Wear and Tear

IMG_3085For the past couple of years, I’ve pulled my barn coat off the hanger for the first time each fall and thought, I gotta get a new coat.

But then I’d think, Nah…it’ll go one more year.

The holes in the front pockets came first. I thought almost daily about patching them, but put such idle thoughts aside when an easy fix presented itself in the form of a little cloth bag of holiday goodies. Treats consumed, I repurposed the bag as a liner for the more-used right-hand pocket. Some of the flowery yellow fabric oozed out the ever-growing hole now and again, but the bag accomplished the goal of item containment.

The bigger issue was the worn fabric at the seams along the sleeves and at the waist. The frayed canvas, coupled with the fact that the coat’s lining had compressed and thinned over the years, meant my heavy winter coat had become more of a jacket. A well-ventilated jacket.

I bought this coat when we moved to central Colorado in 2001, so it wasn’t unreasonable to seek a replacement. Trouble is, I hate to shop.

I also have a minor compulsion about getting as much wear as possible out of clothes. When my elbows start jutting out of a winter nightgown, I cut off the sleeves and voilà: summer nightgown. Dress clothes are busted down in rank to work clothes as they fray and fade. I still have the down vest my parents gave me for Christmas back in 1975 or 1976. My mother, ever practical, bought it biIMG_3086g enough for me to grow into, which I did. I then outgrew it, too, but only by a little bit. The snug fit makes the vest perfect for layering, and a jacket or coat over the top makes the applique accents Mom sewed on all those years ago—a mushroom and ladybug at the lapel, a patchwork kitty-cat on the back—my private little joke.

Despite a profound distaste for shopping and my proclivity for hanging onto things, by this fall it was pretty clear that I needed to find a new coat.

I was not optimistic about the task, so imagine my surprise when I found the perfect coat at the second ranch supply store I stopped in. It was exactly what I was looking for: long enough to cover my butt; practical dark color; pockets with flaps to keep hay out; tough canvas exterior with a fluffy, soft, and warm fleece lining. The only catch—and there had to be one, right?—was that the coat was a men’s size medium: too big. No worries, I thought, making note of the manufacturer; I’ll order a small online or through my local store.

Only they don’t make a size small.

I will spare you, gentle reader, the rant that transpired when I found this out, except to note that it involved conspiracy theories about clothing makers having it in for guys of slight build and women seeking practical work clothes.

This experience did not palliate my dislike of shopping. Neither did being forced into the women’s department, where I discovered I do not have a sense of humor when it comes to outerwear intended for work. Candy-hued mauve and turquoise are bad enough, but pink camo?? I found the colors ghastly, but conspiracy theories crept back to mind when I felt the flimsy fabrics and airy linings. Evidently I’m supposed to be a slave to fashion even while trying to stay warm feeding horses or shoveling snow or putting tire chains on the truck.

I did eventually find a women’s work coat. It’s brown. It’s the length I was looking for. It has pockets with flaps, and the canvas exterior will resist barbed wire to a certain extent. The lining is pink plaid, which makes me cringe a little, but the flannel is soft, which I like. The coat is comfortable, and fits me better than my old one did.

The catch—and there had to be at least one, right?—is that although I bought the heftiest one I could find, this coat is not as rugged as the ones they make forIMG_3077 men. Worse, it’s not particularly warm. Our winter winds, which are still tuning up for their headline performances in January and February, filter through the canvas and cute pink plaid flannel. The coat feels even more well-ventilated than my holey old one did.

Lucky me, though: I have a forty-year-old down vest to use as a liner. When the wind is screaming over the ridge later this winter, my arms will freeze, but my core will be toasty warm. Underneath my porous outer layer, my kitty-cat will have my back.

Thanks, Mom, again. And always.

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4 Responses to Wear and Tear

  1. I love this, and both laughed and cried while reading it, and then went out and looked at the coat hangers and my collection of coats on it, and laughed some more. I’d love to see you carry this rant about women’s clothing on–it’s absolutely true and ridiculous.

    • Andrea Jones says:

      Linda, I love the thought that this sent you to review the ranks of your outerwear. I don’t know if I should be encouraged to rant, but if it’s in the public interest….

  2. Norma Crozier says:

    This is my overall favorite! Thanks for sharing! Keep it up! Warmly, Norma Jean

    • Andrea Jones says:

      Thank you so much for reading, Norma Jean, and I’m glad you liked the piece. I am my mother’s daughter! Sometimes, thinking about the inside/outside and urban/wild connections takes me to unexpected places…like my own closet.

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