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Columbo's RaincoatColumbo's Raincoat - Homicide detective Lt. Columbo (Peter Falk) on the police drama COLUMBO/NBC/1971-78/ABC/1989-90 always wore a rumpled raincoat as he investigated the scene of a murder.

In an interview with TV Guide (5/10/97 p.9) Peter Falk confided, "I bought that coat on 57th Street in 1966 while on my way to England to film a movie. It had started to rain, and I needed a coat. A few years later, when we started COLUMBO, I told the costume folks I had the perfect coat." The raincoat was retired in 1991 when it became to "frail and fragile."

Peter Falk owns the original raincoat and lovingly stores it at his Beverly Hills home as a souvenir from his early days as Lt. Columbo. Reportedly, Columbo's original raincoat was manufactured in Spain, by a company called Cortefiel. 

Although there have been stand-in raincoats over they years, Columbo's raincoat follows some general features. The raincoat has two hip pockets; and tattered cuffs. And the coat is always wrinkled, and stained with tobacco from his cigars and spots from his favorite food (chili). Sharp-eyed viewer may notice that occasionally, the size of the lapels, or the length of the coat can vary.

To turn a brand-new raincoat into the disheveled one worn by Columbo, the wardrobe people at Universal Studios used the following trade secret formula:

  • First, scuff the raincoat's cuffs with sandpaper;

  • Second, bleach the coat to fade its color;

  • Third, add fabric softener to remove any stiffness;

  • Fourth, add mineral oil to produce unsightly grease stains;

  • Fifth, rub in dirt to produce the grubby, disheveled look;

  • Sixth, place coat in washing machine for multiple washings;

  • And finally, hang the coat to dry, remembering to stuff the pockets with wet paper towels to create extra bagginess.

Once, the Lt. Character showed up in a brand new chocolate brown raincoat with large lapels that his wife ("the Missus") gave him in an attempt to upgrade his wardrobe. Columbo wasn't crazy about the gift and did his best to lose it. Eventually, Columbo retuned the coat claiming it was the wrong size and then re-donned his battered, familiar old raincoat..

On episode "Negative Reaction,"  Columbo visited a soup kitchen and one of the nuns on duty mistakes him for a vagrant and tries to convince Columbo that she could provide him with a nicer coat:
 

Sister: Oh, that coat, tsk-tsk, that-coat-that-coat-that-coat...I found exactly the right thing, look, it's warm, and it's hardly been used at all. Stand up, we'll try it on..
Columbo: Y'know, I appreciate what you're doin, I really do, but..., I've had this coat for seven years...
Sister: Oh, you poor man!!!
Dolan: Don't be ashamed...
Columbo: No, I'm very fond of it!
  [Columbo then explains he's an cop and the nun thinks he dressed for undercover]
Sister: You fooled even me!

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