Unlike any other piece of our wardrobes, our coats telegraph our sense of style – and our urge to hoard.
“You can never be too rich or too thin,” Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor, famously deadpanned.
“Or have too many coats,” she might have added had she lived in Minnesota, where coat season can run from October to April, or maybe even May.
“Wearing beautiful coats is one of the benefits of living in this climate,” said Minneapolis stylist and fashion blogger Davee Ek. “It’s the piece you splurge on. Outerwear is such a huge part of your look, so it’s easy to justify having a lot of coats. A Minnesota woman needs her options.”
Now that we can finally push the puffy parka to the back of the closet and pull out the all-weather trench coat, it may be time to review just how many coats you’ve accumulated.
“I counted, and I have 14 coats,” confessed Cleo Zins, an operations executive in Minneapolis. “I know that’s more than I need, but I can justify it: I like flexibility.”
Her collection includes coats that qualify as dressy, casual, long, short, lined, lightweight, vintage, contemporary, warm and warmer.
While Zins has an eye for fashion, she also chooses coats based on function.
“You need one for 30 below, one for 0, one for 30 above,” she said. “You look goofy in a dress coat when you’re doing something active. I live and work downtown and if I’m running errands in the skyway in something grubby, I always bump into someone I know. So I throw on a good coat and I’m pulled together.”
Because this winter has felt so relentless in its length and bitterness, Michelle Dustin found that shoppers grew particularly weary of their outerwear and came looking for something fresh midseason. Dustin is a personal shopper at the four Arc Value Village stores, where she pulls together outfits and offers style advice for clients.
“A coat is an extremely important wardrobe piece. It’s what everyone sees rather than what you primped and primed underneath,” she said. “You wear it so much that you get the mileage out of the expense. Purchasing a coat is a great way to experiment with trends or find a timeless look.”
Now she says the nonprofit thrift store chain is seeing a high number of coats coming in through donations.
“People are saying, ‘I am so over this,’ and they want that coat gone,” she said.
True coat connoisseurs, however, develop deep attachments to their favorites.
Ek still gets wistful thinking about a patterned mohair coat that was stolen from her car five years ago. Zins points to her Mackage swing coat that she tracked down at Saks after seeing it in a “Sex and the City” episode. Her other top coat is a vintage hip-length fur given to her by her boss — in her first job after college.
“It was from a woman partner at the accounting firm where I worked and she knew that I admired her great style,” Zins recalled.
Zins was wearing that fur when her fiancé proposed as they strolled the Stone Arch Bridge last December.
“I can never get rid of it,” she said. “Not that I ever would, but now it has heirloom status.”
Kevyn Burger is a freelance writer and a newscaster at BringMeTheNews.com.