Trench coats vs parka coats: which classic coat should you go for?

Update your wardrobe with one of these winter staples.

The best winter coats will see you through any situation and you can’t get more classic than a trench coat and a parka coat.

Both types of coat have stood the test of time, making an appearance every season in many different varieties and colourways. But while they are both fashionable and functionable, which one should you go for? We’re here to break it down for you.

Trench coat vs parka coat: Which one is best?

What is a trench coat?

Trench coats have been around forever, from Audrey Hepburn to Meghan Markle, and their timeless style is hard to beat. Falling below the knee or longer, a trench coat tends to have buttons on the front and a built-in tie-waist belt to cinch you in at the middle. Everything you need to flatter all shapes and sizes.

Designer Burberry's trench coats are infamous. Their camel coat with brown buttons and signature checked lining has inspired many high-street replicas.

Although you can still snap up this traditional-style trench, newer styles have emerged over the years. PU fabrics to animal prints offer a bolder, modern take on a classic. You can find out more about winter coat trends here.

How to wear a trench coat

One of the best things about trench coats is their versatility. They can be layered over pretty much anything and, thanks to their smart style, have the ability to make any outfit look more polished and pulled-together. Dress down with a striped tee and jeans or dress up with a slinky dress and heels. A trench coat works easily for all occasions.

“Not only has a trench coat stood the test of time, it’s remained a firm favourite with the fashion crowd, too,” says Paula Moore, fashion director at Woman & Home. “This is because it has the magical ability to make any outfit look chic, while remaining practical, too. If you’re looking for a fresh update, I would invest in a leather number for a cool edge that will keep you warm, too.”

Trench coats are also pretty lightweight, making them a go-to for that tricky in-between weather. Wear yours when it’s too cold for a jacket and too warm for a duffle coat.

What is a parka?

denise van outen in parka coat

A parka coat is typically lined or padded for extra warmth and it has a hood, often with a faux-fur trim. It can have roomy pockets at the front and tends to finish just below the hip, although you can get longer and shorter styles.

Thanks to its hood and lining, a parka is one of the warmest winter coats around, keeping you toasty as well as protecting you from wind and rain.

Some parkas are lighter, without any lining or faux fur, so can be worn during transitional periods, when you just want shielding from any unexpected showers.

How to wear a parka

Parkas tend to have a more casual aesthetic, so although they will definitely keep you warm, they’re not as smart as other winter coats.

This means you may prefer to wear your parka in the daytime and at weekends, rather than over an elegant dress in the evening. They look great teamed with denim, knits and chunky boots.

If you do want to wear it in the evening (especially when temperatures drop), then choose a navy or black hue and adjust the drawstring for a nipped-in waist and flattering finish.

A trench coat really is a must-have in every woman’s wardrobe and you’ll never regret buying one. They’re elegant, smart and go with pretty much everything, especially if you opt for a classic camel style.

However, a trench may not protect you from the elements, especially in the depths of winter. In this case, you might want something a bit warmer and that’s when the cool parka coat steps in.

Your best bet? Getting a parka coat with a removable lining. That way, you’ll be able to wear it in between seasons, too. Opt for navy or camel for a smart and classic look.

Charlie Bell

Charlie is the Deputy Fashion Editor at Future plc across multiple women’s magazines including Woman & Home, Woman and Woman's Own.

She bagged her first magazine job in 2009 and has previously written for titles including Stylist, Closer and Dare. Over the years Charlie has embraced anything that was thrown at her from styling celebrities to testing out the best jeans on the high street to writing about must-have beauty buys.

With a weakness for a printed midi dress, Charlie is on a mission to shop more sustainably and loves finding new ethical brands and second-hand buys.