By Cindy Weber-Cleary
Updated Oct 10, 2014 @ 12:15 pm
Credit: Tom Wargacki/WireImage

InStyle’s Fashion Director Cindy Weber Cleary has been a fashion editor for the past 20+ years. Needless to say, she’s picked up some tricks along the way. Catch her column here each week for how-to tips and style secrets on her favorite, timeless styles.

Some people collect coins. Some collect snow globes. I collect trench coats. Among my most prized ones are a 20-year-old black satin number from Calvin Klein (back when Calvin was still the designer), a khaki cotton poplin from Gucci that’s at least 12 years old (when Tom Ford was at the helm) and a python-print rain coat from Dries Van Noten that’s at least 5 or 6 years old. All have been excellent investments. I still wear all three.

Here's why the silhouette has been such a wardrobe workhorse and why I love everything about it: its utilitarian history and features, its timelessness, its subtle sexiness and its versatility.

The trench coat is commonly thought to have originated as a protective uniform for British officers in the trenches of WWI, but two companies have an earlier claim on the design. Aquascutum and Burberry both made similar coats in the late 19th century. These days the name Burberry is practically synonymous with the word. The brand even offers a bespoke service for ordering a customized trench by appointment and online. Here are a few Burberry styles that are currently available. They will cost you! But you can wear them for years, decades even.

Credit: Courtesy

While a trench usually features a wide belt, deep pockets and straps or tabs on the cuff or shoulder, there are infinite variations, ranging from leather to wool.

A trench can be worn over everything from jeans and a t-shirt to a cocktail dress. You can wear it buttoned up and tightly tied (not belted) or open with the belt tied in back. You can also pop the collar or push up the sleeves to give it a little attitude.

And you would be in good company. So many glamorous women known for their timeless, iconic style have worn trenches over the years: Greta Garbo, Katherine Hepburn, Audrey Hepburn, Lauren Bacall, Brigitte Bardot, Jackie O (pictured at top), Catherine Deneuve, and Charlotte are a few of my favorite looks:

Credit: Getty Images (3)

Now it’s your turn.

Get the look (from left): Burberry Prorsum, $2,195,; Burberry Prorsum, $3,195,; Burberry Brit, $1,495,, Coach, $650,; J.Crew, $350,; Topshop, $300,