You don't have to sacrifice fashion during Seattle's rainy months. Here are a few stylish alternatives to the utilitarian raincoat — and their fascinating origin stories.
There is rainwear life beyond Gore-Tex, particularly if you carry an umbrella as backup. Here, a few classic styles for running through the wet.
The look: Trim, buttoned and belted, often with random epaulets on the shoulders. Classic tailored rainwear; sometimes waterproof, sometimes not. Available in every imaginable variation from high-end (Burberry) to low (I like my Gap trench). Famously worn by Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope on “Scandal,” who made white trench coats look so good you forgot about what they would look like after crossing a few muddy Northwest puddles.
Fun fact: Originally made for British army officers, this style got its name from its use in World War I.
The look: Quilted, with signature puffs between rows of stitching, filled with down or synthetic fibers and often hooded. Can be long or short, voluminous or streamlined, shiny or matte. Famously invented by Eddie Bauer right here in the Northwest in the 1930s, as the story goes, after his trusty wool jacket became waterlogged and froze on a winter fishing trip.
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Fun fact: The great couture designer Charles James (an inspiration for Daniel Day-Lewis’ character in “Phantom Thread”) created an elegant, swirly evening puffer jacket in 1937, intended to be worn with a formal gown. It now lives in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.
The look: Practical, hip-length lined jacket in a dark color, made with specially treated waxed cotton for water resistance. Sometimes with a hood, in which case it would be a parka. Made popular by the Barbour company, which has manufactured waxed jackets since the 1890s. Beloved by Queen Elizabeth II, who is reportedly so fond of her Barbour jacket that she declined the company’s offer of a new one, preferring to have her 25-year-old coat “spruced up.”
Fun fact: You can’t dry-clean these — but you can wipe them clean with a damp sponge.
The look: OK, nobody in Seattle wears these but I would like the trend to start. It’s a dramatic-looking cape-coat merger, originating in chilly Scotland: sleeveless, with a cape covering the arms and buttons up the front. Related, but with a shorter cape: the Ulster coat, from Ireland and familiar to those who read Victorian novels, in which people are perpetually donning old ulsters. Both of these styles are generally made of tweed, which is maybe not terribly practical in the rain but you can always carry an umbrella, right?
Fun fact: Though Sherlock Holmes was frequently pictured in magazines in the 1890s as wearing an Inverness cape, Benedict Cumberbatch, in “Sherlock,” is actually wearing a Belstaff Milford coat.