(We interrupt our Spain reverie for a very important issue)
I recently went coat shopping, which is sounds like it’s no big deal, but of course, for me, was a very, very big debilitating deal.
I had to undertake this dreaded exercise because 1) I live in a cold place where I have to wear a coat for at least 96 days of the year; 2) one of my winter coats was six years old and looking a bit beat; and 3) apparently, all my clothes shrunk while I was in Spain.
OK, it’s not fair to JUST blame Spain. Turning 40 has made me slightly more Rubenesque. (Seriously, I do not know where my metabolism went, but the day after I turned 40, it packed up it’s little “Flirty Forty and Feeling Fine” suitcase and said, ‘see you on the flip side, loser.’)
Anyway, my six-year-old winter coat was feeling tight, especially over my multiple layers of sweaters and blazers.
(Just the other day, I was in the bathroom stall at work – I swear, this isn’t going down the TMI path – and caused the automatic flusher to go off five times while I organized my various layers of tights under slip, shirt tail over slip, skirt over shirt tail and slip, vest over skirt. It was a seemingly endless and complicated outfit for a Thursday, and quite typical of my winter workday outfits.)
I have, obviously, more than one winter coat. I actually have three. And I’m not even getting into the myriad of fall trench coats, leather jackets, capes and other accoutrement necessary to navigate the five miles between my house and work and all the activities in between.
No, for winter work navigating, I just have a mid-thigh black coat to wear with pants, a colorful longer coat to wear with dresses, and an incredibly warm, but slightly casual-ish duffle coat for really cold days and weekends.
It was the colorful coat that needed replacing, which caused this whole extra area of consternation. Here’s a taste of the internal dialogue running through my head:
“What color should I get? Maybe I should go with a plaid? I like this hot pink Cole Haan one, but I can’t really wear hot pink with my red hair without looking like a Muppet or something, and isn’t that just a bit obnoxiously bright for DC, where one is surrounded by a metro platform sea of black and gray? How long do I need it to be, exactly? My last coat (a nice, non-obnoxious olive green) was just past knee length, but maybe I should get something a bit longer; ie: warmer? Oh wait, there’s quite a few of those mullet coats (longer in the back, shorter in the front). How does that work? What size am I now? Should I get a wrap coat with a belt so I don’t have to worry about sizing at all? I definitely need some sort of waist definition, but would an inset waist be enough? What kind of collar do I need? These funnel collars seem nice, and I wouldn’t need a scarf, but they swallow my face. But I have a weak chin, so maybe that’s a good thing? This one has a very glamorous fake fur collar, but maybe it looks too cheesy? Why are all these sleeves so incredibly long on my tyrannosaurus rex arms? And tight! Why are these sleeves so tight? I’m not even wearing a sweater today! Why didn’t I wear a sweater today? How am I supposed to wear a sweater under these tight sleeves? Maybe I should come back on a day I’m wearing a sweater. What’s the deal with these buttons? They look kinda cheap. Maybe I should get a coat without buttons….sort of like some muumuu cape thing. What material should the coat be made of? This one says 60% wool, this one 70%, this one 80%. Which one will be warmest? This one is mostly polyester….that doesn’t breathe, so maybe that will be warmest? This one doesn’t feel very heavy, does that mean it won’t be warm enough? I’ve been trying on coats for two hours now and I’m sweating, so how am I supposed to tell which one is warmest? Maybe I should wear it outside the store first. They won’t mind, right? Is this blue or purple? I can’t tell under these lights! I’m getting lightheaded….”
Shopping for a bathing suit is actually much easier: Does this sufficiently cover my bits for a period of approximately four days around total strangers I will never see again? versus: Does this keep me warm and professional looking for a period of approximately three months around people I see every single day at work or on the subway or at the coffee place?
Finally, I found a beautiful coat that I liked. It was a lovely shade of not-too-bright teal, with adorable little gold toggle closures (instead of large cheap plastic buttons), an inset waist and a small rounded collar (but not too small). It was the perfect length, the sleeves ended where they were supposed to, and it was, I think, the right amount of wool (I honestly couldn’t tell after all those hours of trying stuff on at two different stores).
But did I leave the store with said perfect coat? No. Why not, you might reasonably ask? And to which I have a very unreasonable answer: Because it was a Jessica Simpson coat.
I know it seems ridiculous. But honestly, I would have been too embarrassed to wear the coat. Which is how I know that now, in addition to having short arms and cartoon character hair, I’m a total elitist snob.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate J. Simps or anything, (although I do think getting pregnant again just moments after giving birth to your last baby is a pretty lazy way to get out of your multimillion dollar Weight Watchers agreement). It’s just that I think she’s kinda stupid and famous for dumb reasons, and therefore, I just don’t want to give her any of my money. I can just imagine if someone asked me if my coat was from J. Crew or Kenneth Cole, and I’d have to mumble under my breath, “Uh, no, it’s from that world famous fashion designer and tastemaker aka lover of mom jeans, Jessica Simpson.”
I just couldn’t bite the bullet. So, I went with my second runner up: a navy-but-in-certain-lights-purple, mullet-skirted, funnel-collared, sleeves-just-slightly-too-long, suffocating-ly-warm, belted Steve Madden number. Which I hope, I won’t be too embarrassed to admit I own.
(Addendum: I saw a few online reviews in the last couple of days that suggests that the J. Simps coat would not have been warm enough for a DC winter anyway. Bummer).