This week, I was remembering the different coats that I've had through the years: there was red coat that I wore when my family went to Sweden and so on, when I was seven; the light springtime coat of a lavender hue, that was part of my Easter ensemble; another red coat, this one with full "swing" styling, that I thought looked very smart with a pencil skirt--also red; and the United Colors of Benetton pale camel-colored wool coat, which I thought, at age 18, was a sign that I was really grown-up (I still wear it).
I recall going to a winter wedding once, wearing the "real grown-up coat," where a remarkable number of people made favorable comments about it. One or two women said that they admired my "retro look" ("1940s" was the characterization, I think), but interestingly, most of the complimenters were men. Though modest, coats have a way of making the wearer stand out.
Melissa Hellstern has written a thought-provoking book about Audrey Hepburn's life and style, called How to Be Lovely: The Audrey Hepburn Way of Life, which includes this quote by the coat-wearing actress herself:
I cannot look back with nostalgia at a coat I enjoyed wearing years ago. I was inside it, and it kept me warm, but I am still here and the coat is something of the past.
I can't help but sigh inwardly--Audrey Hepburn's words are practical, yes; some people like to remember the actress and her coats. They were memorable. They were part of her graceful sophistication. But, she goes on to say:
What I always wanted, what I still want, is to create a warm and loving atmosphere for those I care about--my family and friends.
Audrey Hepburn was both graceful and gracious, and this passage shows that her attention was focused on other people. Coat-wearing, I would like to argue, is a kind of graciousness, because although you might feel conspicuous in your nice coat (it's often the trend to dress down rather than up in Southern California), your taking care against the cold puts others at ease. Imagine how other people feel when they see you shivering?
My sister, Autumn, (gratefully for me) is a wearer of coats, and this is a new coat that she got just lately. I can see why she's already received quite a few compliments for it: the coat looks Swiss ski vacation-ready (you know, like in "Charade" with Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant) with its sporty silhouette. And, Autumn's outerwear is super warm because it's filled with down--though I'm sure the faux fur helps.
Here are some other nicely memorable coats that I've seen lately:
First Lady Michelle Obama, Inauguration Day, January 20, 2009
Jennifer Connolly (I love the lipstick, too.)