AskDefine | Define overcoat

Dictionary Definition



1 a heavy coat worn over clothes in winter [syn: greatcoat, topcoat]
2 an additional protective coating (as of paint or varnish) [syn: overcoating]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. A heavy garment worn over other clothes, for protection from cold or weather. A winter coat.



See also

Extensive Definition

The term Overcoat is a generalised term signifying a long coat worn over other items of clothing such as a suit or dress, uniform or even casual clothes. Overcoats extend below the knee over the shins but are sometimes mistakenly referred to as topcoats, which are short coats that end at or above the knees. Topcoats and overcoats together are known as outercoats. Unlike overcoats, topcoats are usually made from lighter weight cloth such as gabardine or covert, while overcoats are made from heavier cloth or fur. This is because overcoats are more commonly used in winter so warmth is more important.

History of the overcoat

In many countries, coats and gowns reaching below the knee have been worn for centuries, often for formal uses, establishing either social status or as part of a professional or military uniform. In the 17th century, the overcoat became widely stylised and available to the different classes.
The style of overcoat now known, first appeared in the 18th century, and was popular with many people and professions, however it was and remains a symbol of authority, so it was common to the wealthy classes, those in the professions, and especially the military. The overcoat was especially popularised in the West during the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901) and took on the style known today. During that period overcoats, and formal clothes in general, took on simplified style. Generally, overcoats were differentiated by being either single-breasted or double-breasted; double-breasted styling being more common in the military, especially the navy. Overcoats traditionally were fastened with buttons or toggles, but with the invention of the zip, zips became common. Usually, zips, however, were used in conjunction with other fasteners such as buttons and toggles. This was done to preserve the traditional style and to provide an alternate fastening, especially if the zip broke.

Military use of the overcoat

Although the overcoat was used by the military since the late 18th century, such as the Napoleonic era, it was only really used for cold winter weather and military officers. Overcoats were only really popularised in military fashion during World War I with the invention of the trench coat (named due to its use in the trenches). Overcoats used by the army tended to be single-breasted — navies often used double-breasted overcoats. Overcoats continued to be used as battle dress until the mid 1940's and 1950's when they were deemed impractical, however in colder countries they continued to be issued and used as battle dress. One country to do this was the USSR (Russia) which often experienced harsh winters. However when more efficient clothing and synthetic fibres became more readily available the overcoat began to be phased out of even those militaries in favor of warmer, more practical wear.

See also

overcoat in German: Mantel
overcoat in Macedonian: Мантил
overcoat in Japanese: 外套
overcoat in Finnish: Päällystakki
overcoat in Swedish: Ulster (textil)

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Inverness, benjamin, capote, chesterfield, cloth coat, coat, dreadnought, duster, fur-lined coat, fur-trimmed coat, greatcoat, jacket, long coat, mac, mackintosh, paletot, raglan, raincoat, slicker, surtout, tarpaulin, topcoat, trench coat, ulster, waterproof, wrap-around
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