With the riding coat firmly established as a fashionable staple garment, another form of overcoat known as the greatcoat would also become a functional style that in-flluenced mainstream fashion. Available in either single-breasted or double-breasted options, with cape collar and center vent cut into the back, the greatcoat was considered essential for riding. By the latter part of the century, the greatcoat would feature overlapping collars similar to those on the coat worn by coachmen. By the early nineteenth century, greatcoats had become fashionable all-weather garments, worn both in the cities and the countryside. At this time some greatcoats would be lined or trimmed in velvet, have metal buttons, and the main body of the coat would be made from wool.
Taking the more practical or functional types of coats and turning them into fashionable garments remained a design and manufacturing trend that continued throughout the nineteenth century and is still noticeable today. A bewildering number of long or short coats, single- or double-breasted, would continue to be produced. Some coats were skirted, some would have pockets hidden in the pleats or otherwise flap pockets positioned on the skirt itself. The better-known styles from the period, coats still worn, would include the paletot (which was a shorter version of the greatcoat), inverness, covert, and the chesterfield that derived from a version of the earlier frock coat.
By the late 1850s coats were beginning to be cut with raglan sleeves which gave the wearer greater ease of movement, particularly if the coat was worn for riding.
The raglan or a shorter version of a single-breasted chesterfield, known as a covert coat, became "a la mode" for the growing trend for outdoor pursuits such as shooting and even country walking.
The biggest area of growth in the manufacturing of coats at the end of the nineteenth century and the turn of the twentieth century was the development of the raincoat. Effective waterproofing methods had been discovered by Charles Macintosh in the 1820s.
Aside from the move toward the development of the raincoat, overcoats remained much the same until the development of the driving coat in the first decade of the twentieth century. Once again a fully functional garment, the driving coat, produced by wardrobe companies such as Lewis Leathers (who would go on to produce iconic leather jackets during the 1950s) was designed to protect wearers from dust and water while keeping them warm in their open-top vehicles. Driving coats were often made from leather with a fur lining and worn with gauntlets and goggles.
Overcoats designed primarily for use in World War I made the transition to civilian use soon afterward. The British warm, as it is called in the United Kingdom, was a melton, double-breasted coat with shoulder tabs. It was developed for officers in the trenches and remains a popular style in the early 2000s. This was also true of the water-repellent and breathable Burberry trench coat made from fine-twilled cotton gabardine especially for trench warfare.
Coats changed very little during the interwar years. World War II again led to innovation, providing men's wear with the only classic coat to have a hood—the duffel coat. Worn principally by servicemen in the Royal Navy, and popularized by Field Marshal Montgomery, this style flooded the market when they were sold as surplus after the war.
Coats in the Twenty-first Century Few coat styles have changed since the 1950s. Some may be shortened or lengthened, cut tighter to the waist, or even cut from a different cloth, but no classic new styles have been developed. Although the overcoat is still an essential item in the male and female wardrobe, heated offices and cars, central heating in the home, and the development of more technical fabrications have made it of much less importance than ever before.
See also Jacket; Outerwear; Raincoat. BIBLIOGRAPHY
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1300-1970. London: B. T. Batsford, Ltd., 1979. Chenoune, Farid. A History of Men's Fashion. Paris: Flammarion, 1993.
De Marley, Diana. Fashion for Men: An Illustrated History. London: B. T. Batsford, Ltd., 1985.
Keers, Paul. A Gentleman's Wardrobe. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1987.
Roetzel, Bernhard. Gentleman: A Timeless Fashion. Cologne, Germany: Konemann, 1999.
Schoeffler, O. E., and William Gale. Esquire's Encyclopedia of 20th Century Fashions. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1973.
Wilkins, Christobel. The Story of Occupational Costume. Poole: Blandford Press, 1982.
COCKTAIL DRESS During the 1920s, newfound concepts of individuality and a repudiation of the Edwardian matronly ideal of respectable womanhood gave rise to the new phenomenon of the "Drinking Woman," who dared to enjoy cocktails in mixed company (Clark, p. 212). She emerged at private cocktail soirées and lounges, and the cocktail dress, as a short evening sheath with matching hat, shoes, and gloves was designated to accompany her. The cocktail affair generally took place between six and eight P.M., yet by manipulating one's accessories, the cocktail ensemble could be converted to appropriate dress for every event from three o'clock until late in the evening. Cocktail garb, by virtue of its flexibility and functionality, became the 1920s uniform for the progressive fashionable elite.
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