Upon arrival in New Orleans this week, I jammed my down coat into its stuff sack, and stored it in my suitcase. I needed a warm coat in New Jersey and only a light sweater there.
When I’m in cities, like New York, I observe what people wear, noting how down has taken over outerwear, from vests to jackets to long coats. While I might see a few colors, I mostly see black.
So I enjoyed seeing a pinkish-red Norma Kamali “sleeping bag” coat, circa 1980’s, that was part of French fashion icon, Countess Jacqueline De Ribes’ wardrobe, on display at the Met’s Costume Institute until February 21.
I remember when down coats like this one first came out and I had one in a rust-color. Then, I still had several wool coats. Now I have two: One long and one mid -length but I’m wearing them less and less.
I’ve become a down convert. They have zip pockets, stuff into a sac or pocket, are light yet warm, and washable. I have a mid-length black down coat I usually wear when walking in New York City. On a recent visit, I realized I needed something longer to shield me from winter winds. Finding a coat on sale, another black down, I bought it. I’m ready now for all weather.
Last year, walking with my friend Claudia in the city, and chatting about winter, she mentioned she only had the coat she was wearing—a lovely, knee-length wool. Though she grew up in Boston, known for its harsh winters, she’s spent the past five years living in Hong Kong, and forgot how cold it can get. I tactfully told her she’d need something warmer. “Really? This won’t be warm enough?” She listened and ordered a long down coat that day, and has thanked me many times since.
I’m not quite ready to get rid of my woolen coats. They are tailored and pretty. And if it’s really, really cold, I’ll don the mink I inherited from my grandmother. It’s heavy and bulky, warm as toast, perhaps politically incorrect, but sentimental and gorgeous.