A winter coat is one of those big ticket items that we don’t purchase every year. Right? And as such we need to apply a certain amount of thought before we make the leap to purchase something that will hang in our closet for years. Smart shopping strategies must be applied. Right. Well. Ahem. Deep breath. I think I may have blown my reputation as a smart shopper to smithereens this month. With my purchase of a bright green Max Mara coat.
Yes. Green. Bright green. Stand-out-in-a-big-crowd green. In fact, I fear that heretofore I might become known as the girl in the bright green Max Mara coat. As in “Who’s that women in the bright green coat?” Or “I remember you; you’re the lady in the bright green coat.” Or even “Ye gads, who would buy such a bright green coat?”
Seriously, you can’t miss this coat. It’s not blend-in-able black, or navy, or camel. Black, navy, or camel are usually my favourite colours for winter coats. Black, navy, and camel coats look rich, go with everything, and as such don’t stick out like a sore thumb. Or like a bright green coat. Ha.
But despite all my mental perambulations the night after I first saw this green Max Mara coat in Montreal, despite the fact that I knew it went against my usual criteria for buying coats, I loved it. And when I revisited the store for the second time the next day I knew I had to have it. I even tried on the exact same coat in navy. The navy coat looked good. It was a lovely coat. A navy coat made more sense. But alas the navy coat did not make my heart sing like the green one did.
I was brought up to believe that a winter coat should be “serviceable” … a word my mum used a lot when she shopped for us kids. Serviceable meant warm, big enough to wear over winter sweaters and jackets, and blend-in-able. A serviceable coat should be a fairly neutral colour to blend with the rest of our wardrobes. Since it was probably our one winter coat, it had to go with everything and be relatively easy to keep clean. It must blend in in other ways, be wearable in a multitude of situations. And not fulfil some kind of gimmicky trend.
Like the red and black plaid bomber jacket I bought one year when I went by myself to purchase my winter coat. That coat was NOT serviceable, did NOT blend in, would NOT work if I needed a “good” coat to attend, say, a funeral, and it most certainly did NOT keep me warm. But I was fifteen and I was bound and determined to have the coat I wanted.
As a result I shivered in that coat all winter, and bore with fortitude Mum’s admonitions about “freezing my ass off” every time I left the house. Okay. To be honest I did not bear her remarks with fortitude; I just kept my retorts to myself. Always a wise course of action around my mum when I was a teenager. Yep, the clothing wars raged that winter in our house. I wrote a post reminiscing about those clothing wars a couple of years ago. You can read it here if you’re interested.
The night before I made the decision to buy my green Max Mara coat I worried it might be another plaid bomber jacket kind of choice. I mean, a green coat is a departure for me. Big time. But, you know, in spite of all that, I don’t think buying this coat was a mistake. And here’s why.
In the past few months, I’ve been trying to identify the three adjectives which describe my personal style. You can read about that quest here. And as a result, I’ve been looking at shopping in a slightly different manner. I’ve undergone a “mindset shift” of sorts. And I think this mindset shift accounts for my recent uncharacteristic coat purchase.
In the summer, I identified my style adjectives as classic, modern, and minimal. But lately I’ve been leaning towards “chill” as my third word instead of minimal. Not that I think I am chill, or cool, or avant-garde, like Amy Smilovic. But because chill is my aspirational word. Applying the word chill to a particular outfit implies there’s some element that is unexpected. Some element that works against the other elements and as such makes the outfit more than the sum of its parts. Like wearing sneakers with a classic, conservative pant suit.
In a recent post on Instagram, Amy Smilovic discusses how her followers might build a coherent wardrobe. She suggests we should stop shopping for “outfits.” For pieces which work only with each other. And instead look for pieces we love and which work with our style adjectives. If we choose individual pieces which fit our style adjectives they should work with all the other pieces in our closet, she says.
I think my new coat, even though I didn’t think of it at the time, fits all my style adjectives. The coat is a classic cut. Like those “car coats” my mum and her friends used to wear in the fifties. It has a sort of vintage vibe. But because it’s oversize, it’s modern. And that green colour… that to me is unexpected… maybe even a little chill. It’s how I want to dress now.
According to Amy Smilovic, my new coat is a “had to have” piece. An emotional purchase. It is not, as Allison Bornstein would say, a “closet regular.” Not one of the pieces I would reach for daily like my jeans and turtlenecks, my cargo pants and cashmere sweaters. But it can be worn with a ton of my closet regulars. And even though I didn’t buy it with a specific outfit in mind, I still need to find out how it fits with the rest of my closet. So that’s what I set out to do the other day, pair this coat with my closet regulars. And put together a few outfits that I like and can easily reach for without having to think too much.
Like this one below. I paired the coat with my black Aritzia cargo pants, my black Stuart Weitzman ankle boots, and my slim-fitting black Vince turtleneck. I added a black belt with a silver buckle and a vintage black brooch with rhinestones. The rhinestones along with the silver belt buckle added just enough bling for me. I like the slim turtleneck with the oversized coat, and I rolled the pant legs to give the bottom half a bit of volume to balance out the volume of the coat.
I used the exact same principals with the navy and green outfit below. The slim-fitting navy COS turtleneck, wide-leg Max Mara dress pants, and Veja sneakers. I tried my black boots and didn’t like the look. The sneakers look better, I think. A bit more unexpected. Plus the navy Burberry scarf fulfills the same principle as the brooch and belt in the previous outfit. The plaid keeps the outfit from being too minimal, and the white in the scarf ties in with the sneakers creating balance.
I love this outfit. And I must say the two slim-fitting, merino turtlenecks I bought at COS in Montreal are lovely. Here’s the link for them.
The third outfit was not as successful. I wanted to try my faux-leather pants with the coat. So I paired them with my black Everlane cashmere crew sweater, my black ankle boots, and a really old scarf tied and tucked into the sweater. I used to wear this scarf in just this way back when I was in university. Maybe that accounts for the “meh” feeling I had when I looked at this outfit in the mirror. This outfit, even though it looks fine, is not for me. Not anymore.
I like the black sweater with the faux-leather pants. I wore them together in Montreal and felt great. But I don’t like them with the coat. And not with the scarf. The whole outfit is too unrelentingly classic, and boring, despite the pants being faux leather. Perhaps a bulky, black, nubbly turtleneck with some texture might make this outfit seem more current? But I don’t own a bulky, black, nubbly turtleneck. And I am, after all, trying to work with what I have in my closet.
I had better luck with the last combination I tried. Cream lightweight Theory turtleneck, cream Aritzia cargo pants, and Veja sneakers. Again the loose pants balance out the volume of the coat. This outfit is super plain and simple. But I like it. I like the softness of the cream and green together. The classic cut of the coat with the very casual pants and sneakers just works for me. I have a cream cotton shopping tote that I think I will carry as I run my errands in this getup.
You know, I laughed when I first saw these two photos. My hair disappears into the clouds. My mum always said I walked around with my head in the clouds. When I didn’t have my nose stuck in a book. Ha.
Okay, let’s recap, shall we?
I was surprised that the three outfits I liked used a styling technique which I have recently begun to avoid… the so-called column of colour. But since this coat is so so green, so statement-y I think that a column of colour calms down the whole look.
I was pretty sure that the navy pants and turtleneck, and the black cargo pants and turtleneck would look good with my new coat. But I fiddled with jewellry, and the scarf, and footwear until I had a combination that felt like me. The cream combination was a last minute brainwave when another idea didn’t pan out.
I never really know until I try something if it will work or whether, like the leather pants outfit, it will feel off. Not quite what I want. Not how I see myself now.
Like Amy Smilovic says, we don’t have that many ways to communicate who we are to the world. Our clothing, our personal style, can be an important tool to do that. And I think that my new green Max Mara coat conveys who I am now. Classic-ish, modern-ish, maybe even a teensy bit chill. And when it comes to that unmissable, stand-out-in-a-crowd green coat… perhaps a bit of a risk-taker. Or at least not boring.
So maybe I haven’t blown my smart shopping reputation out of the water after all. It just seemed as if I had. Because that green Max Mara coat is definitely a departure for me. Even Hubby said that. And maybe I’m okay with the coat being so, well, recognizable. Not blend-in-y enough. Maybe I’m good with being known as the girl in the green Max Mara coat. Maybe I don’t care as much as I used to if other people don’t like it. I love it.
Every time I’ve pulled it on in the last few days it has made my little heart sing.
By the way, I think I stole that line about the coat making my heart sing from one of you guys. I’m pretty sure that someone used that phrasing in a comment, and I fell in love with it. But, for the life of me, I couldn’t find out who said it and on which post. So whoever you are thanks for putting that phrase in my head. It perfectly describes how that coat makes me feel.
Now it’s your turn my friends. Finally. Have you made any surprising purchases lately? Has your style changed so that old familiar pieces styled the same way you’ve been wearing them forever suddenly don’t feel like “you” anymore? Or maybe you own a piece that make your heart sing?
P.S. Here are some links to pieces I’m wearing in this post: Vince turtleneck, Aritzia cargo pants, similar Stuart Weitzman ankle boots. COS slim-fitting merino turtleneck, Veja sneakers. Aritzia faux-leather pants. Everlane cashmere crew-neck sweater. Similar Theory turtleneck. Max Mara coat.
P.P.S. Most of the above links are affiliate links, except the links to Aritzia products. If you make a purchase after clicking one of my affiliate links I will earn a commission which helps to pay for the blog. But although I include links to pieces I wear from Aritzia, Aritzia does not pay commission. I post the links as a courtesy to my readers who may be interested.