It's April. It's raining. As Jeremy Paxman once said (and his famously grouchy weather reports can be viewed on YouTube): "What do you expect?" Where fashion in particular is concerned any inclemency only begs the question, trench coat or parka?

The trench coat is a true British style statement if ever there was one, although the jury is still out over exactly who invented it: Aquascutum and Burberry both claim it as their own. Loosely, the difference between the two can be summed up thus: the simple Aquascutum version is softer – in fabric and construction – than its Burberry counterpart. The latter is also designed to be worn slightly too tightly across the chest (for her only, please) which gives it a pleasingly fashion-y flourish.

Although English in its origins, this quintessentially chic garment has been adopted by our French cousins in whose hands it becomes ever more modish. While the British trench coat is a classic, the French variation on the theme tends to be a little more haute. At Lanvin, Alber Elbaz has given the world some of the most memorable trench coats in taffeta. They are beautiful and often the more upscale fashion follower's rainwear of choice after dark. Failing that, a Jean-Paul Gaultier trench coat – best worn by the long, lean and leggy – is a time-honoured signature by now. Gaultier's former apprentice, the Paris-based Belgian Martin Margiela, is also a man who has a deft touch where crafting a trench coat is concerned, from relatively straightforward, strong-shouldered designs to pieces that have, in the past, been deconstructed to within an inch of their very existence.

Parkas. There are those who might argue that the designer parka is about as cool as a kitten heel. Instead, these are best when strictly functional, bought cheap second-hand on market stalls or stamped with a sportswear tag. Of course, the cut of a designer parka may be subtly improved and any down will be of the finest quality. Be warned, however, that any tell-tale branding (and there's always at least some) has the whiff of more money than sense to it. It's unlikely to impress the dog when you walk it of a morning.

With spring now well and truly sprung, the possibilities for accessorising any rainwear are endless. Wear it with 10-inch heels and sunglasses for straight-off-the-catwalk appeal, although the current vogue for big, black status eyewear has yet to reach the point where small but perfectly formed designer windscreen wipers are handily attached.