secondhand, remains a favorite of her jacket rotation.) Even as the trend cycle churns at its ever-quickening pace, the timeless trench holds steadfast.

Speaking of the weather, Fashion stylist Sylvie Mus adds that "the practicality of a good trench coat is what keeps it a wardrobe staple." The coat's history tells that story best: Initially designed in the early 20th century as protective and waterproof outerwear for British military officers, trenches slowly trickled down into civilian fashion to become the layman's staple it is today, explains fashion historian Michelle Tolini Finamore. "The trench coat is the perfect example of utilitarian clothing that, over time, has blurred the line between function and fashion," Finamore articulates. While protecting you from a spontaneous spring shower, the coat also delivers a sharp style impression—a true win-win.

Renia Jaz wears a beige trench coat, black shoes, and a green bag outside during Copenhagen Fashion Week Fall 24.

Renia Jaz in a sculptrual khaki trench with a built-in scarf that leans more into the fashion than the function.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Its clean lines and (traditionally) neutral color palettes add to a trench coat's foolproof appeal. Jazdzyk relates it to a blank canvas: "The most interesting outfits are those that show our creativity, and trench coats have been a perfect base for such looks for years," she shares. A double-breasted khaki coat lets a printed trouser or a statement pair of party pumps steal the show. Due to its foolproof minimalism, Mus also sees the coat as a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency piece. "It's an easy solution to an outfit crisis," the stylist says. When all else fails and inspiration is sparse, throw a trench coat over any outfit and call it a day.

Ahead is Marie Claire's curated guide to the best trench coats for women. These coats offer smart utility, a sophisticated look—and, in a few cases, bold, maximalist flair. Weave the options below into your coat collection, and you'll have outerwear to rely on for years, perhaps even decades.

At a Glance: Five Marie Claire-Approved Trench Coats

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The Traditional Trench

A model wearing a tan Dolce and Gabbana trench coat in front of a gray wall.

With a coat this good, you don't need much else. A fun handbag and neutral boot will do the trick.

(Image credit: Kat Irlin)

Never underestimate a classic. These tried-and-true, double-breasted trenches are as reliable as a coat can be. For the names to consider, Jazdzyk and Mus both shout out Burberry—which should hardly come as a surprise considering the coat is a known code for the British brand. Mus also applauds the Swedish label Toteme for its cotton-blend Signature trench, a personal favorite for the Paris-based stylist.

The Ladylike Trench

Elle Macpherson is seen wearing beige dress with black belt, long black boots, black bag, beige quilted long vest, beige cropped jacket and black sunglasses

A cropped trench layered over a longline quilted coat and voluminous A-line skirt is an outfit that begs to be twirled in.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The trench coat has staunch roots in menswear but, over time, has become more of a fluid outerwear option. This spring, get inspired with femme-feeling updates to the traditional style, like single-breasted buttons, ruffled details, and cropped silhouettes. You can also tap into a more girlish attitude via your styling: “I think [a trench coat] can be a very feminine piece of clothing if worn, for example, with high heels and red lipstick,” Jazdzyk adds. Rain boots are also almost always a foolproof pairing.

The Double-Take Trench

Zina Charkoplia, wears beige trench coat, black pants, burgundy Hermes bag, outside Hermes, during the Womenswear Fall/Winter 2024/2025 as part of Paris Fashion Week on March 02, 2024 in Paris, France.

A coat so good, it's worthy of a street style photoshoot that shuts the sidewalk down.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Up the ante with a trench that veers from the coat's traditional minimal design. Whether it's a splash of print or a built-in capelet or scarf, unconventional touches inject personality into your outerwear collection. Jazdzyk recommends you seek out Acne Studios and Dries Van Noten when hunting for bolder trenches that leave lasting impressions.

The Waterproof Trench

A woman wearing a tan trench coat and smiling while a man holds her umbrealla.

A trench coat made from water-wicking materials will keep you dry all day long. It helps, too, if you have someone to walk beside you and carry the umbrella for you.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Finamore details that, originally, trench coats were made from a water-resistant material called gabardine and designed to be rain jackets. But now, in the great year of 2024, designers are experimenting with a variety of other fabrics—nylon, for instance—and non-khaki colorways to repel water.

The Leather Trench

A woman is seen wearing a black faux leather trench coat, black gold chain bag and black boots with black sunglasses.

Paired with a dark midi dress, scrunched thigh-high boots, and a black carry-all tote, the trench coat is the finishing touch that ties the monochrome look together.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you're looking for more edge in your outerwear, and a cotton-twill blend or rain-proof nylon coat doesn't quite tick that box, opt for a leather trench—a leather jacket's sophisticated counterpart. Whether made from real or faux fabrications, matte or patent materials, the leather look always exudes an enviably cool.

Meet the Fashion Experts

Renia Jazdzyk
Renia Jazdzyk

Renia Jazdzyk is a fashion content creator and blogger.

Sylvie Mus
Sylvie Mus

Sylvie Mus is a freelance stylist and creative consultant.

Michelle Tolini Finamore
Michelle Tolini Finamore

Michelle Tolini Finamore is a Fashion and Design Historian, Curator and Author. She has curated numerous exhibitions, including the recently opened Fashioning America: Grit to Glamour at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. She has written numerous books and articles for both the scholarly and popular press on topics as varied as fashion in silent film, menswear, contemporary fashion, and sustainability. Michelle has taught courses on fashion, design, and film history at Northeastern University, Rhode Island School of Design, Massachusetts College of Art, and the Fashion Institute of Technology. She has interviewed fashion luminaries such as Hamish Bowles, Fern Mallis, Isaac Mizrahi, Liz Goldwyn, Hussein Chalayan, Diane Pernet, Viktoria Modesta, Virgil Ortiz, and Rodarte on stage.

Emma Childs
Fashion Features Editor

Emma is the fashion features editor at Marie Claire, where she writes deep-dive trend reports, zeitgeisty fashion featurettes on what style tastemakers are wearing, long-form profiles on emerging designers and the names to know, and human interest vignette-style round-ups. Previously, she was Marie Claire's style editor, where she wrote shopping e-commerce guides and seasonal trend reports, assisted with the market for fashion photo shoots, and assigned and edited fashion celebrity news.

Emma also wrote for The Zoe Report, Editorialist, Elite Daily, Bustle, and Mission Magazine. She studied Fashion Studies and New Media at Fordham University Lincoln Center and launched her own magazine, Childs Play Magazine, in 2015 as a creative pastime. When she's not waxing poetic about niche fashion topics, you'll find her stalking eBay for designer vintage, reading literary fiction on her Kindle, and baking banana bread in her tiny NYC kitchen.