Monday, January 19, 2009

it smelled like mothballs when I bought it

I started shopping in thrift shops in high school--my budget did not allow for a closet full of the requisite Guess jeans and Forenza sweaters, so out of necessity and defiance, I opted for an Ally Sheedy/Breakfast Club-Molly Ringwald/Pretty in Pink look--long baggy skirts worn with long underwear and combat boots. A man's overcoat in a tweedy plaid--the pockets were inexplicably full of matchbooks from a local restaurant when I bought it for $5.00 at the local thrift shop. I often wondered about the old man (all the clothes at the thrift shop were Old People Clothes) who had worn it before it was donated to the thrift shop--had he died? Was his compulsive matchbook grabbing a sign of early dementia? Had he smoked? In my imagination he was always balding and stooped, liver-spotted and wore natty ties.

This thrift shop was dark, dingy and totally scary and foul smelling. There was nothing vintage/retro/cool about it. You had to really dig through mounds of polyester pants and ugly acrylic sweaters to find the good stuff and when you did find anything worth buying, you definitely had to wash it well before wearing. Looking back, I was rare--a middle class kid shopping in the poor man's zone at the time--but half of my earnings had to go for college savings which left Not Much for fun and frivolity. Plus, I'd rather wear well made classics with flair before I'd head to Maurice's or Deb for cheaply made knock-offs.

Sometime in college I bought another wool coat for $12. Lined with silk, my favorite coat has sleeves that are slightly gathered at the wrists to keep the chill out. It's a 1960's style swing coat evocative of Jackie O and Audrey Hepburn--it covered every substantial inch of my body while pregnant and looked unbelievably chic in the 80's, the 90's and now the 00's. Talk about timeless. It fits me like a glove--the sleeves are the perfect length and the hem hits the slimmest point of my German calves.

Yep, that's real silk!

Sure, the buttons might be missing a few rhinestones and the lining is torn in one corner, but this wool coat is warm, made from Old School materials and not about to go out of fashion or fall apart any time soon. I wear it to church, weddings, gala events, and nice restaurants. It's one of a kind and I always feel glamourous when I wear it.

Just look at those groovy buttons!

Sometimes I imagine the old woman who wore this coat--did she think in a million years that after she was done with it, a much younger woman would look like the cat's ME-OW every time she slid it on? Did she know what a classic it was? Did she appreciate the tightly woven fabric that could withstand the coldest days of winter? Women would pay fifty times as much for a coat of this quality, but I'll never sell. I may, however, bequeath my beautiful favorite wool coat to a thrift shop when I die--and imagine who will wear it next.


Across the globe, millions of women covet the perfect little black dress. In Wisconsin, women give props to those owning the perfect black wool coat.

20 comments:

  1. Love the story of your wonderful wool coat. Recycled coats are great and the one you have is a classic.

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  2. Beautiful.

    I got lucky several years ago and found a gorgeous vintage cashmere camel colored coat on eBay. I plan to have it until I die.

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  3. Love those buttons. I'm a fiend for cool buttons!

    mmm... mothball smell, though? Not so much.

    ;) - MM

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  4. Wow, that is beautiful - the lining is fantastic!

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  5. You are a wonderful writer and story teller. You take the ordinary and make it extraordinary!

    I love Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink. Molly had a look indeed. I've always wanted the Diane Keaton look. Our hair and sundglasses are the same. But that's about all. I don't think she eats the cookies I do.
    Hugs...
    Joni

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  6. What a beautiful coat. I have my great grandma's coat dress coat and it looks very similar. It is amazing how some styles are timeless. I'll bet you look absolutely stunning in it.

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  7. Fabulous coat! Wonderful post! Thanks for sharing - I'm totally green with envy. I used to have a vintage, tomato-red, nubby, poly-blend coat a la Mary Richards / Tyler Moore to wear for fun, but nothing compared to your find.

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  8. Great find! It's great to find those classics. I'm still searching for mine. I love second-hand stores.

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  9. Oh yes. I keep searching for the perfect winter coat - but I haven't found it yet.

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  10. Beautiful find!
    My mom had a white wool coat that I loved. Sadly, we didn't do the moth ball thing...they thought it was delicious, too.

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  11. This is a classic coat. It looks like something Audrey Hepburn would have worn.

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  12. Lucky Duck! I am so jealous of your coat. I bet you are stunning in it.

    I also think about the people who wore my thrift finds before me. I often know which ones come from the old folks home because they have names written in sharpie and instructions like, DO NOT WASH! or NOT MABEL'S!! Mabel must be the clothes stealing roommate or something.

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  13. So fun to read the history behind the clothes. I used to do stuff like this, sometimes just to find the cool buttons I would sew on things.

    Thanks for sharing this was a fun post.

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  14. That is a story waiting to be written!

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  15. That is a lovely coat! Good score! And...ahhh, the smell of vintage ... who doesn't recognize it? *heehee!*

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  16. OMG. That coat is to die for! The lining ... the buttons ... the cut ... oh!

    I, too, am a huge thrift store fan. The coat of my dreams? Looks like it's made of brocade curtains and has a label inside from a long-gone department store in my hometown. Like you and your coat, I consider it a great treasure and will never sell.

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  17. Yes, we Wisconsin women covet the perfect coat!! I bought my black wool at a consignment shop for $8. it's not as snazzy as yours, though.

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