via The Visual Dictionary
One night, at 1:30 in the morning, I began to try on my trench coats and other light outerwear. It wasn’t that I was particularly cold or planned on streaking in the neighborhood. I was essentially analyzing why these coats were just okay and not exactly what I wanted in a trench.
I’d been chasing the ideal trench for about seven years by that point. It first started when I saw a Yohji Yamamoto coat in either Elle or Harper’s Bazaar in 2001. It was exquisitely structured with molded shoulders and sleeves that bent inwards at the elbow. I wasn’t even close to being able to afford it on my pathetically measly publishing paycheck, so I ripped the image out of the magazine and occasionally looked at it the way a boy revisits a hidden pinup.
Since my obsession with the Yamamoto piece, I had accumulated 5 trenches or quasi-trenches that did their job, but never measured up to my ideal piece. With every purchase I thought, “This is the one.” But it frankly never was. A collarless DKNY zip up with a cinched paperbag waist is perfectly fine. In fact, I wear it often. I’ve donated or sold a perfectly acceptable jackets by Theory (with an actual trench with a storm patch), Catherine Malandrino (made of taffeta with a pimp collar and ikat print lining), and BCBG (that had a near-bespoke fit but the ecru color was unflattering). The most striking piece is a Viktor & Rolf black number that is a hybrid between the Matrix and Count Chocula.
One of my staple Style Therapy services, the Closet Detox, involves purging my client’s closet of anything that has gone unworn for a period time because it doesn’t suit their bodies, personal aesthetic, and/or lifestyles. I also urge clients to purchase the items they love and know they will get good cost per wear out of, even if that means saving up in order to do so. It’s hypocritical of me not to actively follow my own advice and I try to be aware of this when I shop or perform a Closet Detox on my own wardrobe.
The truth is, if I tally the price for each of these facsimiles, I would have been able to purchase the perfect trench by now, be it something conceptual like the Yamamoto or something more classic like the Burberry. Settling often ends up as a waste of money and closet space. In Why Women Wear What they Wear, Sophie Woodward conducts an ethnographic study on how women construct identity through dress. She explores clothing’s relationship to the image women are keen on projecting and whether and how a disconnect often occurs with certain pieces. None of the trenches I owned truly pleased me and it showed whenever I would wear one.
I can admit that my appreciation for the Yohji Yamamoto trench didn’t lie in its beautiful construction alone. I was also cognizant of the fact that the designer was the creator of an insider brand. His pieces weren’t sold at mass retailers the way Prada and Gucci items are. While these are luxury brands, they’re omnipresent—from perfume to sunglasses and keychains. This inevitably dilutes their respective cachet. Yamamoto belonged to that faction of creatives (composed primarily of Japanese and Belgian designers) that those in the know punctuated their wardrobes with. Ownership of this piece would signal that I was privy to the cultural capital of avant-garde. But in my quest to appear as though I wasn’t a fashion victim by splattering my body with logos, I ended up becoming just through supplementing a void (the Yamamoto trench) with facsimiles that couldn’t measure up.