Yesterday was an historic day. After years of refusing, putting it off, not considering it worthwhile, I gave in and bought a winter coat. A good one, that is – not just a £15 imitation sheepskin from a market stall that sheds blobs of fluff all over your inner clothing.
It was an unplanned purchase in many ways: I looked out of the window yesterday to see a bright and beautiful morning and, in my excitement, forgot what that actually means in October in the UK.
Donning a dress but thinking that I could get away without tights, I strode out into the invigorating air, breathed deeply – and found it bloody chilly.
I'm barely over the south of France yet! I've adjusted to the idea of autumn, but I wasn't ready for the actual temperature. Today, I could even see my breath while waiting for the bus.
So there I was, at lunchtime, sitting outside having a coffee, trying to wrap my lightweight yellow coat around me and still almost shivering. What happened to the northern lass who used to wander around the snowy school playing fields at lunchtime in a nothing thicker than a school blouse, tie and scarf? I've become a right southern jessie, that's what!
A coat – that's what was needed. So after work, I ventured into the West End. A little online research had given me some good pointers: John Lewis was the place to start, with next door's House of Fraser a next stop if unsatisfied. Actually, I've never been in the latter – and still haven't. John Lewis did the trick with consummate ease.
I'd seen a Windsmoor coat online (how did we ever cope in the days before the interweb?) and had targeted that. Thigh length in navy wool, brass button detail gives it the military look, which is a recurring trend that I really like. Having no waist and with a gentle flare, it's an ideal shape for a rather round figure like mine. The sleeves were supposedly three-quarter length, but with me being a short arse, they're just right.
Not cheap, but then a good winter coat is an investment. Taking deep breaths, I paid and watched as it was carefully packed into a bag.
I browsed the nearby shoe section: possibly fortunately, a pair of Dune knee-length, black patent boots with a spur detail in gold-coloured metal were not available in anything close to my size, so I made my way down to the food hall, attempting to look like an experienced and sophisticated shopper, while planning on buying those most basic of foodstuffs, bread and milk. I stopped for a short while to indulge in a glass of bubbly and a small dish of salty pretzel snacks at the new wine bar, and feel rather 'ladies who lunch' – even though it was considerably beyond lunchtime.
The last winter coat I had was as a teenager, bought by my mother as she attempted, with an increasing sense of despair, to mould me into the sort of respectable young lady that she obviously considered my birthright. It was full length and camel. And while I always liked it, it never felt like anything to do with me – I couldn't wear anything so classy and smart. Not least because I had nothing to wear it with – I could never imagine teaming it with jeans and a lumberjack shirt.
I'm learning these days. I was right that what I'd seen online, in terms of shape, would work for me. And the military look also allows me to be able to be a bit creative with other parts of an outfit.
If there's one thing I am deeply uncomfortable with, it's the increasing realisation that I probably look at my best in some fairly classic clothes. But I'm not that woman – I'm not a middle-aged frump inside! For goodness sake, having only managed to start anything like an adolescence at around 36, I'm not remotely ready to look or feel 'middle-aged' just yet. It brings feelings of mortality too close – and time has been so condensed by that late development.
So I have to learn how to do things – how to make myself feel good – by using my creativity and imagination, and combining those with what does work well. I'm getting there. My new coat is another step in the right direction. It's smart and good quality; I'll be able to wear it in a variety of ways – I'll enjoy creating ways to present myself in it; almost a form of performance.
And buying it felt so very glamorous!