Splurge vs Save: The Classic Trench Coat

This classic belongs in your wardrobe, so here’s exactly how to wear it, plus some affordable and high-end options.

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Trench via Express

If you’re like me, your current outerwear lineup probably includes a moto jacket, a denim option, and at least one zip up hoodie. While these are all adorable college girl staples, a classic trench coat is a must-own addition to your collection!

A great trench will not only keep you warm and dry, but will add some sophisticated flare to any outfit. But should you splurge or save? Read my tips and make your choice!

Why Buy a Trench Coat?

Trench coats look good on everyone, they add adult sophistication to any outfit, keep you dry, and look great with both rain boots and shorts or party dresses and stilettos. What other jackets can do that?!

You’ll look great walking into your interview in editor pants and trench over a nice blouse. There’s nothing worse than completing a dressy outfit with a sloppy jacket, but a trench is a great option–comfortable and cute…Not to mention that the trench is also totally iconic.

Tips for Wearing and Buying a Trench Coat

1. Go classic.

For a classic, sophisticated style, pick a longer trench in a neutral hue. Taupes, black, and khakis are all good bets for creating your look. In these colors and with its timeless silhouette, a classic trench will be a piece you can wear for years to come.

Classic Trench Coat Outfit 1:

Products: Leggings – Uniqlo, Scarf – Nuweerir (Amazon), Coat – Express, Sneakers – Superga (Zappos), Sweater – Mango, Crossbody – Coach

Classic Trench Coat Outfit 2:

Products: Earrings – Splendid Pearls (Nordstrom Rack), Coat – Uniqlo, Crossbody Bag – Tory Burch, Lipstick – NARS (Sephora), Dress – The Limited, Heels – Mix No. 6 (DSW)

2. Go casual.

Though a trench may seem conservative, you can wear one with anything! Try bright colors, unexpected footwear, and free-flowing silhouettes for great contrast against your classic coat.

Of course, there are now amazing trenches that come in patterns, bright colors, or shorter length if you’re looking to create a more casual, fun style. As always, spend less if you’re going for a trendy look.

Casual Trench Coat Outfit 1:

Products: Top – Chicwish, Lipgloss – Colourpop (Ulta), Jeans – L.L. Bean, Handbag – Apt. 9 (Kohls), Coat – Forever 21, Boots – ASOS

Casual Trench Coat Outfit 2:

Products: Blouse – a.n.a (JCPenney), Coat – Mango, Flats – ASOS, Skirt – Gap, Blush – Bare Minerals, Handbag – Rebecca Minkoff

3. Keep it classy.

Though there are times when a completely buttoned trench and a pair of sassy stilettos would totally work, for every day, it’s usually best to pair your trench with a longer dress, pants, or tights — or just leave it unbuttoned.

4. Try fitted styles.

Since trench coats have so much fabric, they can easily make you look bulky if you pick the wrong size. Go for fitted, narrow silhouettes, and use the attached belt to define your waist.

5. Layer for warmth.

Though most trenches will protect you from even the rainiest of days, these coats are best for warmer temperatures. If you want to dress up a late fall or winter outfit with a trench, be sure to layer so you don’t freeze! Some trench coats come with a winter-weight liner for wear in colder climates.

Get Your Own!

Whether you want to splurge or save on a trench, we have options for you!

If you absolutely love this piece and have a classic sense of style, we recommend saving up for a timeless one like the Ted Baker and Burberry options below.

However, if you want to save your pennies, you can have fun with trendier styles like the shiny plaid or faded red options in the “save” section.

It’s up to you whether you can splurge or save (for help deciding, see our guide to how to decide whether to splurge); either way, you need a trench in your wardrobe!

High End Trench Coats:

High end splurge trench coats by Burberry, Ted Baker, and Michael Kors

Products (from left): Ted Baker (Nordstrom), Burberry (Nordstrom), Michael Kors (Macy’s)

Affordable Trench Coats:

Affordable trench coats by London Fog and Osemy

Products (from left): London Fog (Burlington Coat Factory), London Fog (Nordstrom Rack), Osemy (Amazon)

What do you think?

Do you own a trench coat? How do you wear it? And most importantly, would you splurge or save on this item? Let us all know your thoughts in the comments section!

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in 2009; it was completely updated and revamped in 2019 with new photos, items, and information.

21 thoughts on “Splurge vs Save: The Classic Trench Coat”

  1. I just bought a beautiful vintage Aquascutum trench on eBay for $40 (so it’s a “splurge” that I saved on–Aquascutum trenches are usually $500+!)
    The only thing though is that it is almost calf-length–a little too dressy for a college student, I think, so I’m hemming it to knee-length for more versatility =]

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  2. I’m usually a fairly conservative spender . . . excepting the times I’m purchasing trench-coats. I cannot get enough of them and I’m willing to spend just about any sum if it fits right and is unique.

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  3. Thank you for this post! I just recently splurged on a Juicy Couture trench this summer and I think every woman should own one! It’s really versatile and always looks chic.

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  4. My mom gave me hers that she bought in late 70’s…it still looks great! It is tan and above the knee, and has a removable wool lining (it buttons in and out) for colder weather…

    I wear it as much as I can (I live in houston, still no need for winter coats and it is November lol!)

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  5. Wow I LOVE trench coats!

    My latest one is the “perfect trench” from Banana Republic. It hits at the knee (and I’m 5’1″!) and I think it’s more versatile that way. Not too short so I can dress it up, and not too long so I can wear it with jeans and flats.

    Now that I think about it, I have a black cropped trench from Old Navy, a tan cropped trench from old navy, a black knee-length from London fog, and now my new Banana trench! 4 trench coats!! yeesh!

    Of course my holy grail will always be Burberry but then again I’d probably get too scared of getting it dirty or wet 🙁 And getting wet is what trench coats are for!!

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  6. I would most definitely splurge on a classic trench coat because it is a good investment fashionwise and most likely if you are spending a lot of cash,that means the material is really good which means you will have it for many winters to come. The trench that I have I brought at Macy’s last fall on sale for a hundred bucks. I love the way it fitted me and the material was 100% wool so I brought it. Aside from wearing a sweater underneath for extra warmth, i love my trench anyways:)

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  7. I recently bought a fitted khaki trench coat from h&m so it was pretty cheap. I love it! I can wear it to my internship, to classes, and even to the bar depending on what I’m wearing underneith. But my favorite is a trench with a skirt/dress and dark colored tights! I would recommend everyone buying one, they’re so universal! 🙂

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  8. I already splurged on an excellent satin trench, in a subtle dip-dye gradient that is tan at the top and chocolate by the just-above-knee hem, with subtle, polished silver metal buttons. I adore how it plays on the classic tan trench while still being modern and unusual. It’s also perfect for me because I wear a lot of brown, rather than black. I love it and wear it at least every other day, with jeans, skirts, cords, tights, anything! I did have the sleeves and belt shortened by a tailor, but other than that it fits my figure perfectly trimly.

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  9. This is definitely a splurge item for me. I’ve been searching for a perfect trench coat for ages and I haven’t found one yet. I’m short, so it’s really hard to find a coat with a belt in my waistline, not somewhere in the hips area. I have a black, woolen winter trench and it’s awesome, but I’d love to have an autumn/spring one in navy.

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  10. Great post! Trench coats are so cute! I’ve been thinking of buying one 🙂 I’m also loving the outfits you put together!, especially that eruca blouse and NIne West heels!

    And that is a concidence because I recently bought a pair of turqoise suede Nine West strappy heels. They are a bit formal but casual at the same time. I’m not sure what I can to wear them with. Can you write a post on some possible causal outfits to wear with slightly formal heels? Thanks!

    Reply
  11. I have a beautiful trench cut coat that comes to mid thigh, which is the perfect length (I’m only in high school) and makes my legs look longs. Plus, it’s a lovely black and white pattern.

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  12. I absolutely LOVE trenches! I have a long black trench from express. (Which is great, goes with everything). But my favorite is a BITTEN by Sarah Jessica Parker; it’s black and white houndstooth. I think the splurge vs. save is an issue of how much you’ll actually use the trench.

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  13. I live in New Jersey and my trench is a must have. I wear it in the fall with a cute scarf and in the spring with rainboots. it can be dresses down with skinny jeans and flats or dressed up with a skirt and boots. i just love them. i have a tan one but i am getting a black one soon. trench love<3

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  14. I’m a little worried about splurging on a trench coat considering I’m short and I live in Florida. I don’t know how much I’d use it. Cute outfits, though!

    Reply

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