Friday, December 11, 2009

Challenged by Outerwear

I have issues.

In last night's post, I mentioned freezing my patootie off in San Francisco. Let me elaborate.

I'm a middle aged women equipped with naturally-formed fat-based insulation, living in California. In other words, for the most part, I stay reasonably warm in winter without worrying too much about outerwear. Yesterday, though, it was chilly in San Francisco as it has been in much of Northern California this past week or so.

I had brought a coat with me on the trip, but because I didn't need it when we got off the bus at 2 p.m., I left it on the bus rather than carry it around with me. When the sun started going down, marine dampness moved in, and a breeze kicked up, I got cold. All I was wearing was a pair of slacks, a cotton knit shirt, and a light weight sweater. Brrrrr!

Now, why didn't I take my coat? Because I have issues. Outerwear issues. Specifically, I haven't found a coat I really liked for maybe 20 or 30 years.

At some time in the distant past--like around the late 1970s/early 1980s--I think I had one of those down-packed corduroy coats that made everyone look like the Michelin Tire Man--except maybe Karen Carpenter. I didn't like it.

Then, the next coat I can recall was sometime in the 1990s, when I decided I wanted something more grown up, and I bought a long (calf length) black and white houndstooth coat.


It still lives in my coat closet. I didn't actually HATE it, but it felt too long and too formal to wear with more casual clothes, and I think the last time I wore a dress was probably around 1994. So I still own it and I can wear it if I need a long, black and white houndstooth coat--because it will probably never really go out of style--but most of the time it doesn't work for me.

Next, I decided I needed a more casual coat--something I could wear on weekends to the kids' soccer games and football games; something I could wear in the car on the way to work on chilly mornings. So I bought a black hooded fleece jacket and I was happy for a year or so. Then the fleece started developing little fleece balls. White fuzz, lint, and threads appeared because it seemed to always be full of static. It just never really looked clean. So I put it in my car trunk one day about eight years ago and only took it out to move it to the trunk of my next car and maybe to wear it once or twice when I would have died of hypothermia otherwise.

A couple years ago, I picked a pretty blue ultrasuade jacket with a detachable hood and some realistic looking fake fur around the hood. The body of the jacket is lightly stuffed with down or something like that. Friends and relatives complimented me. And that's the coat I still have. Now it too seems full of static--after all, the ultrasuade is a synthetic of some sort. And the light bit of down? Carrying it around on my arm feels a lot like carrying a pillow around. So you see why I like the coat best when it was shoved under the seat of the party bus?

So all afternoon, while I froze, I looked at women around me, wearing sensible coats. Something not too bulky but warm. Something that didn't create its own little static universe. Something that wasn't stuffed full of dead birds.

As you see, I have issues. I can't seem to pick out a coat I like for more than ten minutes. I thought about going shopping to look for something else, but I don't trust myself to pick out a coat anymore. So I'll ask you: Do you like your winter coat or jacket? If so, what kind do you have? What do you like about it? If you don't like your coat or jacket, what kind do you have and what don't you like? Maybe if I can get some input, I can go out and find something I'll actually wear! Remember that it's not freezing cold here--on the 15 days a year when I'd actually need a coat or jacket, it's probably between 35 and 50 degrees out, and I'm likely to be outdoors for short periods of time. So what do you think? What should I look for?

Here's what I think. I think I'd like a low-hip or thigh length jacket, natural fibers of some sort, comfortable (i.e., not stiff and not too fitted), and in a dark color--black would be excellent. I like the look of leather but I always wonder whether leather jackets are warm? Or what about wool?

I have issues. Can you help?!

21 comments:

Kelly Ann said...

Let me just say I can relate...I'm short so most of the coats I buy are too long, I've got a wide load but smallish top, so now I have to buy a coat that will fit my height my extended rear and my smaller shoulders...dang just give my a quilt, I'll drape it over my shoulders and be done with it!

Nancy said...

I live in the midwest, so I have a multitude of coats. Long, short, light, dark, heavy, light...
My favorite right now (even in 11 degree weather) is a brown corduroy jacket with a hood. It's lightweight, but warm...

BJ said...

Funny stuff!

Yes, I am much the same way. I have a very expensive black wool coat hanging in my closet that still has the price tag on it from 8 years ago. When I lived up north, I always thought that coat was too dressy for whatever I was wearing. Now that I'm much further south, I don't think of it as much, so I have less guilt. Right now we have freezing temps, but I really have no plans to wear that thing today either!

bonnie said...

I dislike shopping for coats ,always too big , small, long(I'm vertically challenged) and moving from Michigan to South east Virginia . like you don't need one as often, ten years ago I made a quilted jacket with flannel for batting , comfortable and warm like a thin quilt. I wore it until it could only be worn for walking and the fabric got thin...subtle fabric and the length I choose this worked well for all kinds of occasions , even complements that "it does not look like homemade" and I get to play with my fabric too!

Kim said...

Since I live in the midwest, I have a variety of coats too. I do like my leather jacket with the zip out lining. That way I can wear it in a variety of temperatures. But my favorite for the temps you describe would be my light weight Columbia jacket. I'm pretty sure it's not natural fiber, but it's thin, but holds the heat in. It isn't much to carry when I don't need it, but keeps me warm even on recess duty in the fall. I usually look at coats over several seasons before I break down and buy a new one because it is so hard to find a really great one. Good luck!

Karen said...

Ok, I live in N. Calif (Santa Rosa) and have been freezing my @#$ the past week or so. It has been in the 20's in the morning and I wouldn't think about going outside without a coat. San Francisco is notorious for turning from pleasant to freezing in a matter of minutes and I understand the being prepared thing about having to accommodate the changes. But, girlfriend, it's cold outside. I personally own no less than 4 winter coats, 2 with removable linings. Maybe that's what you need to look for. A coat where you can remove the down/wool/furry lining when it's not so cold.

BBRRRRRR

paula, the quilter said...

A Colorado girl checking in here. I have a closet FULL of coats. The weather here can go 40 degrees in one day. When on the ski slopes it is a really good warm parka. But for running around town it is a light weight wool coat that hits mid-thigh and had a hood. Love it. I hate fleece jackets. Too much static in them and I kill electronics when I wear them.

sue said...

Try LandsEnd.com. I bought a 3/4 length coat with zip out lining. Understated in style but also very transitional. In a pinch, can be worn in the rain. Mine is black and again find it very versatile. Might be just the thing for your temps. Good Luck!
sue

Suzanne Kistler said...

I have the same Lands End 3/4 length coat with zip-out lining. I bought it to watch MY soccer son when he was in high school. I vowed not to be cold on those metal bleachers, and it did the trick.

I also have a dressy calf-length red wool coat that I LOVE. It was my mom's so it's at least 15 years old. Every time I wear it I get multiple compliments.

I have a shorter Pendleton wool coat (nice with slacks). It may be wool, but the weave is too loose and it doesn't keep me warm when it's under 50.

I, too, live in the valley, and find that more than one coat is best. There are different kinds of cold, and it's better to be warm (and stay healthy!) than to look good.

Good luck, Kim!!!

paulette said...

Hi KIm!
If I were you I would buy a light weight black wool coat...then in 5-6 years (when you are sick of it) instead of stuffing it into the trunk of your car you could make it into a penny rug or a pillow or a cute little Santa runner....see where I am going with this? I go to Thrift stores looking for these coats...you would probably get people bidding for the coat off you back!
The nice part about wool is they are warm but can be light, they can be dressy with a nice scarf or casual with jeans. And they look great on a table, wall or sofa...;o)
Take care and happy shopping!
Paulette

Cathy said...

I so understand. But I live in NJ where one must have a winter coat (as well as spring and fall coats). I like the last one I bought very much but it is wearing out so I've been looking. Haven't found an acceptable replacement yet.

Jan said...

LOL 'bout those issues!!! We live just outside of Ft. Lauderdale, so the need for a "coat" doesn't surface often. However, after being down here for almost 3 decades, if we drop to the 50's, my blood feels like it's 10 below, soooooooo I do have the opportunity ever so often to pull out something scrumptiously warm and cozy :) My favorite ... well, the last few year it's been a gorgeous shawl ... kinda hippie style ... it's warm and snuggly and makes me feel 20 years younger. It's also light weight so doesn't feel burdensome like so much of the outerwear does. Good luck finding something!

Sue said...

At this moment I am working on Quilted Jacket #3 (replacing #2 made 14 years ago). Pattern is "Europa Jacket" from Daisy Kingdom, which I got a copy of from a friend back in 1989. It's a very straight pattern & is easy to make using various ideas from "Jacket Jazz," etc. The original pattern consists of only 4 parts--but by the time I get through "quilt-izing" it, it will have 9 various quilted areas.

It has a mandarin collar, button/loop front closure (to which I am going to devise some backing that will block wind as it comes through there), and it's hip-length. I piece the parts, then quilt them onto a muslin backing. This time around I'm seriously considering making the lining of rip-stop nylon/windbreaker fabric, rather than cotton as in the past. I lengthened the jacket to cover my buns. Very warm & toasty--yet light-weight enough to be worn in warmer weather.

Carline said...

I think we are made from the same cloth. I buy coats, but they just hang in the closet. I don't really like the bulk of wearing a coat. I think Leather would be the ticket. It is warm because the wind can't get to you and at times mine was too warm. (I've outgrown mine, unfortunately) I think I want another one about thigh length and I will probably think about it for another 6 years before I actually get one. In the Pacific NW, it is 12 degrees today and I could sure use a warm coat or two!

purplecatlady said...

Personally - as another NorCal girly, I love my Woolen Cape with a hood that we purchased in Mendocino two years ago. It's from Johnson Woolen Mills in Vermont I believe, it buttons up the front and has one button midway down the sleeve.

Of course, the other reason why I like it is because it's in my favorite color - PURPLE!

Heckety said...

Ho! I could almost have written this myself! 15 years living in Africa didn't help my coat problems either but I just LOVED not having to worry about it!
Just to be no help to you- I wear an anorak which is very big, thin, shabby, cabe scrunched into a small bundle when not in use, and WHEN its not raining I wear wool jerseys! Ha! Ha! problem solved...(but then I don't care if I look like a bag-lady...you probably do!)

Told you I'd be no help!!

Mary on Lake Pulaski said...

I have a black hip length thinsulate lined leather coat that I love!! But you have to consider, I live in Minnesota!

Happy Cottage Quilter said...

Kim, I've had the same issues with coats. I live in a tropical climate but it does get cold every now and then. A couple of years ago I bought a leather jacket, and I have to say I LOVE IT. It has been perfect. I even wore it when I went to visit my BFF in Ohio last month. It is warm enough, and protects from the wind. I don't think I would ever go back to the bulky coats again.

Nicole said...

You need more than one coat. You need a warm wool winter coat, a shorter warm jacket (like a pea coat or a quilted/puffy jacket), a leather jacket, a raincoat, and at least one denim jacket.
Talbots. I work there and have a discount card I can send you that you can use in a shop or on the internet. Let me know if you want it and I will send it to you!

Jen in NY said...

Well, I'm from coooold central NY so I have several coats...most geared for freezing weather, I'm afraid. There's my Lands' End Weatherfield coat that is awesomely warm but lightweight; I also have a long red wool coat that keeps my legs warm too, and it's really pretty...for warm weather (i.e. your winters..just kidding!), I have a LL Bean barn jacket, a blue raincoat and a brown suede jacket. If you're looking for warm but not bulky, I'd suggest a wool pea coat. I like someone's suggestion of a zip-out lining too. Although that sounds like a lot of trouble for my lazy self. LOL

ratherbquilting said...

I hate coats. I'm short and the coat invariably winds up looking like it's wearing me and not the other way around. I have LOTS of coats and don't really wear them: a static-world puffy jacket, a long, wool coat (too formal and not really warm), an army-style wool jacket, etc. Most of the time, I run around in an insulated BOYS' jacket that says James Madison University. Probably not the best choice for a 50+ year old woman. I don't care. It's warm enough, short enough that it doesn't strangle my neck if I sit down in it and it's easy to throw on. I wrap a scarf around my neck and run out the door.