Friday, October 25, 2013

Coats and Nostalgia

 
Coat shopping isn't what it use to be.  Coats were once so plentiful, affordable, and beautifully made.  Even the most expensive coats today are only blends.  Where is the soft melton wool with the velvet hand?  Or the cat's tongue-scratchy tweed with just enough flecks of color to know what hue your hat will be?  Don't even get me started on linings.  Where are the satins that make getting into your coat as smooth as skating?  Didn't we actually buy some coats just because of their linings?  The chocolate brown balmacaan with the coral satin lining I bought with my first real paycheck use to look so pretty draped on the hall bench, coral showing and waiting to be put into service for me. I wore it over my chiffon blouses with bows and tailored wool skirts to my working girl job in the city.  At night, I tossed it over my soft Qiana disco dresses.  A glimpse of that lining and I could tell the coatcheck girl which of the 150 coats she was in charge of was mine, all mine.  And what about warmth?  For some reason the wool coats of yore seemed cozier.

Coat shopping was an event at our house.  Mom took us to Jordan Marsh or Filenes on fall Saturdays that always seemed to have newly crisp and clean air, a hint of what was to come.  We tried on eons of coats;  some plain, some fancy, some with large leather buttons or brass military ones.  If Mom got confused, there always seemed to be a nice attractive mature saleslady with glasses on a chain around her neck, pencil in her chignon and thick charge book nearby.  She helped our arms get in and out of all kinds of sleeves, buttoned us, and led us to the illuminated three way mirror.  We could get just one coat each so it had to have room to grow and be sturdy enough to last into the next year.  Salesladies understood that coat shopping was serious business too.

In first grade, Mom found our winter coats at a boutique in a quaint nearby village.  Fortunately, there were two as my sister and I always had to match. They were green tweed coats with plain rounded crew necks.  But that was ok because each had an attached scarf with fringe.  How much fun we had tossing those scarves over our shoulders.  The saleslady really enjoyed seeing how delighted Mom was to have found TWO identical coats in the same size with charming attached scarves.  They both cocked their heads, arms casually akimbo, and smiled as they watched my sister and I in the three-way posing and twirling, scarves flying. To extend Mom's pride (she still talks about those coats), my sister and I did them justice:  we wore the hats that my grandmother knit to go with them.

I've concluded that unless I want to spend over $1,000 or possible up to $2,000, I may not find my high quality, warm, detailed, lined 100% wool coat.  But ...there just has to be something, somewhere. Perhaps I WILL keep searching and peeking under hems for that great silky lining.  I'm not sure I'll find one with a whimsical attached scarf to toss though.  I would however, settle for a  helpful sales clerk.




 
 

9 comments:

  1. Emily...great post! Where did you find the vintage ads?

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  2. Lovely and evocative as always!

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  3. So beautifully put! I still have the last coat I bought "new." That was in 1982 and it still looks fantastic. I loved the image of you with your sister and your coats.!

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  4. Simply wonderful. I was immediately whisked to standing in front of a 3way mirror in one of the only two dress shops available to my non-driving mom and me in the early '60s. Twirling. Yes, that describes it. And, my goodness, what I could have done with one of your scarves.

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  5. You brought back memories of my childhood when my sister and I always had matching coats. I'm also reminded (and I kick myself) of a very good coat that I donated a few years ago just because the color was no longer in style. I probably could have had it professionally dyed.

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  6. This is just a perfectly done piece, Donna, I just adored every word of it. Naturally, since I've been coat hunting myself, this speaks volumes. No nice salesladies left, alas, that understand that shopping is and should be a serious business. Coats are an investment!!! I found my coat, gorgeous lining and all, at the Goodwill. Which is, apparently, where all great coats go to die. I hope some coat manufacturers are reading your post right now and vowing to start making coats worthy of being draped over a couch, awaiting service. I think this has been my favorite post of yours this year, Donna! Hugs, Kay

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  7. Love this..."... there always seemed to be a nice attractive mature saleslady with glasses on a chain around her neck, pencil in her chignon and thick charge book nearby." Where are they now?

    Lovely post.

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  8. Yes, Jacqueline....no more sales ladies who have pride of ownership in their jobs. Chris, the images were found on google search and I did notice that the Boston shopping blog used some too. I love the old images. I believe they are public domain but I perhaps should have given him credit for the first few! I will mention him soon I love his blog so much. Thank you all for your kind comments. They mean so much!

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