Raincoat, returned; recession, rampant

As posted earlier, I ordered the on-sale ($90) Talbot's raincoat. The styling was pleasing but the fabric too stiff for my tall, ample frame. In the colour called Clay, I looked like a clay pot.

When I tried it in the store in pink, the fabric seemed okay; either an illusion of the shade, or maybe the dye altered the hand. It's now even further reduced on Talbot's site, $62.50, in limited sizes.

I found this calmly elegant trench at Marina Rinaldi, where I went not expecting much; I can wear their skirts but swim in the tops.

Bottom line, pun intended: a size 14 fit, with minor alteration.
What did I get for four times the price of the Talbot's coat (and that's 50% off)? Leather buttons and buckles, smart pinstriped full lining and finer fabric.

Both coats were machine-washable cotton-poly blends (ratio unspecified), but MR's felt like highest-quality cotton.

Major purchases, minor resources

My search for a not-too-pricey raincoat lead me to think about making major purchases during a recession.

For every five persons who lost her job in 2009, only one is back at work and half of those who have returned are at jobs that pay less than their former position, according the New York Times. These stats reflect the results of five 50+ women friends, even though Canada is supposedly doing better.

Coats, one of the most expensive wardrobe items, are worrisome if you're unsure whether your job will last or you're helping young-adult children who've returned to school because they can't find work.

And everyone needs a coat from time to time.

Sewers could make theirs, if their tailoring skills are solid. The rest of us need shopping skills. The double-markdown Talbot's might be a score for a slimmer woman.

The thrifts can yield treasures. I
n the interests of research, I trolled Value Village yesterday; a classic camel London Fog trench and black fine wool balmacaan by an Italian maker, both looking unworn, were $22 each. Of course you need some luck, but the racks were full for all sizes.

I had a brief chat with an attractive 60-something woman trying on jackets in front of a mirror. She lost her job in late '08 and though getting by in a new field (real estate), saves where she can. She found three new shirts ($2.99 each) and a sun hat.

Or one can take the advice of Genevieve Dariaux, author of "A Guide to Elegance", who thought a woman should simply wear her usual tailleur and carry an umbrella, unless in the country.

The times aren't quite like Thirties, when my aunt made a plum velvet skating cape from curtains she found in a trunk and my mother, a bride, turned my father's shirt collars. But many will not be plunking down a paycheck on a raincoat anytime soon.

My new trench is "investment dressing", an approach I've tried but achieve only intermittently. I plan to wear it for years– years, I hope, of better times.


Meg Mitchell said…
About 12 years ago, I got the cutest and warmest black and white fun fur coat at a vintage store before vintage was as hot as it is today.I think it was from the 60's era. It has large black silhouettes of women's heads on the white background. To this day, I have received more compliments on this $50 coat than anything I own & it's cozy to boot.
materfamilias said…
Congrats on finding your trench -- truly an investment which will be stylish for years to come. I grew up on vintage, which we simply called second-hand and rarely boasted about -- one coat in particular that I remember from my late teens/early twenties was a fabulous Welsh-woven wool tweed in black and white, below the knee, body-skimming with a two-way zipper. I'd wear it this winter if I'd hung onto it, and can't think why I eventually gave it away, altho' I may well have worn the life out of it by then. What a joy the perfect coat can be!
Susan B said…
That sounds like a lovely trench you've found. (Here, with so little rain, I can't justify a big raincoat investment, when it would only be worn a handful of times per year.)

I've given up on investment dressing for the time being. Either nothing is available in my size, or I just don't like the styles available. If something crosses my path, I'll have an open mind, but am discouraged by the lack of good quality, timeless pieces available at any price.

This recession is hitting people over 50 the hardest. I read one article that basically said if you're over 50 and laid off, don't expect to find another job. That's depressing.
Mardel said…
It sounds like a lovely trench and something that will be stylish and useful for years. It seems so hard to find these things. My own sewing skills have atrophied beyond trench sewing at the moment but plan on getting them back and certainly the options in local stores seem depressing at best, although as I write this I recall I have picked up a few lovely things this spring, definitely in the long-haul category.

I'm glad I'm not in the job market at the moment but still fret as to whether there will be any options by the time I am ready to reenter. I never intended to retire, just take a sabbatical. The recession seems to be bringing an entire new dimension to mid-life crisis.
LaurieAnn said…
Sounds like you were both smart and lucky when it came to finding your new trench Duchesse. So often finding a piece made with good styling at a good prices, and from good fabric is a matter of luck now days. I sue do miss the thicker, richer fabrics that seemed easier to find years ago.

A funny story. Many years ago I once lost out on a clerical job I interviewed for because the manager with whom I interviewed said that I was "too classy" for his company. I was wearing an $8.00 suit I had purchased from a thrift shop. The upshot though is that he referred me to another company where I ended up as a junior accountant! That $8.00 suit was a gorgeous deep grey silk from the old I. Magnin store in San Francisco.
pseu, that is beyond depressing. Work is slow (I did have a rush recently - it went to pay outstanding bills) but I don't even want to think of what you say as the only logical conclusion would be suicide, and I'd much rather live! (we need a happy dance smiley here so people don't think I'm wallowing in self-indulgent misery on this utterly beautiful summer day).

Someone (early 60s) I know did kill himself because his independent film company folded, though I'm sure his depression had far deeper roots. I sent a card but couldn't even attend the visitation - I've known his now widow for at least 30 years - as I didn't want to be infected with such dark moods. Widow is doing relatively well, by the way, she has thrown herself headways into her work, which includes a lot of travel.

On a far happier note, Duchesse, I'm so glad the Marina Rinaldi raincoat fit properly after a retouch. I find their body shape far too square to correspond to the needs of non-filiforme Italian ladies (typically small shoulders and back; formerly hourglass figure a tad gone to sand).

I don't believe in "investment dressing" either, but your and related blogs do focus on the wisdom of seeking out quality, rather than disposable garments.

Meg, I think that coat is really you - have been perusing your blog, mostly because you live in such a beautiful place (for non-Canadians, about the mildest climate in central-eastern Canada, plus wine and peaches!) Although I'm rather boho, I like more discreet clothes.

One silver lining of the recession is that there are some deep discounts. I bought at least 3 simple but attractive garments at 70% or more off recently. Do need some new clothing.

As for Dariaux, she didn't live in Québec. A woollen tailleur does fight off the chill of Paris air but not our sometimes bitter cold. She'd be wrapped in a blanket atop her tailleur...
mette said…
With one glance, one sees the difference between the two coats. The MR has simply more elegance. You made a wise purchase!
Duchesse said…
Meg: Great story! I wish I had not given my fun fur to a resale store and would buy it back today.

materfamilias: That coat sounds sublime. Yes, I remember when 'secondhand' was kept quiet.

Pseu: The investment dressing idea has always been a rationalization to buy too-expensive things that don't end up being worn much, for me.

Mardel: Like your amazing leopard print coat? The job market for mature women is a wild ride these days.

lagatta: Perhaps you'll pay your respects another way? MR pants don't fit me, tops a disaster, skirts OK, but it their coats, and MaxMara's are worth the high price and I can wear both makes. 70% off, lucky you!

Dariaux would advise fur, non?

metscan: Thanks, I do not buy expensive clothes as definitively as you, but am trying hard to buy far less and as 'good' as I can.
I dunno what it is with Max Mara and Marina Rinaldi - there seems to be a huge gap between their sizing ranges, or Rinaldi is just cut to too square and stocky a frame. (Linda Grant, built more like me I think, found the same). Their fabrics and workmanship are excellent and there are stunning small details.

Yes, I'll definitely find some other way of demonstrating my support to Madame. A lot of us in the arts are going through similar economic problems these days - though of course, it was some underlying psychic darkness that drove Monsieur over the edge.

Yes, definitely a fur for Dariaux - I was just imagining her arriving in non-seasonably-appropriate clothing and throwing a Bay blanket over her elegant tailleur...
Duchesse said…
lagatta: MR's sizing is wonky, Can't figure out what the figure type is. Rather rectangular?

The grief inherited by survivors is immense, and something those suffering rarely comprehend.
s. said…
Very sad about the current state of our job markets. I volunteer at a Food Bank here in Toronto and see how many people are being hit where it counts by the downturn. Thank you for the reminder, Duchesse, of how lucky I am, and how I can definitely afford to keep giving a bit more than in "average" years.
Belle de Ville said…
The economy is bad, very bad and I feel so bad for my friends who are over 50 and out of work. I am so thankful that I am in a business that does well in a bad economy because things aren't going to get better for quite a while.
But good economy or bad, it still is going to rain and a good raincoat is important.
Rubiatonta said…
At the end of this past winter, I bought a plum-colored Calvin Klein wrap coat at Nordie's for a big discount. It was still expensive, but I knew I'd wear it a lot before putting it away for the summer. I did, and I got tons of compliments every time. I'm looking forward to getting it back out of the closet and wearing it for a whole season. (Months and months of "You look gorgeous in that coat"! What's not to like?)

And that's another thing to keep in mind when buying clothes. Not just how does it fit, but how does it make me feel? It's an intangible, but when you get it right, you know.

Since I'm most likely moving to Madrid around the end of the year, I'm already doing a mental purge of the clothes I'm not going to bring with me -- I'll get into my storage unit later. One of the factors at the top of the list is "does it make me feel good?" To my mind, that's the real investment.
mette said…
Duchesse: Maybe my clothes seem expensive, I don´t know. Maybe I have needed extra much comfort. Btw, did you read my comment on your comment on Tuesday´s post?
Shelley said…
I buy only trenchcoats, as I love the style and rain is the main weather problem in England. I get ones with hoods and detachable liners. They work fine without the lining in the usual summer weather of Northern England and fine with wool cardigan and wool socks with boots in winter. I'm planning to cut off one of my older trenches to mid-thigh level as I've lost the belt and can make another. It will become my go-to summer rain coat.
Duchesse said…
s: Our city has such polarities. I keep reading about how many new jobs Canada has, etc. but in my age cohort, it's very tought.

Belle: An new raincoat and a great pair of earrings (Beladora of course), and we can rule the world!

Rubiatonta: That's it! How you feel in the coat. Madrid! Pls keep us up to speed on this exciting move.

metscan: "Expensive" is relative; one woman's splurge is another woman's everyday. However, I'd say the items you have shown on your blog or report buying are consistently the high end of what is available in ready-to-wear.

re July 13: Great comment and I have re-commented on your blog.

Shelley: I can see how that works, and you would develop an eye for what makes a trench perfect. Here, the temps drop as low as the -20s (C) in winter, so we need another coat for deep cold.
Great trench!
Investment dressing is definitely difficult when the economic times are uncertain. I do feel that you have made the right choice...you'll walk taller and feel ever so elegant!
Less is more...very French!

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