Joni and the Amazing Technicolor Coats

The crowd standing near the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was a sea of black.   It was Armistice Day in Ottawa and the mood was somber, as was fitting for a ceremony commemorating the war dead.   There was the odd splash of red or gray among the thousands of people huddled on this cold snowy November morning, but this was the reality of a Canadian winter, solemn occasion or not – we are a nation of black coats.      

The vast majority of winter coats come in only one color – black, and one style – big and puffy, as in parkas that are flattering to no one, not even penguins.    They range in price from the cheaper now-defunct Sears version all the way up to the down-filled fur-trimmed Canada Goose brand which retails for $1000 and which has become the latest target of thieves.   Dare to leave your Canada Goose dangling on the back of your Starbucks chair while you fetch a stir stick and you might return to find it gone.

Winter weather is here to stay now, but I’m not worried – I’ve got it covered.   After years of looking, I bought not one but THREE winter coats this year – and none of them were black.   

It had been well over a decade since I’d bought a dressy winter coat, although whether a toggle coat can be considered dressy is debatable, but it was the style in 2008 and it came in red and petite (I come from a long line of leprechauns).   The next year, I bought a red ski jacket with a plaid flannel lining, after seeing it in Oprah magazine.   It too came in red, but a bright candy apple red, not that dreadful orange tone. 

These were both nice serviceable coats, but with our long winters ten years is a good amount of time to get out of a coat.   I was way overdue for a new one – but everything was black.   The coat manufacturers had been playing it safe since the last recession.  

Oh, I understand the appeal of black.  It’s practical.  It doesn’t show dirt.  It’s easy to accessorize.  It goes with everything.  It’s classic and tres chic, as in you can pretend you’re a famous fashion editor and of course, some black is okay as in Twenty Pairs of Black Pants or the LBD – Little Black Dress.   This is by no means meant to be disparaging to those of you who like black and can wear it – by all means do!      

But what if you don’t like black.  Or look good in it?   I find that for many women of a certain age, black near the face is draining, it makes your skin look pale or sallow.   If you are old enough to remember the 80’s having-your-colors-done craze where a franchised sales rep draped swatches of color near your face to determine if you were a Winter Spring Summer or Autumn, then you will know what I mean.     

Summer colors

Summer colors

As a pale Celtic Summer, I knew black was out for me, not even with a scarf for camouflage.  Plus, I find winter dreary enough without being in mourning – I need something colorful to cheer me up.    

In younger years when I was a dedicated fashionista, I did my fair share to support the clothing economy.   Now that I’m retired, I live in yoga pants and casual tops and spend very little on clothes.  I don’t wear most of what I own and it seems wasteful to buy more, so I shop in my closet.   Fast fashion is not for me, I want quality and style.   If the latest trends are lacking I feel it’s my duty to leave ugly clothes in the stores where they belong.   Why buy something, unless you need and absolutely love it?  

I’ve had many winter coats over the years, but only a few I remember.  Fellow Fashionistas might enjoy a historical look at my multi-colored coat collection, beginning in the sixties with purple velvet.  

I’m twelve and still in grade school, but the Age of Aquarius is dawning and purple velvet is groovy.   My coat was short and belted like the style below, and not a crushed velvet but more of a velour.   It was also too big for me but my mother let me buy it anyway. 

Maxi coat pattern

So you want to sew a maxi coat…

Mini skirts were the current thing (uh huh – Cher), and although I loved my Princely purple coat, it was not as mod as my teacher’s long black maxi coat, worn while patrolling the schoolyard during recess and the envy of all the girls.  (We also envied her cute boyfriend – although she was only 19, they were already engaged).   Sewing was popular back then so there were even McCall’s patterns should you wish to make your own.   I would never have tackled such an ambitious project, no matter how alluring the ads in Seventeen.    

Plaid coat 17 and poncho

Maybe start with a poncho….

In the early 70’s, my first years of high school I wore a long corduroy coat in a rich dark brown, double breasted with a belt.Brown corduroy winter coat

The belt came in handy as the coat was too big for me, a size 11/12 when I normally wore a 7/8 or 9/10, but my mother let me buy it anyway.  (I so seldom asked for anything, that my mother was a pushover).  That’s the best thing about online shopping now, you can get the size you need, back then it was just what was on the rack.   Sizing was also different, size 2 or 4 didn’t even exist.   

When I was sixteen, I bought a loud plaid wool coat at Saks because the sales rep told me I looked like the cover of Mademoiselle, a magazine I was not familiar with but went right out and bought. 

plaid coat

Yes it was that ugly – definitely a fashion mistake…

While not quite the same pattern as above, mine had red, green and yellow, and while I love plaid to this day, it was not a tasteful plaid at all.   Even I was surprised my mother let me buy it.   My dad said it looked like a horse blanket.   It was the one and only thing I ever bought there, as it was too expensive a store for us to shop at regularly.   It fit perfectly but I only wore it one year.   By university I considered it too garish and trendy as I had graduated to Glamour magazine by then and something more classic.

camel coat

During university, I found a lovely wool camel coat at the Eaton’s store in downtown Toronto which I wore for the next several years.   A knockoff of the classic wrap style, it was suitable for a student budget and I can still picture myself wearing it over my jeans, striding around campus late for class as usual.   One night I went to a formal with it draped over my long red dress, an evening that started with an argument about whether to wear a wrap or a coat – it was January what was I thinking?

In the early 80’s, the start of my working years I had a long oatmeal colored coat which my mother said reminded her of the 1940’s swing coats.  When I had more money, I splurged on a designer camel wrap coat with a detachable  fur collar, which I still have as what would I do with it?   (Poor little fox, but like Oprah says, when you know better you do better). 

I suppose I could wear it with the collar removed but the coat is so heavy and long it might qualify as a maxi.   As the climate changes, perhaps it will end up in a museum some day, a Doctor Zhivago-like relic of cold winters past? 

Musical Interlude:    (better version by Sarah Vaughn at the end).

I’m not the only one who wore fur – full length coats used to be considered essential on the bitterly cold Canadian prairies where people were known to run from their cars to the house – now replaced by more modern insulating synthetics.    Camel winter coat  It was too expensive and much too dressy a coat to wear everyday, although it did look great with a hat – that was in the Lady Diana years, when you could wear a hat without people staring at you.   

In the later 80’s came a long royal blue wool coat with gigantic shoulder pads.   It too only lasted one season before it was recycled to the thrift shop as it was way too bright.   

The 90’s meant another camel coat, cloth this time, with a dark brown fake fur collar – real fur being out by then.   It was stylish but practical and I wore that coat for years.   All these 80-90-‘s coats were long by the way, because women wore skirts and suits to work.

By the millennium pants were in, and even dressy coats became shorter, what used to be called a car coat.   This was the brown decade.  I had a brown trench coat with a lining for work, not really warm enough for winter, and a more casual brown velour/sherpa L.L.Bean coat with a matching hat and mitts, which was a bit too big but I couldn’t be bothered to return it, as it was a hassle with the duty and taxes.   It was on the cover of the LL Bean catalogue and while cute and stylish, it too was by no means warm enough for our Canadian winters.  I must have stayed inside that decade.  Then came the red coats who overstayed their welcome.     

The decade of drought ensued – the only coats in the stores were black.   I searched for years, refusing all things black and puffy, but since I succumbed to the lure of online shopping, my life has become a lot more colorful again.   

Last year, I bought a beautiful soft blue wool coat at Reitmans, a mid-range somewhat frumpy Canadian women’s chain which has been in operation since 1926.  It was $190 regular, but a steal for $75 at the Black Friday sales.  Ordered a small online. 

Blue winter coat

To Meghan Markle’s credit, she did give Reitmans quite a stylish update when she was their spokesperson before she married Prince Harry.   (Her TV series, Suits was filmed in Toronto).  The coat was very warm too, as some wrap coats tend not to be if they have a silk lining.   It was classic and stylish, and I got many compliments on the periwinkle blue color, even from complete strangers.   Welcome back to Canada, Meghan – you can resume your old job at Reitmans any time!   (My prediction is Meghan will start a fashion label with her designer friend Jessica Mulroney, Harry can be a stay at home dad.  Nothing I’ve heard, just my guess as to why they would trademark the name Sussex Royal).     

I still needed a new ski jacket, so I started looking early this year and was lucky to find a Columbia at a 40% off Black Friday sale at Marks Work Wearhouse, another Canadian staple.    Ordered a small online. 

Red winter ski coat

Red again, but a duller red with a gray fur hood which luckily went with all  of my winter scarves, so no need to accessorize, it was already done.

So, I thought I was finished, new dressy coat and new ski jacket.  

But the ski jacket wasn’t warm enough for walking.  Nor windproof.  That Omni-heat lining is way over-rated.   So, when I saw a $300 gray down-filled Columbia jacket at Sportscheck, I watched for the pre-Christmas sales for 50% off and ordered online.  

gray winter coat parka

It came by Canada Post (so no porch pirates), fit perfectly and went with all my scarves.   I was definitely on roll here, but I also realized I had become one of those shoppers retailers hate – people who browse in stores and then buy online, but it’s not my fault if they don’t have my size. 

Then came the Boxing Day Bargain.   I went back to Reitmans to buy more socks (Christmas presents now marked down to $6 from $20), and there on the sale rack was a gray herringbone tweed wrap coat ($70, no tax, regular $190), just calling my name.     

gray winter coat

Did I need another coat?  No, but it was my size so I bought it anyway.   It’s not warm enough for very cold weather, but perfect for the edge seasons, late fall and early spring.    And a classic – the kind of coat Meghan Markle might wear.   Even the sewn-in back belt was stylish, plus it went with all my red and gray winter scarves.    

After adding up all these great deals, I’m left wondering why anyone would ever pay full price?   I also remembered what fun shopping used to be – when you found something you liked! 

So I now own two dressy wrap coats, one warm (blue), and one lighter (gray tweed), and two ski jackets, one light (red) one for the car and running errands, and one down (gray) parka for walking and very cold days.   It’s January and the Visa bill has arrived.   I dare not go coat shopping for the next decade at least.   

PS.    Do you have a favorite winter coat – style and color?           

PS.  Just for the record, no one observed me photographing my coats on the dining room floor!   My house is dark in the winter and I needed a window,  for maximum light.  Some photos sourced online and from my collection of vintage fashion magazines.   I saved a few from the attic and while looking through old 70’s Glamours I was amazed at how classic some of the styles were, but then I haven’t read a fashion magazine in well over 25 years.  Maybe some of that stuff is back in – I see pants are getting wider again, just when I just got rid of all mine.    (2300 words – sorry)

A better version of Button Up Your Overcoat.




35 thoughts on “Joni and the Amazing Technicolor Coats

  1. LA says:

    I hate coats on theory because I feel hemmed in by them. But…for fall I have a black cape sort of thing that I love, and I have a burgundy knee length teddy bear coat that I adore!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Kate Crimmins says:

    I have basic black but I need colorful ones for everyday. I don’t need clothes either so right now I’m not buying much. Hoping my pants supply will last until the ankle pants style goes out. I’m not the right height and it takes the right shoes to look attractive in those. Love you new coats. I have a lot of pink/fuschia/purple. That’s my go to for fun color.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ally Bean says:

    I had a horse blanket coat, too. Looked almost exactly like yours. I also had a camel coat like yours that I loved. I’m the same coloring as you so I can’t wear black coats and appear alive. The color drains out of my face fast as you can say “fashionable.” My current favorite winter coat is dark gray wool in a double-breasted style with an attached belt at the back. It’s car coat length and seems to get me through the winter without freezing, so I like it. I like your new coats. I think you did a good job finding something that suits you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joni says:

      Thanks Ally! You must be a summer too. Loud plaids were in for a few years back then -at least as the vintage sites have refreshed my memory. I don’t mind dark gray either, and I love sewn in belts. I had fun doing this post and might do some more vintage stuff.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Dave says:

    I’ll leave the fashion discussion to your female followers, but can I just say: “Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat”? One of the best stage productions (and some of the best music) I’ve ever seen/heard.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. J P says:

    “It looks like a horse blanket.” Spoken in the way of Dads everywhere. 😁

    I have had a couple of dress coats, generally a rain coat with a liner and a wool number for cold dry days when a suit is called for.

    Otherwise I’m a winter jacket guy because I like the short length. I have had roughly one a decade since about 1977. I’m due for another. But I don’t think it will be red.

    Liked by 1 person

      • J P says:

        Thanks for reminding me to go back for the music – I first read this during a break at work and intended to go back to the music (then forgot). I loved them both. The Sarah Vaughn record was recorded November of 1947 and was in the first year and a half of her solo career. I have some other things from around then, but not this, so thanks. Yes, a lovely voice indeed, and one that improved as she got more experience.

        I also loved Ruth Etting’s 1929 version. I tried to track down the musicians on the session but struck out in my brief effort. It is a more listenable record than most of the time, and was new to me.

        My 80s winter jacket was black as is my wool dress coat (which will be required for a trip to court today).

        Liked by 1 person

      • Joni says:

        Well I’m sure you will look very lawyerly in your black coat! I used to put a song of the day in my earlier posts, often something older and classic but related to the topic, so maybe I’ll start doing that again. We all need a musical interlude.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Joni says:

      Thank you Ruth! I only remember the ones which stand out, but then I loved fashion when I was younger, and often wished I had worked for a magazine. I so seldom shop anymore that I was just happy to find things I liked.


  6. lindasschaub says:

    Of course you and I had the long conversation about our lime green Columbia jackets when we first connected here on WordPress. The styles of coats we had through the years is similar since we’re the same age. I had a coat like your beige with the fur – a tailored coat with a flair at the bottom, with a gray fur and wore it with a black fedora with a feather in the brim. I will look for that picture and send it to you. In fact, I wrote a post one time about going to midnight mass with my grandmother with a hatpin in that hat and the hat blew off and I lost the pin. At that time I had not scanned in the photos and found a picture of said coat and hat and should go back and put it into the blog post. Like you, it was quality and buying a good wool coat and spending a little more meant a lot of mileage out of it so that is how we amassed multiple coats – we are kindred souls. I like all your Winter coats and you got such good deals on them, you are set for a long time, especially since you have not had to wear the extra heavy puffy one this Winter since we’ve not entered the really brutal phase of Winter yet … don’t put it too far away though Joni. I love looking at the vintage coats and patterns – you did a great job on this post. P.S. – I remembered a coat that was like a Harris tweed with a velvet collar – it looked matronly and I was not that old, but it was olive green. Haven’t thought of that coat in years. I did not have a plaid coat even though I had my “dress-like-a lumberjack phase” with the heavy lug boots and a red-plaid short battle-jacket style and with the red toque, I looked like the Brawny paper towels guy. I had a multi-colored striped wool long coat and my mom used to call it my “Jacob’s coat of many colors” – so very similar to your mad plaid coat.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joni says:

      That’s the word I should have used – mad plaid! I’m glad you said you wore a black fedora with a feather, so I’m not the only one. My dressy hats usually only got worn while going to church too. My mom has a beige fedora with a feather still in her closet and I have a navy blue boater one with a velvet bow at the back, which isn’t so dressy that I couldn’t wear it, but it doesn’t really go with any of my coats. I remember the Harris tweeds with the velvet collars – that was a very stylish look. I have worn my puffy parka for walking and find it very warm and cozy, even though it hasn’t been freezing cold like some years, it’s very well made so should last for years. Send me the pictures if you can find them. Your Jacob’s coat sounds interesting. I remember striped socks/tights being in in the 70’s – that was all the rage!

      Liked by 1 person

      • lindasschaub says:

        I just sent you the picture of the gray cloth coat and fedora – I loved the fedora so had it on with three different coats – one page scanned in and you can see them. As my mom would say to me when I asked her to take a picture of me: “I like me, who do you like?” Yes, that coat was multi-colored stripes and wool – and the mohair coat was purple with mauve stripes – it is in the photo I sent. I remember the maxi coats. I did not have a maxi coat but had a maxi dress – silly looking dress that looked like something Candy or Biddy wore in “Here Come the Brides” – yes, and with a wooden purse that looked like a treasure chest. I was not allowed to wear it to school and wore it one time to go to friends of the family for dinner and my mom did not take a picture but said “one day you will remember this outfit and wonder why you used your allowance to buy these things.” My parents bought all my clothes through high school but after I started working, I bought stuff with my paycheck. They would not buy frivolous clothes while I was in high school – had to use my allowance for it. I remember the striped socks/tights. Do you remember jeans which looked like canvas striped awnings and you wore them with a macrame belt and a top that looked like bubble wrap? I have a white straw hat with a red ribbon from when I was young and I looked matronly in it … I saw a few funny coat pictures when looking for the ones to show you. I didn’t have the olive Harris tweed but a burgundy heather wool coat (it was a dull burgundy with a white fleck in it) and it had black lamb trim). And a jaunty little black velvet beret. You’ll get lots of wear out of your puffy parka … maybe starting next week!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Joni says:

        The pictures were great Linda! You look very stylish in your hats and coats. Oh how I miss dressing up. I had a buffalo plaid dress too, black and white but smaller checks, I believe it was flannel. I seem to have very few pictures of myself in younger years, my mom never took many pictures unless it was Christmas or a special occasion, as they were expensive to develop, esp the color ones. Of the 80’s all I seem to have is vacation ones, so I don’t have good documentation of my fashion choices. When reading through those old Glamours, they always had a column called Do’s and Don’t which included snapshots of good and bad fashion choices. I remembered a lot of the ads in them too, which is why I enjoyed that vintage site….might be a blog post there sometime.

        Liked by 1 person

      • lindasschaub says:

        Hi Joni – thank you and I am glad you liked the pictures. Just like you, I loved getting dressed up. I really liked that Buffalo plaid dress but the problem with it, was it should have been lined and was not. It was very hard and scratchy material and I had to wear a full-length slip underneath it and because it fit up to the neck, my neck would get red by the end of the day, so my mom suggested getting a thin black sleeveless turtleneck to wear underneath and that did the trick. I e-mailed you back to tell you about my “Dolly Parton” coat, named as the fur trim stuck out in the front and I could not see my feet (so I had an idea how Dolly Parton must feel). 🙂 I have to see if I have a picture of that coat. I have the coat pictures as often they were Christmas presents, so I would try them on and “model” them for my mom or my parents, depending on who bought it. That black coat in the middle with the red sleeves was a long down coat my mom ordered for me. I still have it, but chances of fitting into it are slim to none. It was form fitting so I could only wear it with a dress or skirt/sweater, not with a jacket of any kind. She ordered it in a tall size . I loved that it was longer than most coats and the red turn-up sleeves … it was actually a reversible coat, but dark was better for the bus. My mom knit a scarve, gloves and a wool tam (do they use that word anymore – like the Mary Tyler Moore tam she threw up in the air?) (There’s another blog post for you. Anyway, it was a short cross-over scarf just to fit inside the coat, not wrap around or put inside. I remember the Glamour Do’s and Don’ts as I subscribed for years to that magazine. It was cheap to renew as I recall and I kept renewing it – one time my mom said “it’s your money, but aren’t you a little long in the tooth for a young woman’s magazine?” That is a great site – I have to stop and go through it more as there were so many things to look at that I remembered and each “issue” is chock full of stuff.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. avwalters says:

    I am a sucker for a quality coat, so much so that I put a coat scene and theme into a novel! But as a California resident for thirty-five years, I couldn’t justify the expense. Indeed, I said when I experienced a winter that warranted it, I’d get a coat. When I moved back to Michigan, my sister gave me a ski parka–blue (which I loathe) but I wore it. Then I bought an Austrian charcoal grey boiled wool, nearly full length coat, for a song on Ebay. It’s not heavy enough for hard winter wear, but for mild winter weather and dress–it’s a dream. Even here in Northern Michigan, I rarely find it cold enough for the down parka, and a wear a loden boiled wool car coat. (No toggles, though.) That’ll be it for a while. I cannot justify more coats, and there’s no room for any more, in any event.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joni says:

      Your coat collection sounds very stylish! I find I do wear my parka for walking even though we haven’t had a terribly cold winter – I walk where the cold wind comes off the water – but it’s way too hot for the car or running errands. I had to clean out my closet to make room too….

      Liked by 1 person

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