Wednesday, 23 March 2011

A quest for coat

Given that Wellington weather has recently descended into its annual eight-month period of Cold and Wet, with the early-March predictable-but-always-bastardly Baby Wellington's My First Cold Snap, this seemed like a good time for me to start shopping for a coat. Added to this was my desire to have an Awesome, Beautiful, Grown-Up Coat which could hopefully be worn for years to come; up until February, I was a student, and the combination of a student salary and the wear and tear of constantly carrying a heavy leather satchel meant that my coats thus far had been chosen more for wearability and warmth than for awesomeness. Now, however, my coat from last winter had wear patches on the shoulder and hip from the strap of my schoolbag, was generally a little shabby despite a drycleaning, and while attractive in a fairly basic way, was not really Fashion with a capital F. It was New Coat Time.

This, however, proved easier said than done, even given that I knew vaguely what kind of coat I was after. What kind of coat was that? I've always adored trench styling and semi-military detail such as epaulettes, I wanted something in either camel or grey, and ideally the skirt would be flared enough to at least allow for petticoated skirts, even if it didn't button over them. Camel is in fashion this season, and trench styling is so classic that it really never disappears, so, I hopefully reasoned, there should be many versions of such a coat.

There WERE many versions of such a coat, but as I quickly discovered, feeling increasingly like Goldilocks, none were just right. Three weekends ago, some friends and I had a brunch-and-gallery-and-MAC date of a Sunday morning (three weekends ago? Seriously? God time disappears). Since we're walking down to MAC, I asked, would they be keen to pop into a couple of stores along the way and scope out coat potential? Of course. So off we traipsed, fortified with eggs montreal (them), vegetarian breakfast (me) and hollandaise sauce (EVERYONE BECAUSE IT IS DELICIOUS), into a day featuring Howling Southerly and I Can't Believe It's Not July (refrain: Why Is It So Cold). Would Kate Sylvester, handily right next door to our cafe, have any coats? No, although I did (WHOOPS) manage to impulse-buy a bunny-print t-shirt dress.

Karen Walker, down the road, did have coats - both heavy drill cotton trenches in dark grey and a lovely tan, which would be perfect for that month or two before winter when it's not really cold enough for a proper winter coat (and the four months when winter's supposed to have ended but it's still a bit chilly), and heavier wool coats in the pictured textured houndstooth or a simple grey flannel. The only problem here was the price - at $700 for a cotton trench, or $1100 for wool flannel, my only defence for my wallet was to avoid even trying them on (because falling in love with an eleven hundred dollar coat would be horrendous and unrequited forever). 

Further down, we ducked into Marcs, because the ad for this trench had been pulled out of my autumn Fashion Quarterly and was pinned up on my season inspiration board - why not go straight to the source? Sadly, the colour was closer to beige than the rich camel I was hoping for, and the double-breasted style just did not work. Hourglass figure + a penchant for wearing full skirts do not play well with this kind of coat, apparently. The more you know...  A bit downhearted, I demanded that we detour into Ricochet since I thought my best friend would quite like their style, and came out with her having layby-ed an amazing deep blue chiffon dress despite claims that she really shouldn't be spending the money (she NEEDED this dress in her life, it was simply beautiful). Having flicked through their autumn/winter lookbook, I fell in love with a) the styling, b) the model, and c) the Guard blouse. Seriously, go have a look at the collection, it is very goth-meets-vintage-military in the best of ways, and I suspect that I might have to start adding a few of their things to my wishlist. Everyone's wardrobe needs a bit of goth, anyway. 

Jacqui E was also lacking entirely in coats (apparently we were shopping too early, but winter has a habit of creeping up all too quickly, so really, end of Feb/beginning of March should be prime Coat Shopping Time) so we trucked further on down to Glassons, who DID have a coat which fit better than Marcs but which very clearly reflected its $80 vs $300 pricetag in that it was cheaply cut, with too-long sleeves and bad finishing. Cue had nothing of note except a horrifically pushy salesgirl. Ugh. Thoroughly downhearted by this point, we gave up and went to MAC to look at the Wonder Woman collection, where I bought a super-pretty Marquise D' lipstick and frosted pink shadow (Peacocky Mega Metal shadow in Top of the Posh) and decided that coat shopping could go sod itself because makeup was way more fun.

Then a couple of days later, my best friend emailed me to say she'd seen a coat in the window of Witchery that I might like, which was peacoat length, dark camel, single-breasted, with epaulettes and an interesting collar. She emailed me the picture, which was intriguing in a this-could-be-it kind of way, and as my bus home takes me past the store, I eyed it up every evening thinking "I should really go and try that on."

Today I went and tried it on, finally, and while it's not EVERYTHING that I want in a coat (the back skirt panel isn't lined, it's only 70% wool, and it's made in China which I don't really like to support), everything else about it was good enough that it was clear that this was The Coat. The single-breasted style is super-flattering, as is the collar (I can fold down the top button for a lapel, or wear it buttoned as in the picture with a scarf for extra warmth) and because it finishes buttoning at the waist, it flares nicely over a full skirt without looking tight or mean. The colour is much richer than some of the beige I've seen masquerading as camel and the cut is lovely. My quest for coat was complete! I layby-ed that sumbitch and cannot wait to rock the camel-coat-and-pencil-skirt-and-red-lipstick this winter. Now all I need to complete my winter wardrobe Necessities List (rather different from my OH GOSH THIS IS PRETTY AND I WANT IT list) is a good pair of black boots, but I suspect that much like a coat, finding the right pair (for less than a million billon dollars) will be rather more difficult than deciding I need them.

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