I’ve always been inspired by the power of a good coat to transform really basic items into a sharply-planned ensemble. A winter coat is a necessity, a powerful fashion tool but, let’s be honest, it’s a means of survival.
A few years ago, when money was really tight, I purchased a no-name pea coat from a store and proceeded to wear it to death, until pills started to form on the wool. New York is a coat town, so people really look at your coat here. I guess it’s because we don’t have cars; your coat and your handbag are your fancy-making statement here. Anyway, said wool peacoat and I were together for a brutal winter and I made it look pretty fancy, I thought: I married a host of scarves with it to keep it fresh, I replaced the buttons as I was able. That coat and I were close and since starting the blog and quitting my job to start a writing career left me eating peanut butter off a spoon and ramen noodles most nights, it was the best I could do.
During Fashion Week that winter, they added coat check at the tents and I went to retrieve said wool coat at the end of an exhausting day of shows. There was a woman in front of me at coat check, picking up her rather fancy fur-collared number, when the gent working the window put my coat down next to her coat. Before I could walk forward, the woman, who had a pen in her hand, took said pen and flicked my coat onto the ground like a piece of garbage, nose upturned with a disdainful exclamation:
You know, I’ve never forgotten that moment. I went to quickly retrieve the coat from the ground, rapidly thinking of a rebuttal because I was going to be damned if she’d treat my hard-loved coat that way. She was gone by the time I was able to gather myself. But she gave me a gift that day: I’ve always remembered that moment when I see people making bitchy comments about the way someone dresses. We’re all doing the best we can to make it in this world, and to quote Reverend Jesse Jackson, “Don’t look down on another man unless you’re trying to help him up.” Usually, people’s mean comments are a reflection of their own insecurities. I can only think of how hers must have been eating her alive.
I was able to get this brand-new coat this season, which is a gorgeous take on a British military coat by the amazing designer Trina Turk. I love my new coat and I wear it with pride, especially now that the nights are longer and the cold fronts are coming in. I wear it with the same amount of pride and gratitude as I wore my beloved old coat, which I still wear around my neighborhood. I can’t bear to part with it; there are some old friends with whom you just can’t bear to part.
The two coats are next to each other in the closet, and I’d like to think the old coat is in there, showing the new coat the ropes: how not to yank up the cuffs of my sleeves and how to hold my alpaca gloves just so. I’d like to think they’re friends, cozied up on the hangers in there. Each is representative of the best I can afford at different times in my life. Personal style is, at its very core, a representation of our best right then and there.
Which is why I urge us all to be kind. Sometimes, the warmth of humanity is the only coat any of us can afford at that moment. Don’t begrudge someone of that moment. We all deserve a little warmth in a world that can be, at times, very, very cold.
Be warm, everyone.