If there is one thing in my wardrobe that I am hopelessly NOT in need of (I promise) – it is a coat. And it has been this way for a long time.
Sid and I recently got into a big fight when he insisted on cleaning out the hall closet. I managed to put him off for weeks, making excuses, just knowing it would not go well. Yes, my coats did occupy 90% of the real estate, "but Sid, I share them with all of the girls." Eventually the day came, and one by one, we went through them and I needed to defend every last coat. There were peacoats, camel hair coats, six (!) navy coats of varying weight. A motorcycle jacket, a safari jacket, Macintoshes. Three of those actually – classic khaki, neon yellow, and a DIVINE A-line-ish double-breasted navy one with no belt and a little stand collar that could absolutely be my favorite piece of outerwear that I own. A few years ago I drove a friend of mine crazy when we were trying to leave a very packed and loud Christmas party (sad to think we won't have any of those this year,) and I could not find it amidst the other coats in the mound in the bedroom. I must have gone through the pile five times, heart racing, thinking that someone had walked away with it, while the Uber idled outside. After twenty minutes the friend – and her husband – were perturbed enough that I gave up and resolved to go back for it the next morning. Which I did! It had just been deposited in another coat mound in another bedroom by the coatcheck tag team of teenage boys. Happy ending.
Because it is a more everyday item than, say, a dress, a coat can be a memory maker of a particular time in your life, or a trip, rather than just a very fun party or occasion. Think of all the steps you took in a city you may have traveled to when you were younger, or even just last year (when we could travel). Your wardrobe was changing daily, but every museum, restaurant, park, street, would have been navigated in the same coat. Maybe two if you are like me. I love to put on a coat on for the first time when the weather turns and find something in the pocket from last year. Of course money is the best. A lipstick you forgot about is pretty good. Maybe ticket stubs, a card from someone you promised to follow up with… oops. When I was younger, the pockets of almost every coat were filled with crinkly little gold wrappers from Coffee Rio candies. I lost not one but two dental crowns to that habit so I had to give them up… but I know that my daughters still think of me every time they find one stuck inside the pocket of a borrowed coat.
A thing I tell women a lot is that a coat isn't just a coat – it is a style maker. I wrote about this for Yolo Journal last year, but for me there are so many visuals and 'identities' we can take on by just putting on a coat. Camelhair is classic and preppy like Ali McGraw running around Boston. Or if Love Story is too boring a reference, there is Clotilde in the old Polo ads. This was such a LOOK that it got her an acting gig in the fantastic movie Trading Places, where she played the classic old-money, Main Line Philadelphia girl… and Dan Aykroyd's love interest! To me, the camel Caterina coat is totally that look… I would probably go for the navy version, although we have decided I am overindexing on navy coats.
And who can forget the sexiness of Anne Bancroft smoking a cigarette in her leopard coat in The Graduate? The Willow jacket is that look to a tee… instant glamour. Although there is also this one from Harris Wharf that is a more subtle nod to Mrs. Robinson in a mossy green leopard-print wool. If my panic at the Christmas party didn't make this clear, a trench is my favorite silhouette by far. I cannot decide which one I want this season. There is a beautiful brighter blue A-line one that will definitely stand out in the coat closet between all the navies. OR there is this very English-looking plaid one from A.P.C. that I can't stop thinking about draping over my turtlenecked shoulders… maybe on an outdoor COVID dining date with Sid. I have three trenches already, but these are DIFFERENT. There are loads more inspiration photos out there if I've missed your favorite trench coat fantasy. The one he really won't be able to argue with is the polka dot Carina. Very 80s Geoffrey Beene. And reversible - so even more persuasive!
Truly, what other piece of clothing combines practicality and style as well as a coat? My two love languages when it comes to getting dressed. Staying warm is important, although in some geographies more than others. (For me nothing is more of a buzzkill than feeling cold.) The best part about moving to Atlanta, I found, was the mild winters. Cold enough to GET to wear a coat, but not absolutely NEEDING it as in New York or Wisconsin. A coat here is more of an accessory than anything. Which is probably why I need to defend my collection so fiercely to Sid!
Last year I spent the better part of 3 weeks in NYC around Christmas, when we were doing a pop-up shop on Madison Avenue. I could not have done it without my bright green Holubar puffer. Visually, it was amazing. I was visible from 3 blocks away, even in a snowstorm, and that punch of color was extra fun to look at on those grey days. But more importantly, it kept me warm. On top of all that, it is a little sentimental to me as Holubar is a heritage brand from Boulder. It, too, earns its spot in the coat closet. I need navy and camel and plaid, but also some color! The two we bought for this year are actually even better… a rich olive green and a bright grenadine red that may even make you MORE visible than mine does. If you're not in a puffer kind of climate, there are a few lighter-weight pressed wool ones that will give you the same hit of color. How about a pale lime, or a pretty sky blue? Or even marigold orange?
You may not need this as much as I usually promise. But if you are like me, you are going to want a new coat to cheer you up this season… and, if you are really like me, you are going to have a hard time picking out just one. And if you need another reason other than pure delightful longing, think about the strangeness of this year in particular. A new winter coat during COVID is plenty justifiable. We may not be with each other indoors (no coat checks…) but many of us will be walking and eating and socializing outdoors more than ever before. Think about that when the rack in your coat closet (or your partner!!) groans from the weight of all those favorites.