“Trenchvest”, designing a perfect Mandalorian coat

“Trenchvest”, designing a perfect Mandalorian coat

Mandalorian Armor
Mandalore’s Mark III armor with a trenchvest.  circa 2010

Trenchvest is the term coined for a Mandalorian war coat, and article of clothing I’ve been wearing with my armor since 2008.  Worn over armor, a trenchvest is NOT a trenchcoat or duster, but it is considered a type of long-coat.

To begin talking about it’s design, we have to travel all the way back to 2008, during the inception of my Mark 3 armor design.  In my Mark 1 and 2 designs, I had been using a half-cape or cloak depending on the event, but felt they looked a bit too Romanesque and less warrior-like. For Mark 3, I wanted something that was actually utilitarian in purpose, and looked like a garment that a Mandalorian would wear over their armor.  With that in mind, I began looking for historical and sci-fi references that I could use to come up with a design that suited my tastes.  My initial design criteria was the following:

  1. Utilitarian (pockets and loops)
  2. Maximum calf-length
  3. No closing in front
  4. Unique “star wars” look

One example that immediately stood out in my mind was a Klingon ceremonial war coat from the Star Trek franchise.

Kling War Coat
Klingon ceremonial war coat.

I really liked the fact that it was a sleeveless long-coat, and not just a duster or trenchcoat with the arms ripped off, which was (and still is) the more common method for an extra-armor longcoat.  The war coat has broad but not overly demonstrative shoulder pads, pockets, and is designed to not close in front.  Outside of it being easily recognizable from Star Trek, this was almost exactly what I was looking for as a design reference.  The only thing I didn’t, and still don’t like about the Klingon ceremonial long coat is it’s length, and padded thickness in the front.

Knowing that I couldn’t simply wear such a notable item from another franchise with my Mandalorian armor, I kept doing my research to find a garment I might be able to merge it with to create the perfect design.  Leaving sci-fi behind, I starting looking at more historical earth references before coming upon another winning design; the Jinbaori or Samurai surcoat.

Samurai Jinbaori
Samurai wearing a jinbaori surcoat.

The Jinbaori was extremely close to the design I was looking for, with some elements missing that could easily translate over from the Klingon war coat.  Historically, a Jinbaori was worn over the armor to protect from the weather, often by high-ranking samurai, and adorned with colors and clan markings.  The colorful nature of the Jinbaori was a bit more flamboyant than I cared to be, so I opted to make it a bit more plain like the Klingon war coat.

With my design doodled out on a piece of notebook paper, I contacted an MMCC member who was an accomplished seamstress, showed her my design, and asked about the cost. Luckily, we were able to barter out, and she became one of my earliest female armor commissions.  The fabric I decided on using was a heavy black canvas, similar to my flightsuit fabric, and lined with a black satin so it could slide on and off easily.  Luckily enough, my leather supplier had received a load of black caiman hide, so I grabbed up enough to help enhance the unique look of the coat.  The “in universe” story for the caiman hide is that it’s actually Barabel hide, which is blaster-resistant.

The seamstress and I had agreed on the following final design criteria:

  1. No less than two pockets, and multiple elastic loops along the top outside border.
  2. Calf-length
  3. Short caiman leather shoulder pads
  4.  Caiman leather around all edges, used as piping, and pocket/jetpack harness flaps
  5. Caiman leather panels on the lower rear half.

So I sent my design drawing along with the materials and my measurements to the seamstress, and 3 or so months later the first Mandalorian Trenchvest arrived.

Mandalorian Trenchvest, new in 2008. 

The trenchvest has lasted me through three versions of my armor, and will likely be around for Mark 6.  It’s utilitarian properties provides relatively easy pocket storage, and a very unique look that enhances my Mandalorian armor kit.

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