When I was younger, a lot younger, way back in high school, I used to lie in bed before it was time to get up in the morning and dream of a perfect outfit for the day. I’d close my eyes and conjure up what I felt like that morning, who I wanted to be that day, and what outfit I’d need to wear to achieve that persona. Of course, the problem was that I frequently didn’t own the items I needed to become my perfect self that day. 

Still, I’d get as close as I could with what was on offer in my closet. Once conceived, the picture in my head of my best self drove me on; nothing else would do; even a pale imitation was better than abandoning the idea altogether. Sometimes, if I was very lucky, I’d make a successful foray into the closets of my older sisters. A few times I even absconded with items of my mother’s. Inspiration can be downright bossy, you know. A bit of a control freak, even. 


three models in long coats
 On the left two Max Mara coats, Fall and Winter 2017 from Vogue.com. On the right Asos coat from Lolariostyle on IG.


Years later, at almost sixty-two, I’m still a bit like that. Still dreaming of outfits; still unable to get them out of my head once they’ve lodged there. Still sometimes unable to measure up to the often tyrannical dictates of inspiration. When I was a kid, I had only myself and my imagination to blame. Now… well… I blame Pinterest. At least partly. 

Take for instance the three outfits above. Long luscious coats, long enough to billow when one walks. Delicious monchrome-ish layers. Cosy and elegant all of them. Perfect for a Canadian winter. They’ve been on my Pinterest board on winter layering, and in my head as a result, for weeks and weeks. I adore the two shots on the left, both from Max Mara Fall 2017 collection. But I don’t own the pieces which could literally interpret either of those outfits. And since I just bought a short Max Mara coat not that long ago, shopping to achieve this directive was not an option. 

But just when my aspirations of long, elegant coats seemed doomed, scrolling through Pinterest also lead me to a solution. When I saw the Asos coat on the right a light bulb went on. That look is much more achievable because, as it happens, I already own a long, hunter green, winter coat. How lucky.  And how much more fun it is to try to follow inspiration by rummaging in my closet. More fun and less expensive than shopping. Ha. 


woman in coat and scarf, leaning down to smile into camera
Ready to talk coats?
You know, it’s slightly embarrassing for someone who claims to know their closet as intimately as I do to forget entirely about something as important as a winter coat. But I did. I’ve had this old hunter green coat for twenty years. I bought it at Holt Renfrew in 1998, the year before I started my new job at my last school. One of Holts’ own brands, it’s made of wool and cashmere right here in Canada. All these years, and it still looks brand new, and feels as soft as a kitten. I haven’t had it out of its garment bag for ages. And I’d forgotten how much I loved it. 
woman in front of snowbank in a long coat and scarf
This is a great coat, I think.
I love the big collar which stands up and is good protection from the wind. I love the fact that it buttons only part way down the front, and has a huge slit up the back so, despite its length, it moves freely when I walk. One might even say it billows. With the self belt in the back, it resembles a military style greatcoat. So, in keeping with that style, I’m wearing it with my khaki jeans from Massimo Dutti, and my green and brown animal print wool scarf bought years ago at Holts. 
woman in a long coat and scarf, kicking
Lots of room to kick up my heels in the coat.


Now here’s the great thing about having a great coat and a great scarf. It doesn’t matter at all what you have on underneath. I wore my khaki jeans here because I was going for a monochromatic look. But it wouldn’t matter if I had on blue jeans, black leggings, or, with a coat this long, no pants at all. The coat is everything. Okay, so, maybe the billowing part might present a bit of a problem if one were pantless under there. 

So, that’s one inspirational directive easily solved. I wore this outfit to run errands, and go to the library today. Next time I think I’ll try all black under the coat, and maybe a different scarf. 

These days inspiration is not quite the tyrant it was when I was a teenager. I still get a picture of a look in my head quite frequently, though. And then I’ll scrounge and dig through my closets and drawers, to try to achieve what I see in my mind. Or try to replicate something resembling what I’ve seen on Pinterest, or in a fashion magazine. And I’m not always successful. But I’m a grown up now, not fifteen. I don’t have to raid my sister’s closet, which let’s face it, could be dangerous. I have my own money. I can always shop if I want. That is if inspiration gets so darned bossy that I feel compelled to obey. 

woman in a long coat leaning against a blue snow scoop
 I’d better start shovelling. Ha. Get real. Hubby did it ages ago. I was probably still asleep. 


Now… I want to go back to what I was saying at the beginning of this post. About lying in bed first thing in the morning dreaming of outfits. It’s a great way to wake up. But it’s an even better way to go to sleep. 


Hubby and I were discussing falling asleep, after I told him about Laurel’s comment on my last post. She mentioned that the night before she and her husband had one of their “random joint insomnia events.” Love that line. And that they’d lain in bed talking and laughing instead of each privately spinning their own mental wheels. Isn’t that a great story? 


So I said this to Hubby and we were laughing about what we do. I, of course, count outfits instead of sheep. Sometimes I work backwards from the present, sometimes the other way. I consciously think of all the favourite outfits I can recall in chronological order. Not year by year, my memory’s not that good. I just conjure up pictures of ones I remember. It’s imminently satisfying. Drives stressful thoughts and worries away, and calms me right down. 


Hubby counts big fish he’s caught. And where. Ha. Typical. 


But… whatever works, eh? 


How about you, my friends? Does inspiration ever get a hold on you? Does a particular outfit idea grab you and not let go until you achieve it? Have you ever counted outfits to fall asleep? 




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From the archives


Winter Vacation: the movie

We’re back from our ski week in the Laurentians and I’ve spun all my video clips into a vlog for your enjoyment. Winter Vacation: the movie.


Reflections on 2018… Wardrobe Wise.

Ethical shopping is hard. Each year I reflect on my wardrobe choices, and acquisitions, for the year and see how I measure up. This is how I did.


Bounce Back

I’m convinced that the key to survival in life is the ability to bounce back. Back …

37 thoughts on “When Inspiration Gets Bossy”

  1. Oooh! That coat is divine! What a fantastic piece to have kept all these years. The quality and fit are perfect on you…and hunter green? Sweet! You have superseded your Pins. Bravo!


    1. Thanks, Suzanne. I'm thanking my younger self for getting hunter green instead of camel. A long camel coat, in and out cars in the winter means a big drycleaning bill:)

  2. Your coat is perfect,it looks wonderful,it has a luxurious cut and composition and it suits you absolutely excellent!
    I never had a green coat (I'll try to check my memory once again tonight before sleep :-). I usually don't count outfits from the past-what a good idea!-but I may plan what to take on my imaginary trips in the future)
    Yes,I get inspired and than,the inspiration billows somewhere in my head for days and at once there is a revelation:how to combine what I already have in my closet,as well
    Long coats seemed impractical for doing errands for me,I had them more for evening wear,but,this year they are more and more my everyday combination,more and more practical :-),billowing……this winter is very mild. Inspiration,influence……
    Lucky us to have them and to take good care of things
    I must say that I'm immensely impressed with your shovel,too

    1. Long coats are kind of impractical for doing errands…especially having to hold them up to get in and out of cars. I probably won't wear it often as a result. Still it's nice to have if I need it.
      Hubby's shovel is impressive, isn't it?

  3. So much of this post resonates with me . I’ve sometimes felt guilty at the time I’ve spent dreaming about possible outfits – it all started with those cut out dolls when I was a little girl . At work friends would say how they would prefer to wear a uniform in the office as deciding what to wear each day was a real pain . Not me , just the thought of wearing black when I felt in a red mood , or vice versa , was dreadful . I love the coat & it suits you so well . Max was very taken with Stu’s snow shovel , quite envious , but with our few snowflakes it isn’t justifiable . Rather like me buying another winter coat , a long green greatcoat . Ah well .
    Wendy in York

    1. Oh yes… I remember cut-out dolls. I loved those. Stu's shovel is actually a scoop. He says it's much faster than hauling out the snowblower, and easy on the back because it's all about scooping and pushing or pulling the scoop to dump the snow off to the side…no lifting. Can't say that I've tried it myself very often though. Ha.

  4. Oh so funny Sue, because just last night I woke up and realised hubby was lying awake, as he often does. So I groaned "Just think of my outfits, that'll send you back to sleep". And off I went, happily snoring again. He usually goes through the meditation exercise of relaxing the body starting from the toes, which gets him back to sleep. I use outfit mediation to get back to sleep, especially after nightmares. It's a nice innocuous place to go. So I loved your coat post too but the sleep thing was just too timely not to comment on it!
    Hugs, x.

  5. Wow Sue, how could you overlook this coat! 🙂 Such a classic and the fabric and colour sound lovely.Plus … and this is the most important part, you look great in it! The length and style work so well and I particularly like the half belt. I always prefer these to a tie belt. Enjoy wearing it again!
    Interestingly I've been thinking about a long black coat that I have and like you I haven't worn for years. Mainly because it has a tie belt so I really only like wearing it open! Useless on a cold day, yet too warm to wear in the Spring. This was one of many purchases over the years that worked and looked better in my head than they do in reality.
    I loved Laurels comment too. Good to get benefit from those rare nights that you're both awake at the same time. When I can't sleep I try not to stress about it, ( not always possible!) and drift off in my imagination to my happy places…I relax in a pool, sun shining, watching the leaves on the trees,clouds in the sky. Walk in the mountains, along the beach etc. Pretty much always works or at least leaves me happy and rested 🙂

    1. I stopped wearing my long coat when I bought a short Max Mara one a few years ago. Then it just slipped farther and father to the back of the coat closet. Tie belts are a problem, aren't they. I try to stay away from them too. Even on trench coats I hardly tie them up, and instead stuff the ties in the pockets.
      The sunny day by the pool images don't do it for me at all. But I do try to envision places we've been that have been beautiful and peaceful.

    2. The lying in the pool only works for me if I imagine a particular one, very scenic, that I have special memories of.I'm lying on my back,floating and looking at the beauty above and around me. No people, no noise and no sun loungers! 🙂

    3. Yup. I'm with you no people and no sun loungers would be important. Now that I think of it there was one pool at a place in northern Australia. We had it to ourselves, and thinking of that place is pretty relaxing:)

  6. Yes! I am currently searching for the perfect beautiful white shirt to wear to a May wedding in France. With the perfect tailored black trousers. And the perfect black shoes. This is what I am determined to wear as godmother, aunt to the bride. Gone are the days of flowery dresses, hats, killing shoes. I could, if sleepless, remember all the outfits I have worn to all the weddings I have attended from the white crimplene dress with red wet-look shoes and bag (1970) to…cannot recall the last wedding I attended…but there have been some corkers along the way.

    1. Oh..crimplene…how many landfills still have that stuff hanging around do you think? And I remember a wet-look rain hat and coat I had in grade school. The very picture of fashion!

  7. There's hardly a better buy than a really good winter coat that will last for years. They are always worth every penny you spend on them. I have a full length camel hair coat I purchased at a large department store back in the early 2000's and it will never wear out. I think it was about a $300 coat when I purchased it and would cost 2 or 3 times that much today. Your green coat is beautiful and obviously a VERY good purchase on your part. Prices only continue to go up on good quality items so I always recommend to ladies to open up their wallets and make those kind of purchases now, before they become even more expensive. Great post!

    1. Thanks, Pepper. I love camel coats. I had one for at least nine years back in the late eighties. It finally wore out. I did find it hard to keep clean getting in and out of salt-stained cars in the winter, though.

  8. wow. Great coat. And the fact that you can still wear it after 20 years is amazing! I wish I could say that about my clothes! A few too many desserts have been enjoyed over the years! lol The coat reminds me of a "maxi" coat I had when I was 21 yrs. old. Was too long and I kicked it with my feet so I had to have it shortened. lol

  9. Oh, I love that coat! I have a tendency to buy coats that make more of a statement and they look outdated too quickly. (Right now, I have a brilliant sapphire blue coat in the closet that has pockets and a cut that just looked too 'five years ago' to me.) I've gone to more classic styles, but haven't had a long one in a while. Forgot how great they look!

    Yes, the middle of the night chats are great. 🙂 Most of the time it's just one or the other of us, but we've definitely had those dark-of-night chats off and on over the course of our marriage.


    1. Remember the black and bright blue combination that was all the rage in the mid-eighties? I remember saying we should call it the bruised look. When I see black and blue together I still think…1985.

  10. Just last night I pulled a long wool coat out of the very back of my front hall closet to go to the ballet. It's black, which I don't usually wear, but it's definitely a classic style so I will never discard it. With our cold winters it will always get at least one wearing. I had fun pulling together my red shoes, ivory lace blouse, gold shawl, etc. The black pants and coats held down the fort! PS the ballet was great!

  11. How in the world could you forget that coat?! It's fabulous! And yes, I also lie in bed and "make up outfits" from my closet that I need for real or imagined adventures. I thought I was the only one. 😉

    Ann in Missouri

    Great post, Susan.

    1. I don't know, Ann. It's very uncharacteristic of me. But it just kept getting shoved more and more to the back of the hall closet. Not any more!

  12. One of the joys of living in a climate with four distinct seasons is that a person can wear beautiful coats…the hunter green one is a definite keeper for your wardrobe, looks beautiful and current. It also illustrates that buying classic styles is a wise long term investment. Winter is a great season here in Winnipeg and as a result our front closet holds many different colours and styles of coats. Coats become an important part of a wardrobe when you wear them for much of the year…spring, fall and winter are seasons that are more interesting because of the layered looks that can be created. Never thought to count outfits to help myself fall asleep…will give it a try next time I am tossing and turning! Cheers, Alayne

  13. Hi Sue
    When I'm on MY iMac, my Hubby's name appears as the header…to change to my google account I would need to remember my password!!! To make it simple…. Its Robin T…haha

    I love your coat, its gorgeous! My one Holt Renfrew item was for my high school formal, a long floral dress. (I attended with my hubby.) I recently decided it was time to let go of the dress. For some reason the dress won't leave the back of my car!!! I took a pic of me holding my formal thinking that should be sufficient…so the decluttering books say!!! Ha! It remains…
    I used to wear maxi coats. They were so warm when walking uphill to high school. 🙂 Those were the days when you were not allowed to wear pants!!!
    I dream of an outfit and then get side tracked in the stores. I come home with something totally different. I have a casual wedding in April…nohatnogloves idea sounds perfect!
    Must try Laurel"s approach to insomnia …

    1. Ha. The old password conundrum. I always recognize now that "Paul" is Robin:)
      Had a discussion with high school friends on FB the other day about the days when we were not allowed to wear pants to school. And in grade school had to stuck our dresses down into our snow pants. But it was frigging cold in junior high when we'd become too old and too cool for snow pants.

  14. I think I've outfit planned since high school too and get a kick when I've forgotten about something and discover it again. I'm 68, so I'm sure there are a few more things in the back of the closet that I've forgotten. Interestingly, Max Mara was one of my favorite fall shows. The tonal color look was just sophisticated and classic.

    1. Wasn't that fall Max Mara show wonderful? I mean…on Vogue.com of course, and not in person. Although… one day I'd love to attend just one big fashion show.

  15. I'm a Max Mara fan so I love those coats, but the Asos one is beautiful. I'd love a coat like that. Ralph Lauren has one but I can't justify another long coat living in south Texas although it's been below freezing more often than not the last two weeks… Fluke! Your green coat is gorgeous!

    1. Me too, Brenda. Max Mara was a featured brand at Holts when we still had a Holts in Ottawa. That's how I came to have quite a few MM pieces. Nordstrom doesn't carry much at all, and not nearly the interesting range of styles that they did at Holts.

  16. Lovely photos and coat. Very amused by your description of outfit planning in high school. Never in that situation as we had to wear a uniform. Will try your alternative to counting sheep though worry that it might have the opposite effect! Iris

    1. I'm curious about the effects of wearing a uniform to school. As a teacher I've read all the articles about the benefits etc. But I've always wondered…when you stopped wearing a uniform did you feel a bit overwhelmed having to decide what to wear every single day? Hmmm. That might be a good idea for a future post.

  17. The schools I attended all had a uniform policy, so I only had to plan what to wear on the weekends and holidays. It usually consisted of jeans and a T-shirt/turtleneck skivvy and/or a sweater over the top.

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