We asked you five questions about coats. Here come the answers!
- The trench coat was originally deployed in the trenches in the First World War. What style of coat did it substitute for, and why?
The greatcoat. Greatcoats were made of thick serge and were excellent at keeping out the cold, and normal rain. But in the mud of the trenches they rapidly became waterlogged and encumbered the wearer to a dangerous degree.
- The Hindi word khaki means what? And why was this relevant to coat design?
Dust. Until the early nineteenth century armies fought in bright colours to help them identify friend from foe on the battlefield, but this became increasingly untenable as firearms improved in range and accuracy. In 1848 Sir Harry Lumsden introduced a ‘drab’ uniform for his Corps of Guides in Peshawar to help make the troops ‘invisible in a land of dust’; by the Second Boer War in 1902 khaki had been adopted throughout the British Army.
- What type of coat did Shylock wear in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice?
The gaberdine. Originally a fashionable overcloak for men in the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, by the late sixteenth century it had become associated with poor people’s clothing. It subsequently came to mean any kind of protective garment, in which sense it was borrowed—as gabardine—for Burberry’s water-resistant closely woven cloth in the late 1800s.
- Which two well-known firms claim that they designed the basic format of the trench coat?
Burberry and Aquascutum. Both claims are closely linked to their respective companies’ development of waterproof cloth. Aquascutum claim that their founder, John Emary, patented the first waterproof textile in 1853 (the name Aquascutum is taken from the Latin words meaning ‘water’ and ‘shield’. Burberry’s Tielocken gabardine raincoat, the design of which was submitted to the War Office in 1901 and patented in 1912, is clearly a direct forerunner of the trench coat.
- In what era was the justacorps type of coat commonly worn?
In the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In 1666 Charles II prescribed their wearing for his male courtiers, and they were initially known as vests or waistcoats. Their tight fit to the wearer’s body led them to become known as ‘juste-au-corps’, anglicised as ‘justacorps’. They’re considered to be the forerunner of the three-piece men’s suit.
How did you get on? Why not let us know?