For years, I have worn dark wool coats. A couple of years ago, I decided that I wanted something with a little more personality, you know, so people could see me coming from far off and leave if they needed to. I started looking for a brightly colored wool coat.
Most people, when they decide that a brightly colored wool coat is their heart's wish, go to the store and buy one. If their heart's wish is discovered during the summer, then they might have to wait a few months until the stores put out their winter stock again. When you shop at the thrift stores, however, you can't count on there being any wool coats at all, much less the bright purple one you've always secretly wanted. As it happened, there were a fair amount of brightly colored wool coats, but they were always shin-length and frequently stuck in the 1980s. For two or three years now, I've been hopefully looking through racks of coats, pulling out the colorful wool ones and then putting them back, disappointed.
Ah, but it's been a good winter for outerwear. I have acquired three, three!, exciting coats with lots of personality.
Coat 1: Upholstery
Here is the coat I'd be searching for! Well, it turned out to be the coat I bought.
Josh makes fun of this coat regularly, saying it looks like 70s upholstery. I tolerate his comments, and then smile triumphantly at him whenever I get complimented on it. Lots of people have recognized that while they may have seen this fabric on an unfortunate couch once, it clearly makes for a nice coat. I adorned it with a flower brooch I picked up at another thrift store.
Coat 2: Navy
One morning, Josh went out and hit a few thrift stores. He called me on the way home, obviously excited about some good finds. I cheekily asked him if he'd bought me any presents. He replied that he had.
What he bought was a black pea coat. I know, not brightly colored at all. But, it was formerly owned by someone in the Navy, and the arm patch makes up for the sensibility of the color.
I tried it on, and it fits just right, though it is rather masculine. I wore it a few times, Josh tried it out a few times, and then a few days later, Josh announced that I could have it. Apparently, he'd bought it, maybe with the idea of keeping it for himself, though noting my preference for pea coats. Then, when I'd asked about a present, he said yes and locked himself in.
The moral is to always ask if he's bought me a present. Or the moral is that when you're married, close to the same size, and you've both got like four coats, you can share the newest one.
It is seriously the nicest coat I've ever owned. The lining is thick and soft. It's just altogether sturdy, well-made, and warm. When the weather outside is too frightful for my upholstery coat, I wear this one. The lining is stamped at the bottom with the name "ROBERTS," who I assume was the original owner. According to the patch, he was a machinist's mate, petty officer, first class.
Coat 3: Cape
You know, I should not have even been in the coat section. I already fulfilled my need for interesting outerwear, so there was no need for me to even go to that rack and start poking through the selection. And it was completely unnecessary for me to see the bright royal blue wool fabric and then go pulling out the hanger.
But I did. And it wasn't a coat! It was a cape, with an attached scarf. I bought it, like immediately. I felt the need to hurry up and make the purchase before I came to my senses, because this right here is pretty ridiculous, even for someone who wears dated upholstery.
Having bought a cape, I need to wear it. I have several silly items of clothing in my closet that never get worn, but I only paid a dollar or so for each of them. I paid fifteen whole dollars for this cape, which means I need to make the price-per-wear cost worth it. At least, that's the kind of silly justification math I did while standing impatiently in line at the Goodwill.
I have been wearing my cape to the only place where that kind of fanciness is at all appropriate - church. And since I can't wear just any old outfit with a nice wool cape, my outfits have gotten snazzier, too. Josh usually makes me feel like a slouch at church, because while I put on pants and a sweater and call it done, he's going all out with a jacket and bowtie. He's even been talking about suspenders lately.
I dug deep into my closet and found some neglected skirts. Then I dug deeper and found a box of tights from my business casual days. With my cape and my coordinating tights, I AM THE FANCIEST. I've gotten several appreciative comments, but the best response I've gotten has been from Josh himself, who apparently loves his wife in a cape. He said I looked like a beautiful detective.
Just in case you ever see a be-caped woman out in public, and you think to yourself that she is wearing a ridiculous garment, I assure you, she knows. I feel like a Grade-A Crazy Person in that cape, even as I admire the lovely blue wool and the purple satin lining. Josh told me that his Mom once owned a winter cape, but she ended up getting rid of it because she did not like getting so much attention.
Now, I do not really care for public attention. However, I do wear things that get attention, for example, my penguin hat and now my cape. I do not wear these things because I want the attention, but because I like the thing itself. After buying my penguin hat, I was surprised and a little dismayed at how much notice it attracted, but I sure as heck was not going to stop wearing it. I can't argue with people who want to come up and tell me what a great hat I'm wearing. They are right, it is a fantastic penguin hat. So far, I can say that a cape gets less attention than a penguin hat. I think the only difference is that while I often forget that I have a penguin on my head, I am acutely aware of the cape at all times.
But I take it as a challenge. By having the social courage to wear my most excellent cape, I can encourage others to wear the capes languishing in their closets. Life is short, be fancy.
And now I will really stop looking for a coat. Promise.