Shortly after The Factory closed for the summer, I subtracted items from the dresser and closet: the stylish watch I never wear, worn-out shoes, etc. Then I made a little list of items I lacked: ankle socks, dressy shoes, closed-toe espradilles, and a blouse to dress up or down. And just like previous years, I wrote down “formal spring/fall coat.”
The shoes and socks were easy to find. I was extremely picky about the blouse; there are so many choices.
The formal coat, on the other hand, was a rare beast.
For several years I have had the habit of leaving my coat in the car while I dashed into work or a restaurant. It was fit only for raking leaves or waiting for Trick-or-Treaters in the semi-darkness. Even then, I was apt to wear a casual corduroy jacket I bought for $5 at the Salvation Army.
Besides my personal desire to wear a something attractive, there was social pressure. I am expected to attend more community events to “support our profession,” as my colleagues say. I don’t present a polished look wearing a coat with worn-shiny elbows and a ragged lining.
However, I refused to spend my entire $175 clothing budget on one item. That ruled out trending brands, while common sense ruled out fast fashion. Secondhand clothes were no help. The downside to living in a fairly fashionable area is that the resale shop prices are appropriately upscale. An Yves Saint Laurent coat is still Yves Saint Laurent. Charity shops have numerous windbreakers, denim jackets, and other casual coats. Their formal section, though tends to be vintage: shoulder-pads, velvet, and multicolored plaids!
Enter M’e the Fashionista. I have mentioned her before because she’s a kind of modern Renaissance woman, knowledgeable about culture both ancient and modern. And she is a fine cook, to boot.
Before I jump into a No Shopping Year, I wanted to update my wardrobe with M’e. She occasionally sets aside a fashion find like the Vera Wang blazer that’s my go-to for conferences. This luncheon was no exception. She brought me a ruffled DSW tote for shlepping papers* and a western-style purse big enough to carry an iPad.
After lunch, she acted as my shopping consultant. I don’t no how she does it, but she can find things that suit me within my budget. I came home with a blue twist-top A-line dress, a blouse, and this Lands’ End trench coat.**
I am thrilled. It’s really too warm to wear now, but I have tried it on a few times with various outfits just to see how it looks. As M’e said, “It looks fabulous.”
*M’e is, among other things, an adjunct professor who knows the importance of stylish totes. She also uses words like shlepping and mensch.
**I paid $54.50 plus tax.