The duffle coat; masculine practicality and feminine charm
Some garments are effortlessly stylish, inspiringly avant-garde, but ultimately…uncomfortable and impractical. But is it always necessary to choose between style and practicality? The combination of iconic style and daily comfort is what has allowed duffle coats to remain so popular for so long.
Why are duffle coats so appealing?
Ever since the Duffle coat made its way into women’s fashion, it has been an essential piece in every well-balanced wardrobe. The appeal of the coat lies in its particular character, which combines light carelessness, male roughness, precision of line and, of course, undeniable elegance. Not only is the duffle coat seen at regular intervals on the catwalk, but it is also a piece that speaks to women who love adventure and the allure of the outdoors.
For women, the duffle coat really comes alive when it is combined with other pieces and accessories. Duffle coats were, after all, designed for men, so for optimum balance, stylists recommend combining the coat with conspicuously feminine items. A mini-duffle, for example, will work well with a short dress, a maxi skirt, or a classic knee-length skirt.
A longer duffle coat may conceal the outfit beneath entirely, so why not set off the chic look of the duffle coat with a perfect pair of shoes? Avoid pointed toes and sharp angles. Jockey boots, combat boots or derbies create a sophisticated look while remaining faithful to the outdoor heritage of the coat.
Traditionally, duffle coats tended to be black, dark navy, or fawn. But the recent popularity of the duffle in Europe has encouraged designers to experiment more freely with length and colour. While traditional colours are still as celebrated as ever, chequer patterns, mustard and bottle-green hues are also proving popular.
The most classic duffle look for women?
The duffle coat’s cloth, as well as its cut, toggles and other features, have all been heavily defined by military history — everything being designed for maximum convenience and everyday utility. The contemporary duffle coat has not wavered from these original design values. A traditional choice of cloth, a commitment to the classic duffle colours and, of course the signature ‘walrus tusk’ toggles, lends a sense of British modesty to the coat, making it at once original and classic.
A classic duffle coat is made of rough double-layered wool. The dense texture protects the wearer against the cold and the iconic duffle hood protects her against the wind and rain. The checkered fabric that was typically used to line the interiors of the first models was later changed in favor of warmer materials, namely the same wool that was used for the exterior of the garment. The thick wool is double stitched on both sides, providing extra protection from the elements.
No duffle coat would be complete without the classic hood. Sailors often wore hats or other headwear underneath the hood, and the loose fit and single toggle at the neck is a reminder of this custom.
Large square or rectangular pockets are another essential feature of the duffle coat. They are deep and clearly visible adding to the conspicuous practicality of the coat.
The "walrus tusk" buttons or ‘toggles’ are so named for their similarity to the walrus tusk. Round and thin at one end, they taper to a fine point at the other. Originality and visual appeal aside, the particular shape is perhaps most notable for functional reasons, allowing the wearer to thread the toggle through the appropriate loop, and so to fasten the coat, without the need to remove her gloves.