Monday, January 22, 2007

coat of contention

I'm the sort of gal who, for the most part, marches to the beat of her own drummer. I've never been much of a people-pleaser; never been too worried about people's opinions about me, especially when it comes to my appearance. I wear what I like. I like to be comfortable. I try to look nice when the occasion calls for it and settle for presentable most days. I have my girlie moments when makeup and new clothes are all that will make me happy, but most days are not like that.

This winter I bought a new coat. My mom bought me a coat last year (or the year before..?) that is gorgeous. It is fitted and stylish. I love it. But I could never throw it on over sweats to run an errand. I could never throw it on over a bulky sweater or sweatshirt because it has too snug a fit.

We live across the street from the kid's school. I walk back and forth three times a day, five days a week. I take Phoebe & Mo over every morning at 8. I take Ollie over every day at 12. I go over and walk them all home at 3:15. And while it's right across the street, there's a big field between our house and the building. And, for those of you don't live here, it is very windy and very cold here in the winter. I wanted a coat I could bundle up in for the purpose of walking to school or doing any sort of outside activity that didn't require me to be somewhat dressy. (Can you think of an outdoor activity for which you'd want to be dressy?)

So, I looked around and ordered this coat from Land's End: The Women's Down Chalet Long Coat in "olive drab." It's down-filled (hence the name) so it's light as a feather (haha) and it feels like being inside a sleeping bag. It's soft and comfy. It's so warm it actually gets uncomfortable in the grocery store. It comes down past my knees so at 8:00 in the morning when it is 3 degrees I can put on my fake ugg boots and my big coat and all that shows is about three inches of pants, so no one has to know that I am still in my flannel pj's. It is perfect. I love this coat. I crocheted a hat and scarf in self-striping 100% wool Norro yarn that matches perfectly. Good stuff!

But every time I wear it, someone makes a comment. "Boy, you're bundled up!" "That's quite a coat!" "Whoa! How cold is it out there today?!" Those are things that strangers say. A lady in line behind me at St. Joseph Gift & Thrift actually patted my shoulders to feel the coat and said, "That is some kind of coat!" My friends say things like, "Wow, that is puffy!" Someone at church just laughed the other day and said, "Warm enough?"

Now, a few of these comments I could have ignored, but everyday somebody says something about it. And while nobody has said, "You look like an idiot in that coat", I seldom hear, "What a great coat!" The volume of decidedly NEUTRAL comments makes me suspicious. Why make a comment if it is neutral? Why draw attention to the coat and say "that's some kind of coat." It is some kind of coat. It's the Women's Down Chalet Long Coat.

Why do people care about my coat? It's such a weird thing...because it seems to me a pretty normal coat. It's not an outlandish color. Does "drab olive" sound outlandish? It doesn't have any exciting embellishments--no fur collar, no embroidered cuffs, no reflective strips, no fancy buttons, no nothing. It's a quilted nylon parka with down filling.

Maybe I look funny in the coat. Maybe I look like the Stay-Puffed Marshmallow Man. I know I don't look the model in the picture. The picture shows a far more accentuated waist than is perceivable when I am wearing it. But it's not ridiculous.

Im starting to feel a little self-conscious about it.

Will I stop wearing it? Heck no. I say again, it's like walking around in a sleeping bag and no one can see that I'm still in my pajamas. When you find a coat like that, you can't go back. I'm wearing this sucker every day. But if you see me wearing it don't say a thing.


Carla said...

I got a men's size XL down jacket (black) at The Gap in Michigan when I was visiting my folks--probably 5 - 6 years ago--clearanced for $29. It is a surefire shield against Nebraska winds and is VERY comfy and warm. I always tell people that I double in volume when I put it on--just to get them laughing instead of staring at my huge coat. I feel self-conscious when I visit guests and they try to hang it in their closet and it won't fit. Fortunately, I am a walking fashion felony anyway, so I just wear it. I don't enjoy clothes shopping, its not in the budget anyway, and so I procrastinate it as long as I can--more than likely exacerbating my existing fashion felony situation. Recently, I was at the grocery store, feeling really HUGE in it (and I'm not exactly delicate without the coat on), and looking at all the smartly dressed women who were there, while I was clad in the same loud gray and lime tennies I wear EVERY day, a KMart sweatshirt and my HUGE coat. As I was about to give up on my appearance forever, I walked by the magazine rack, and THERE WAS JENNIFER ANISTON in the SAME HUGE coat, with a style watch quote about how the huge coat and funky scarf are SO in style. So there you have it. We are in the center of the continent--and the fashion trends hit the coasts first and then move inward after a period of sometimes two or more years. If its in Santa Monica now, it's just not hip here yet. So, HUGE coats ARE cutting edge--the trend of the future--and we're there already. As for your coat of contention? Wear it, love it, and celebrate the fact that while the fashionistas are clipping by in the standard high-heel black boots with skinny jeans and a small sexy jacket (and somehow still not falling on their bums on the ice), we are warm AND WAY ahead of our time.

Carey said...

I think you should do some hard-core reflective listening and let us know what happens...

"I hear you think I'm bundled up."

"I hear you think this is quite a coat."

"I hear you're wondering how cold it is today..."

"I hear that you feel this is some kind of coat!"

"So you are wondering if I'm warm enough..."

Put it right back on them. And let us know what happens.

Carey M.

Hope said...

I'm pretty sure I've seen the coat and I liked it. I too am committing my own terrible errors by wearing my new custom-made jumpers that I've been wearing pretty much 4 out of 7 days of week because they are huge and comfortable for my pregnant body. Someone asked me the other day if I was having triplets, another lady asked when my due date was and I said early May and she replied that I'd never make it until then. Ok, so they are pleasantly large and make me look bigger. So far, no one has really complemented me on them, but you can be sure the jumpers are here to stay until probably next September. You go!

emdunbar said...

I had thought this was sort of a lame post, because who cares about my coat? And that's the gist point of the post--WHO CARES about my coat) But you guys are hilarious.

Take THAT Paris & Milan. The cutting edge of fashion is right here in Nebraska!

I love the active listening.

And Hopi I can't wait to see the custom made hippie maternity-wear. You're NOT having triplets, are you?

Melanie said...

my favorite coat these days is just as longn as yours, but made of fleece - it is this beautiful deep red color, and so it attracts all sorts of attention (which I could do without, thankyouverymuch, but what can you do?) anyway, it's the equivalent of wearing your bathrobe out of the house, and this is my 4th winter in it (winter in Mississippi isn't nearly as violent as on the midwestern plain, obviously)...but my short little self in a coat that comes nearly to the ground and has a hood that I like to pull up, looks very much like a little ewok, and i get similarly odd commentary from friends and strangers alike. but whatever, i like my outofthehousebathrobecoat. and i totally coveted that down coat from lands' end...just didn't think i could justify it when it only dips below freezing about 4 days a year here. agh. maybe next year...