Outside my room at at home there is a very well stocked coat rack. Welsh wool capes, velvet blazers, long leather coats and big winter jackets are all squished together – shoved into this small corner of a corridor. It’s like the wardrobe leading to Narnia, but in reverse, my brother having to push past it every time he wants to leave his bedroom.
The size of this rack expands and contracts. Sometimes I’ll approach it with zealous resolve, loudly proclaiming I’ll cherry pick the favourites and get rid of the rest. Normally though this only ever ends in one or two items being packaged up for selling (I now have about twelve suitcases' worth of clothes to put online, eventually) or donated to a charity shop – the breathing space on the rack quickly plugged with another new second hand purchase or three.
Yet, I admit, I don't often wear much of what’s hanging there. The usual justification is that most are items much too gorgeous, ravishing or one of a kind to part ways with – even though they’re not practical for every day use. That’s why I have so many damn capes. One day, I hazily dream, I’ll have the kind of life that can necessitate two things: one, a walk-in wardrobe large enough to store everything with ease, and two, a social life requiring all sorts of fabulous, outrageous outfits. Whether either possibility becomes reality remains to be seen, but the upshot is that I’m keeping my great-grandma’s full-length red satin evening coat FOREVER.
So, bearing all this in mind, why did I end up coveting one of my mum’s coats? Considering just how many I had at my own disposal, eyeing up the one hanging in the hall instead was sheer avarice. Well, I guess there’s more thrill to something you think you can’t have – that mix of longing, desire and frustration (I may be more emotionally invested in clothes than I care to admit). Plus, it is pretty. It was a classic case of the grass - and literally the coat - being greener on the other side.
It worked out well in the end. I had a coat bought from a charity shop during the first year of uni, which I described in my Vogue Student Style piece as being “the colour of well-brewed coffee with a furry collar and flared hem… a stitched layer of assurance to swing on when needed.” (You can see it here.) However, despite the boost of confidence it so readily offered, I eventually had to admit that it was also a tad too small across the shoulders and chest. My mum, more petite than me, offered an exchange. She’d give me the green sixties beauty I’d been lusting after in return for this flared brown Fifties one.
Many of us indulge in wanting what we don’t have room for or can’t have. How many times do we look at something in a shop, only to go “weeeeell, I don’t need it, and I’ve already got so many heels/ fifties tea-dresses/ silk shirts/ hot-pants” (depending on taste). But sometimes the inner child style petulance of “But I want it” comes out to play, making you dissatisfied with what you already have – craving the new, the next, the novel. Roald Dahl's Veruca Salt, eat your heart out.
I guess the beauty of clothes is that you can never have too many (ahem). I readily admire those like Vix who have a ‘one in, one out’ system where anything newly acquired means something older must be let go of, but I just can’t do it. I’m much too much of a seeker, a gatherer, a hoarder – but you know what? It’s ever so much fun.
Well, the origins of the coat have already been covered. The silk skirt is vintage (a Christmas present), the hat is from a charity shop, and the belt belonged to my mum. Those velvet ankle boots (sadly not particularly visible) were from ASOS.