I’ve been fall coat shopping. For a while now. I needed a coat for those fall days when it’s a bit too cold for a blazer, and not yet cold enough to haul out the winter coat. I want to delay that event as long as possible. Because once the winter coats are out of storage….they tend to stay out for months… and months.
A good coat has long been part of my wardrobe philosophy. Years ago, before I started teaching, when I was working as a pharmaceutical sales rep, I realized that if I had a great coat I didn’t have to worry much about what I wore underneath it. Because it rarely ever came all the way off. I’d perch on the edge of a chair in doctors’ offices talking quickly and wielding my fancy, colourful, statistical charts, squeezing my sales pitch into the three or four minutes before the doctor had to get back to work and pitched me out the door, metaphorically speaking. There was definitely no time to take off my coat. I learned to wear good boots, a black skirt, a blouse, often with a tie at the neck to make a scarf unnecessary… under a smart looking coat. Good coats aside… I hated that job. The most important thing I took away from that experience was not to be seduced by the offer of a shiny company car ever again. How much crap doctors have to listen to from sales reps in order to get the drug samples that they can then hand out free to patients who many times can ill afford to pay for them. And the importance of a good coat in looking pulled together and, in this case, professional.
So, as I said, I’ve been looking for a new coat for some time. Of course I did my research. Started a Pinterest board for coats. And kept coming back to slim, polished looks like these. I’d settled on either tweed or camel. The tweed coat on the left is Bruno Cucinelli whose clothes I would love to own… if I could afford them. And the grey tweed on the right is by Max Mara, which is a bit closer to my price range, but still more than I wanted to pay. I found both of these coats at MatchesFashion.com. You can see them here if you want to have a look.
So on I pressed. I looked in several stores, over several separate shopping trips here in Ottawa with no luck. I admire the kind of casual, louche look of these Max Mara coats below from Max Mara Weekend Collection. But they’re just too much coat for me. Now that I’m retired, my day is similar in a way to when I worked in sales. Not in the sense that I’m annoying doctors and pitching prescription drugs, but in the sense that, when I go out for the day, whatever coat I’m wearing tends to stay on most of the time. So I want it to be comfortable, not too tight, not too heavy to schlep around the mall, and not so long that it will drag on the ground when I’m getting in and out of the car. And I want it to be a coat that I love to put on. And not black.
When my friend and I were in New York, I looked at coats in just about every store we entered. I shrugged coats on and off while she patiently held my purse and jacket. Most of them were too cheap, or too expensive. Ha. Prada… I wish. Too skimpy, or too long and bulky.
I finally found a coat on our last day. At Macy’s. I hadn’t even planned to shop at Macy’s, I mean seriously shop. Of course we planned to visit Macy’s; neither of us had been before. And it is, reputedly, the largest department store in the world. And around the corner from our hotel. So how could we not? As we rounded the corner in the Max Mara Weekend section, this little fuchsia herringbone tweed number called to me. “Really? Fuschia?” I thought. Fat chance.
But I tried it on. And it fit me perfectly, even the sleeves. Sigh. And once I had it on, I loved the colour. I’ve never owned a bright coat. And not since a dusty pink hand-me-down coat when I was eight, have I owned a pink one. Well, actually this fuchsia coat is as much burgundy as pink, so, pinkish. And why not buy a fuchsia coat? Why not indeed? I love it here with my grey Vince turtleneck, and my leather trousers.
The two sales ladies at Macy’s, Marie and Barbara, were wonderful. They even wangled me 30% off when my attempts to get 40% off by applying for a Macy’s card went down the tubes. It seems that in order to establish that you have not committed identity theft, Macy’s take your cell phone number and text you a confirmation code. Well first off, my cell phone was back at the hotel charging. So Barbara put the coat aside and Elizabeth and I hurtled back to the hotel to get it. Then when Marie called upstairs to do the confirmation thing all over again, I was told that the application could not be processed because, according to “their records,” I was not the owner of my cell phone. Huh? “Was it in my husband’s name?” I asked. She didn’t know, or wouldn’t tell me. Just that she could not process the account. Damn.
I almost walked away then. But uncharacteristically I asked Marie what they could do for me. I mean it had been Barbara’s idea to apply for the account and get the discount when I balked at the price of the coat… in American dollars… which, trust me, makes a significant difference for a Canadian. So they got on the phone and, miracle of miracles, I suddenly had 30% off. Ten percent is standard at Macy’s just for being a “visitor.” Not sure how they wangled the other twenty. But I leapt at the offer, paid for the coat, and hustled it back to our hotel room. And second miracle of miracles, I even had enough room to fit it into my carry-on luggage and not even have to check my bag.
When I was messing around earlier this week to see what went with my new fuchsia coat and what didn’t, I liked it best of all with this outfit. My black leather pants, black boots, my Massimo Dutti white blouse, and my burgundy scarf loosely draped around my neck. You see, this is exactly what I wanted. A simple, well-made coat that I could just pull on and look good.
And since this is the season for layering. And I am at a point in my life where the body temperature is still a teensy bit unpredictable, I need to be able to take off layers as well as put them on. And still look good. Yep, taking off the layers is key. Like when you’re sitting in a crowded restaurant. I plan to wear this in a couple of weeks when I have lunch with a bunch of ladies I worked with years ago. Our so-called “To Hell With the Bell” lunch group.
Then I want to be able to reverse the process when I go back outside. Without having to fuss with cardigans, or tying scarves in complicated arrangements. So I’ll simply pull on my beautiful coat and toss that scarf around my neck with insouciance. Hopefully.
Meanwhile, the day I took these shots, I swapped the leather trousers for jeans. And the boots for my Stan Smith Adidas… how fortuitous that they have burgundy trim. I was heading out to try to find the absolute last thing on my fall shopping list. Black ankle boots. These five year old Cole Haan boots are looking a little down at heel. Ha. Bad pun.
So that’s my story of how I miraculously found my perfect fall coat on 34th street. And I’ll leave you with a clip of my favourite scene from the 1947 film Miracle on 34th Street. I love that movie. And this scene where “Mrs. Shellhammer gets hammered” is one of my favourite scenes. Hope you enjoy a chuckle when you watch it.
I have a feeling that my American friends are in much need of a good laugh.
Now it’s your turn folks. What are you shopping for these days? Is a good coat as important to your wardrobe as it is to mine?
High Heels in the Wilderness is for women like me. Women who love clothes. And books. Who dream of travelling to amazing places. Who want to explore their own lives, and their own potential, now that they aren't twenty (or even forty) anymore.