I had the happy privilege of shopping with a girlfriend last Thursday (why can I hear her laughing?). We decided to hit the mall in order for her to find some new things to liven up her wardrobe…she is not the Goodwill/thrift shopper that I can be but I embrace our differences. I decided to use the opportunity to search for a new pair of winter boots…a purchase I have put off for years and, one of which, I can not seem to find second-hand. A great pair was found for half off–score!
A few months ago I mentioned that I was reading the book, “Overdressed The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion” by Elizabeth L. Cline. To say that this book was insightful (albeit a bit wordy at times) is an understatement. It really helped me to realize and understand things about the fashion industry that (you and) I had suspected all along– overall quality of garments is nose-diving. While it is true that prices have also fallen on many fashion items, I am not convinced that these more “attainable” prices really match the quality I see in the clothes out there–whether at a high-end department store or at Target. “Fashion” has become cheap and disposable across the board. Case in point: the woolen winter coat.
While we were at Macys, I decide to check out the sales on their wool dress coats. I was just curious…I knew I didn’t need one. I saw a nice looking longer black coat with a fur collar hanging on the wall and checked it out. It was an Ellen Tracy brand and looked very similar in styling to this one:
First, I peeked at the price tag. It was a $750 dollar coat marked down to around $400. Wow. For $750 it must really be a great coat, right? SO WRONG. Upon closer inspection I was appalled to note that the coat was only a wool blend (60% wool, polyester and something else, rayon?). Not 100% wool. Not even a wool cashmere blend. The liner was the saddest piece of material I have ever seen in a coat that price–cheap, cheap, cheap! polyester nylon. And sure, it had real fur trim but even the fur looked like it came off of some diseased animal…or maybe road kill. At $750 this coat was at best going to last someone a couple of seasons before it started looking worse than it already did.
Back in the day (prior to 2000, probably earlier), a coat that was in the realm of that kind of money was usually worth it. And once purchased, it was an investment that would wear beautifully year after year. In fact, more than likely the wearer would get sick of it before it ever gave out. This happened to me with a beautiful wool coat I got on clearance from Talbots in 1995. I wore it for years. I stopped wearing it about five years ago but held on to it because it still looked great. I just gave it to my mom this winter because my parents had moved up North from a warmer climate. She loves it and has gotten compliments on it. It is almost 20 years old! Will that Ellen Tracy coat last that long? Nope.
And there is the dress coat I wear now. I think I am on my fourth or fifth year of wearing it. It is a gorgeous, heavy, wool/cashmere with a super soft fur collar probably made in the 1960s. The lining is a silky satin, the stitching a work of art. I love it. The brand is “Forstmann”.
I got it for $1.00 at a garage sale. At the end of this season, I will get it cleaned, repair a newly spotted hole under the arm, change the buttons and I will have a “new” coat for next year. I see coats like this all the time in Goodwills and thrift stores. For example, I have bought a red wool and mohair car coat at Goodwill for $6.00. And not long ago I bought this vintage Lands End pea coat for less than $10.00 at another Goodwill. It too is 100% wool…I don’t believe Lands End offers that anymore:
My point is this: Before you dish out tons of money for a new winter coat, really look at how it is made and what materials it is made with. I can guarantee you that 100% wool is way warmer on a freezing cold day than is 70% wool; 20% polyester; 10% nylon. Buy the best quality you can afford. OR, better yet, maybe take the time to hunt in a few thrift stores, vintage shops (Etsy!) or Goodwills to find the most amazing, and affordable, coat of your dreams!