The coat is a real newcomer in the woman’s wardrobe because until the late 19th century women preferred to wear capes. This was because the clothes worn then would have been difficult to wear under a cost. However, as sports activities became more popular, day dresses became less bulky so that women could wear coats and demand for them rose rapidly. Because fashion still dictated that clothes should vary according to the occasion, a wide range of different coat models were developed. In addition, the new mobility made possible by bicycles, automobiles, railroads, and ocean liners required different models with different finishes to resist wind, dust, rain or soot. The newspapers of the early 20th century were full of advertisements for practical yet elegant coats. The suppliers of this new type of garment recorded a steadily growing demand, and coat departments in large stores became increasingly important.
Around 1900, traveling in the new, modern means of transportation was still rather uncomfortable, so that to survive an automobile journey, an ankle length, double-breasted coat with a high collar was necessary. But as cars became more weather-resistant in the 1920s and 1930s, travel clothes became lighter. At the same time, the growing number of working women also needed practical and thick coats that could be worn to go to the office. This led to the development of a few basic forms that still exist today and are endlessly varied by designers, such as the trench coat, the knee-length swing coat, and double-breasted wool coat with or without belt.
Because the ladies’ coat developed relatively late and was therefore unable to fall back on traditional examples, its designers turned to the classics in men’s fashion for inspiration, at least as far as daywear was concerned. Consequently a woman’s wardrobe may contain a number of well known, traditional designs with this inspiration, ranging from the chesterfield coat with velvet collar to the sporty polo coat with patch pockets, in the other hand, fashion designers created very feminine silhouettes for evening wear, and the fashion for fur developed its own interpretation of the coat. After World War II, haute couture also began to concentrate on coat design, which now had to reflect the fashion of the day. The coat’s length had to follow that of the dress or skirt, as a result of which coats became very short in the 1960s, when designers created a simple but very elegant coats.
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