I’ve been on a major quest to find a new spring coat this year. This year, and last year, and the year before that. I’ve done my research. Pinned lots of images. And over three springs, tried on what seems like a million coats. Three years ago foiled by the yawning chasm between what I wanted and what I found in the stores, I bought a light spring jacket from Theory instead. Last year I gave up, entirely. Everything was too long, too short, too lightweight, too cheaply made, or too expensive. 
This year, as usual, I sought inspiration first. Vogue predicted that trench coats would be a big trend this season. Maybe I’ll be lucky in 2018, I thought. As it happens trench coats are a big trend; emphasis on big. Over-sized has become the new black, it seems. 
woman in an over-sized trench coat
Trench coats are a big trend this season.  source

So, there’s over-sized, and then there’s just plain weird. Seriously. Put on any of these coats in a hurry, and you might shove your arm down a non-sleeve extra sleeve, try to belt a decorative not really a belt belt, or get lost in your coat within a coat. Sigh. I kept looking.
shots of three models in unusual trench coats
Decontsructed trench coats from Balenciaga, Alexander McQueen, and Celine   source
I wanted a classic shaped, classic tan trench coat. Not an over-sized one, not one of the super lightweight, super long, floaty ones with no lining. Not one of the very short ones that look more like a jacket. Perhaps something to conjure up images of timelessly chic Parisian women, or maybe Lauren Bacall wearing Humphrey Bogart’s trench coat back in the day.
Lauren Bacall in a wet raincoat
Lauren Bacall in Bogey’s coat at the 1953 Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II   source
Maybe something along the lines of these two images from my Pinterest board. Not too long, not too fussy. Warm enough to be able to wear in April. Roomy enough to pull over my denim jacket, or a light blazer. 
woman in white top and jeans and a tan trench coat     woman in camel trench coat
Last week I hit the stores. I tried on a couple of over-sized coats, just for the purpose of elimination you understand. They looked ridiculous on me. And I tried on a super light, super long one too. I imagined trying to make sure that the extra long coattails were tucked around me every time I climbed into my car, not dangling on the ground, or flapping outside the car door as I drove. I actually did that a few times with a super long trench coat I owned in the nineties. Closed my car door with half the coat on the outside. One day, driving home from work, the untied belt fluttered away outside the car, longer and longer until I drove over it. Left tire tracks and everything on the fabric. Ha. I’m not keen to go there again. 
I thought I might have a winner with this coat, below, from Aritzia. It’s a classic trench, well made, lined, not too long, and priced right. The fit is good. But… I wasn’t sighing with delight. Or in love with the “me” it seemed to represent. With the coat buttoned and belted, I looked like an escapee from a remake of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, and, horrors, even somewhat portly. And portly is NOT what I’m going for. So, turns out I don’t much like a classic tan trench coat on me anymore. Maybe it’s just that, in a serious coat, I look too… well… serious. 
woman in a trench coat, jeans, and turtleneck taking selfies in a store
Parisian chic or Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy?
A few days later I was off to Nordstrom to meet up with my friend and fashion adviser Liz. Shopping with a buddy who knows your lifestyle and your taste, and who has great taste of her own, is the best kind of shopping. And if that friend also happens to be the personal shopper at Nordstrom… even better. 
Liz was well ready for me. Tucked into her change room were a few coats, some jeans, a few tops she thought I might like, a couple of pairs of a new brand of loafers Nordstrom are carrying, and several versions of a plain white tee. She had been doing her research too, by reading my blog wish list. 
Ah, yes, this is more like me. The current version of me. Casual and a little bit pulled together. After all, I’m retired; I don’t need a serious coat. But as much as I love this Montcler jacket, I can’t justify buying it. I still have that Theory spring jacket from a couple of years ago, and a red Columbia windbreaker for cycling, and walking, and for throwing in my suitcase when I pack for summer trips. I wore that red windbreaker a lot when we were in France in 2015. In this jacket I found myself veering further and further away from the idea of a classic trench. 
woman in jeans, red jacket, white tee, and red loafers
Montcler jacket, AG jeans, Earth loafers, and Eileen Fisher tee
And more and more towards the idea of a longer anorak, like this navy Montcler coat. After all, according to some of the best on-line fashion prognosticators like Vogue and Marie Claire, anoraks are big this year too. I tried an olive anorak at Aritzia a few days before, and loved it. And I loved this one even more. I envisioned it with my jeans and a tee, my navy Rag and Bone dress and sneakers, my old Burberry denim skirt and a red sweater, and of course my white cropped jeans. Maybe even my striped ALC midi skirt, with a tee and sneakers. I was besieged by outfit ideas.
woman in white jeans and tee and a navy coat
Now this is more like it.
So what did I go home with, you ask? A new pair of AG jeans, that white Eileen Fisher tee shirt, those red loafers. Love those shoes. And Liz ordered the next size up in the navy anorak; I’ll go back next week and see which size fits me best. 


Yep, once again I’ve been foiled in my plans for trench coat ownership. Ah well. It’s for the best. I’ll get much more wear out of an anorak. Besides, I can’t really see me impersonating Parisian chic, timeless or otherwise. Or trying to look like Lauren Bacall in Bogeys’ coat. Or, horrors, looking portly and impersonating a character out of a John Le Carré novel. Much as I like John Le Carré novels, his Smiley’s People trilogy being a big fave of mine back in the eighties. No, I’m much better off with an anorak. It’s more me. The retired, casual, no need for a serious coat me. 


I walked past this tee in a store window in the mall on my way home that day. It had my name on it. Literally. I might have to go back next week and pick it up too. Just for fun, you know.   

If you can’t remember what a burpee is…. check out this link.


So my quest is over. I set out to find the perfect spring coat and, instead, took an unexpected detour. I spent all those years deluding myself that I needed a trench coat, and it turns out that I’m just not a trench coat person anymore. Not like I was back in the nineties. I can’t bring back those days, or me as I was back then, my thirty/forty-something career-focused self. I turned forty in 1996, and it seems such a long time ago, in so many ways. 

Still, it feels good to move on. Mustn’t dwell on the past. Besides, I need to start looking for a red sweater to wear with my jeans, and my new anorak, and those fabulous loafers.

P.S. When I haven’t been shopping lately, I’ve been reading. And I really need to qualify one recommendation I made in my last book post. Hubby and I have for the most part really liked Peter Lovesey’s books. I’m well into his novel The Stone Wife, and while I’m enjoying all the references and the trivia about Chaucer and the Wife of Bath… the plot at times has driven me crazy. Some bits are so unlikely, they’re exasperating. What was Lovesey thinking? And yet, I can’t put it down. Hubby felt the same. And we can’t explain it. So if you pick up that particular book of Lovesey’s… be warned. And if you do read it, do let me know what you think. 


Now, I really must finish up this post and go and finish that darned book. 


What shopping quests are you on this spring, my friends? Have they gone the way you planned? Or did you take a fashion detour like me? 



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From the archives


A Fulsome Discussion About Winter Boots

I just purchased my first pair of winter boots in decades. Yep. Even though I live in cold, snowy Canada, I have long eschewed winter boots. Until now.


When You’re Yearning to Travel

When you’re yearning to travel but are stuck at home what do you do? Read, of course.


The Art of Distraction

This week, what with politics, snow storms, and one country in Europe on the edge of destruction, I think we’re all in need of distraction.

56 thoughts on “Shopping Diary: Spring Coat Quest”

  1. I love your anorak and your red loafers – right up my alley, except neater and more put together than I am these days:).

  2. Yes to all that . The beige trench wasn’t ‘ you ‘ . I might have liked it if it were a little longer . The fastened belt managed to make you look wide & boxy , when you are so lovely & slim . Can’t imagine what it would do to me ! Love the red shoes & was looking at some myself the other day . Dull red like those not bright . The anorak is perfect . I find I nearly always grab mine before I head out the door . Not Montcler – Margaret Howell but it’s the same look . I’m not comfortable with a neat & tidy , ladylike , over accessorised me . I seem to need to look like I’ve casually thrown something on & got lucky . Which can be hard work .
    Wendy in York

    1. I tried a longer trench but kept thinking about all that coat flapping around, and dragging in the mud when getting into my car. I am not slim on top, as it happens… but thanks for the compliment. And anything tied around the middle seems to emphasize my middle…to much for comfort. The coat looked fine worn open, but that's not much good in a Canadian spring.
      Ha. It is hard work to look like you've just thrown something on and "got lucky." Love that.

  3. That lovely anorak is just you, casual, sporty yet stylish, it really looked lovely and will give you so many options, I have found as I get older I am learning to dress for the life I have not the one I imagine I might ultimately have ( read never)., you just know when something looks and feels right. Enjoy every minute of wearing it.
    Carol in Australia. xx
    PS I had to laugh at your comments about the cold weather the other day, it is so hot here I would just love a week of snow, roaring log fires etc., instead of air comditioning and feeling hot and sticky ( read sweaty) all the time, we are never satisfied are we?

    1. I know me too…I'm trying to abandon dreams of a slim middle ever again. Now I try to dress to hide that it isn't slim anymore:)
      I'd be just like you if it were too hot here. I remember being in full menopausal hot flash mode when Hubby and I were in Broome one year. Phew. Thought I'd never get cool again!

  4. OMG Moncler. Sooooo expensive, cannot ever spend that much on a coat! Love the red shoes though.

    1. I know. I blanched when I looked at the price tag. I'm trying to justify it by telling myself that I will have it for years… which I will. But still.

  5. I am having a similar experience looking for the perfect big white shirt (no pressure…). I can find loads but put them on and I look like an unsuccessful Pantomime boy. Or weird medieval page. The me in my head is not the me in the mirror, sad to say. And yes, I understand the trench love and the strange metamorphosis when they go on. As a short person with a chest, it just can't work. Ah well. That first image reminds me of 1980s duster coats. So good on cowboys, so bad on me.

  6. Thank goodness you passed on the magic trench, which indeed made willowy you look dumpy. Phew. I loved the orange jacket but you have such discipline about avoiding duplication. So yes, the anorak looks just right, with your lovely scarf collection coming into rotation with it.


  7. I think the colour of that trench wasn't doing you any favours. I find that oatmeal is horrid on almost everyone.

    I score loads of great coats thrifting. Just picked up a Kate Spade last week that I'll be putting up for sale soon.

    Love those bright loafers.


  8. I’ve finally given up on trench coats. That classic beige looks awful on me, and I agree they make me look portly, too. Ugh. I finally brought my last one to Good Will and have moved on to wear what suits my current lifestyle. I have a lovely red Mac that I found several years back, and I’ve not found anything I like better. I hope it lasts for many more seasons.

    I LOVE the navy anorak and it’s so you. Your personal shopper really knows your style. Lucky you!

    1. Thanks, Laurel. Liz is great. She knows just what I like. And we have a great time. Sometimes she brings in stuff that she knows I won't buy and I try it on just so we can see what it looks like off the hanger. Research!

  9. The classic trench coat in beige from Aritzia looked 'nice' when worn open…but the style, cut and colour of the navy anorak is much more flattering on you and seems to capture the essence of your retirement lifestyle beautifully. Gorgeous red loafers…a wonderful addition to a shoe collection that will add a tremendous pop of colour when worn with navy, white, black or gray. Since wearing my first pair of Mary Jane red shoes as a child I always have red leather shoes in my wardrobe…hopefully in more grown up styles! Wear all your new purchases in good health…they look wonderful on you! Cheers from snowy Winnipeg, Alayne

    1. Great minds and all that, Alayne. I just wrote a post for an American blog I'm contributing to, all about Easter bonnets and new shoes. I remember my first pair of red shoes, dark red with a t-strap. Gad, I loved those shoes.

  10. That navy anorak is definitely more you and IMHO will suit your lifestyle better than the trench coat. Like others have said it's a difficult one to pull off successfully what with the colour and style and I know I would look like the proverbial sack of potatoes tied up with string! Love those red loafers and am going to check them out to see if they come in a narrow fitting. You are so lucky to have Liz in your life.

    1. I don't know if they come in narrow widths. But if it helps, my feet are very narrow, and my normal size (8.5) fit me perfectly. I know I'm going to get a ton of wear out of them.

  11. I’ve come to the conclusion that when we are “of a certain age”, old-school classical clothes tend to age us even more, unless there’s some whimsy added to them. The old-school trench definitely belongs to this category! I still have my wide-shouldered classic Parisian trench from the early 90’s, I got it shortened, and only wears it for grocery runs under the very occasional SoCal rain. Liz definitely hit it right, “modern” suits us better than “classic”! This Montcler coat will definitely serve you for years and can travel anywhere… Marie

    1. You know, I was thinking the same thing when I was writing this. When I was thirty and fresh-faced, a serious trench with jeans looked ironic, and cool. Now it just looks aging.

  12. I keep trying to wear my trench coats (I have a metallic-silver Burberry, classic except for the colour, and a Club Monaco tan one), but they look most flattering unbuttoned and with the belt ends tucked into the pockets or tied at the back — in other words, they look most flattering when they're not doing their job of keeping me warm and dry. And to see that even someone of your build can look portly with a belted trench makes me wonder how I ever swallowed the myth that I needed one, never mind two!! Also currently debating a spring coat — I have an olive Aritzia anorak, but completely unlined, a heavy coat that doesn't do much to repel rain. I love that navy on you!

    1. That's how I like to wear them too, unbuttoned with the belt in the pockets or tied in the back. They look cool… and are bloody freezing that way. Ha.

  13. You made great choices….you know your lifestyle, what flatters you and also select items that won't sit in your closet. My new question to self when shopping: "Now that I'm 67, will I wear this in my 70's?" HAHAHA…..I laugh so I don't cry!!! Janie

    1. It's a sobering thought isn't it? I'm almost 62, my husband is 73… we're senior citizens! Okay… well… he is. I was reading a novel today and the author said an "elderly frail" character "had to be 70 if they were a day. !!! Sheesh. My mum was still haying with my stepdad on the farm well into her seventies, my husband at 73 skis almost every day, my sister at 69 still works as a pharmacist and manages her two drugstores. I'm not sure when people will get the message. 70 ain't old! Oopps. Ranting there. Sorry. Maybe I should save that for a blog post. 🙂

  14. I'm writing this comment without having read any of the other comments or your responses, Sue. Here goes ….

    I just can't justify the cost of anything Moncler. The prices scare me — really scare me. I don't really imagine Moncler products are indistinguishable from Uniqlo products, but the difference in looks couldn't possibly be worth a 4X or 5X or even 8X multiple in the price!

    And yet (and we all know the world of ambiguity that a "yet" means when we're talking about clothes), I have never been able to shake the idea that one day, somehow, I would figure out a way to own a Burberry trench coat. Yes, they cost about US$2,000 — definitely not in my pre-lottery-winnings budget. Yet (again with that "yet") that fact never stopped me from fantasizing about slouching through the darkened streets and alleys of Paris in a Sandringham tan trench, shoulders squared against the wind and rain.

    And then! This past winter I was shopping in my favorite consignment shop when it occurred to me for the first time after many years of buying clothes there to ask, "Do you ever see any Burberry in here?" "Not often," was the answer. "Thanks," I said. "If you do see a Burberry trench, would you please let me know."

    Twenty minutes later, the saleswoman came over and said, a little cautiously, "Weren't you just asking about Burberry? We just got two coats in. Would you like to see them?"

    The end of the story is that one of those coats was a knee-length (not too short, not too long) tan Sandringham trench in my size (UK10), which I purchased for $500! I've probably worn it 50 times since then. I imagine that my eventual price-per-wear will turn out to be something like $0.50.

    This is to say that if I were to get that much wear out of a Moncler anorak (and it might be that I would) I should just go ahead and buy it! And stop worrying about how much it cost. 🙂

    Ann in Missouri

    1. I hear you, Ann. I did gasp when Liz told me the price. Then I thought about my burgundy Akris sweater, my Max Mara tweed coat, my Veronica Beard suit… all which were more than I wanted to pay. And I think of the fact that I drive a ten year old car when I don't have to, mostly because it's a perfectly fine car, and cars don't matter that much to me. We live in a small house that's been paid for for years, and we've never moved up the real estate ladder because we love where we live. And then I remember that if I look at cost per wear for a coat or a sweater etc I really love, it's always money well spent. Sigh. That's what I keep telling myself, anyway:)
      P.S. It's so nice to see your smiling face:)

  15. Hi Sue,

    I looked for a trench last year and finally found just what I wanted in a charity shop. It’s black, unadorned, perfectly straight, comes just to the knee, and is made of lovely fabric. It is just as appropriate for wearing over a dress for a night in town, as it is for going grocery shopping in jeans. I feel that the double-breasted, belted coats are impossibly cool on models with 17 inch waists, but they are not flattering on most of us.

    Because you came home with those wonderful red loafers, your shopping trip was well worth the time spent.

    1. Thanks, Kelsey. And I know it's not just me. I've seen other people with coat belts etc fluttering outside their car door. Makes me laugh.

  16. Hi Sue! Great choice with the navy jacket although I’ve got to add you look stunning in the red one. Very “eye catching” It’s not a colour you seem to wear very often … that I’ve noticed. It really suits you. However, the right choice is definitely the navy one, very versatile! Lol ?
    I also liked you in the trench, when open. Like you and Frances I always tuck the belt in the pockets or tie at the back and except in freezing cold days I leave it open! If necessary I wear a thick scarf to keep me warm at the front when it’s open!! Thinking back to what you said about a longer one, getting caught in the car doors etc I realise that regardless how cold I never drive in a coat … I always lay it on a seat …
    Hope you’re having a good week!
    ps love the red shoes, colour and style!

    1. I remember when I worked I had a lovely long linen blazer. And I used t take it off before I got in the car on my way to work in the morning, and lay it across the passenger seat so it wouldn't crease. But I can't see my having the patience to do that now, with a coat. Ha. Especially as I have to drive pretty much everywhere I go. Except on long trips. When Hubby and I both take our coats off and put them in the backseat. Driving for hours in a heavy coat is not comfortable. I remember you had on a nice trench coat when you came to met us in Stratford.

  17. The navy anorak looks amazing on you. I also like the red loafers with the jeans and tee. Great purchases. I bought a Burberry trench coat 12 years ago and gulped at the price. That trench coat still looks brand new and I love it.

    1. Thanks, Janet. I imagine my spring pull on and go everywhere outfit will be those red loafers, the navy anorak, jeans, and a white tee… a striped one would be good too.

  18. Beautiful anorak and loafers.
    Red and navy suits you perfectly!
    I have shorter and longer version of trench,one is sand and the longer one is navy (it was even longer and I used to wear it rarely before decision-without any support from family,friends and seamstress:-)- to let it cut knee lenght. I always wear them open (tell me about belts and car doors…)- except maybe in heavy rain,but not belted.
    I "borrowed" unloved Fjällraven khaki/olive anorak (more than 15 years old but in perfect condition) with the hood from my son and wear it a lot-it is simply more practical than trench (especially for hair when it rains :-))

    1. Belted can be a problem, even if it's just casually tied in a knot. That olive hoodie must look great with your fair hair. I've become very attached to coats with hoods for spring. Umbrellas can be such as liability in the wind, or for walking downtown, too easy to jab someone on the eye on a crowded sidewalk:)

  19. Stumbled upon your blog today for the first time. Aritzia sweater brought me here, but your age, location and love of books and fashion is why I will keep coming back. I am up the road in Manotick – how often does that happen in the vast blog world? I feel the same way about Barbara Kingsglover, and feel ashamed because it is so contrary to popular opinion (that I respect). Now for my pressing question – I MUST get my hands on that Burpees t-shirt. What mall/store did you see it in?

    1. Hello and welcome. Glad you stumbled on my blog. You're the third reader/commenter who is from Manotick. Cool, eh?
      WRT Barbara Kingsolver… I've often felt guilty when I say I don't like her work. I know it's terribly worthy of respect.
      I saw that "burpees" T-shirt in a store very near Nordstron on the second level of the Rideau Centre. I came out of Nordstom's main/first level door, turned right and it was a few stores along on the right. I can't remember the name of the store.
      Good luck:)

  20. Good choices although I'm not sure about dress/ skirt with anorak combination. Will keep an open mind. Lots of reading ideas in recent posts which I've made a note of. Always lovely to get new suggestions though my reading time is currently limited. Delighted to see some signs of spring lately. So tired of winter clothes. Missed commenting on so many of your posts recently but have to say really enjoyed post about your mum who sounds wonderful. Also loved your take on Ireland. I think you'd have been amused at how the country ground to a halt recently due to worst snow in thirty years – nothing by your standards. Finally agree you should have a burpees t shirt. As always educational, never before heard of nor am I likely to try them! Iris

    1. I'll give the coat and skirt combination a try… we'll see. It may look terrible. In which case you'll hear no more of it!
      I remember doing "burpees" in gym class in the sixties. And not since. Ha.

  21. Funny how we can long for something then on fruition realise it's not for us after all. I felt like that about a cream meringue after a diet. I promised it to myself then when I was allowed it didn't want it all. Still I do like and use a trench as it suits my work life.

    1. How lucky to finish your diet and then not want that treat anymore. Now that Hubby and I are eating a low salt, healthy fats, diet after his heart surgery, we are grossed out at food that is to fatty and salty. We've lost our taste for it.

  22. Love the navy anorak and those red loafers!! I've become an anorak convert over the last couple of years. For me, they're much more wearable than a trench, and the unlined ones are perfect for our climate 9 months out of the year.

  23. I have always loved the classic trench coat. I wanted to save up for a real Burberry one years ago, but found out that the colour was awful on me. What a joke!

  24. I've always liked the idea of a trench coat better than when I try them on. You'd think with my auburn hair a tan trench would look great, but it doesn't. Tan in general looks horrible on me! Here in San Antonio we go from winter to 80 degrees, with a few steps back, but not the kind of weather I need a trench coat. Even when it's cold… below 30… a lot of people don't wear coats at all. I love your navy anorak and the red shoes!!! Those are fabulous!!! xoxo, B

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