Hi, I’m Mary, and this is my column no one asked for about things I like!
I moved to New York eight years ago next week, at the beginning of what ended up being a very long, cold winter. It snowed a lot my first month here, and I remember dragging a rolling suitcase down an ice-covered sidewalk and over piles of snow. when I returned to my new home after Christmas. Though I grew up in the Northeast — in a place much colder than New York City, where winter lasts much longer than it does here — I had been living in Atlanta for three years and had grown accustomed to its mild winters (I had not, however, gotten used to Atlanta’s brutal summers, which gave me reverse seasonal depression and, even worse, made me chafe).
So that first winter in New York was a bit of a shock. Of course I was used to the cold — I grew up ski racing, often training in sub-zero temperatures (we practiced at night and it was always fucking freezing), but surviving winter in a city was a new challenge. I wasn’t used to walking around in the freezing cold, and in case you haven’t heard, New York is a walking city. I grew up in a place too rural to walk anywhere, so the only time I spent outside during the winter was when I was getting in or out of a car or skiing.ikp,olzsw (A dog just stepped on my keyboard and I’m keeping it in for authenticity.)
When I was skiing, I knew how to dress for the fucking weather. On really cold days (and nights), I would wear a t-shirt, long underwear on top and bottom, my G.S. suit (a skin-tight, full-body spandex suit designed to be worn during races to maximize speed and teenage insecurity), my ski pants, two fleeces (one thick, one thin) and a jacket. The only parts of my body that ever got cold were my face, my feet and occasionally my hands, though I double layered with thin gloves and thick mittens so they normally stayed warm. When I was skiing, my winter style was Russian nesting doll, or fleece onion. It wasn’t sexy but it worked!
In the city, however, I couldn’t wear snow pants to stay warm (although in certain parts of lower Manhattan, they’d be considered a fashion statement) and had no goggles to protect my eyes from the ice-cold breeze. Fortunately, I did have one garment I hadn’t worn while skiing: a giant ass down coat that goes all the way down to my knees. As far as I can tell, these coats entered the public sphere only about a decade ago, or at least that’s when I first started seeing them. My mom had one, which she bought mostly to wear during school recess (she was a teacher, not a participant), and before I moved to New York, my dad bought me one at Patagonia for Christmas.
When I tried it on, my sister, who had inherited my mom’s coat after she died (posthumous hand-me-downs are big in my family!), noted that my coat had a better shape than hers. My mom’s old North Face was cut straight for some dumbass reason, but Patagonia had realized it might be better to make a coat shaped for an actual woman and cut it with a full skirt. Fit and flare, if you will.
Eight years later, I’m still wearing that same coat about five months out of the year. As soon as the temperature drops below 40 degrees, I consider putting on my much nicer and more stylish wool coat, then realize I’d be warmer if I wrapped myself up in my down coat and reach for that instead. Since it’s basically a wearable down comforter, it’s the closest you can get to staying in bed all day while out on the town.
On the first cold day of the season, I met up with my boyfriend and he sarcastically said, “Oh that coat. I missed it.” It’s not my most flattering article of clothing, and in fact may be my least flattering , but I don’t give a shit. It keeps me warm, warmer than anything else, so warm that — barring extreme temperatures — I could wear nothing but a g-string bodysuit underneath and be fine (theoretically).
Not only does my winter coat keep me warm, it acts as as sort of security blanket. I know that, when I’m wearing it, it’s hard to even guess at the shape of my body underneath. It’s catcall-proof and therefore makes me feel like I’m finally achieving a goal every woman wishes to at one point or another: not having a body. Though I’m not afraid to skank it up with my attire sometimes (I spent the entire summer walking dogs in a sports bra and tiny shorts) and don’t think any woman should be, there are moments when I just want to escape the confines of my body and finally be free of the male gaze. (There are plenty of other times when I want to wear a crop top with booty shorts and no bra and don’t care who the hell is looking.) My big down coat allows that. It turns me into a floating head and a pair of feet, which some guys are probably into but I haven’t encountered them yet.
This time of year, I’m always happy to be back in my wearable down comforter. In a month or so, however, I’ll be sick of it. My friend Meaghan recently summed it up with this joke:
It’s funny because it’s true! In New York it’s so deeply, painfully true. When I bought that coat (and by me I mean my dad), I didn’t realize it would be the outfit I’d wear half of the year for the next eight years, but I don’t think I’ll buy a new one anytime soon. If you live somewhere cold, winter coats aren’t about fashion — they’re about function. A winter coat is like a microwave: if it still works, why replace it? My Patagonia cost about $200-$300 (thanks dad!) and it was worth the investment. It’s the Christmas gift that has kept on giving and will keep on giving for another five years at least, maybe even ten or twenty.
There are two coats at my parents’ house that were purchased in the 1970s, both of them still thick and warm, both so unstylish they’ve became stylish again. My coat will never be stylish, but it’ll always keep me warm and mostly hidden, free to stick out my gut or wear a stained sweatshirt or my old G.S. suit, if I feel like revisiting only the worst parts of my high school experience. I may not look great, but I’m not trying to — I’m just trying to survive!
As always, I’d like to clarify that this is NOT a sponsored post. I received nothing for it and am pretty sure no one cares that I have a good winter coat. Still, if anyone is reading and ever wants to give me literally anything for free, coat or not, I WILL TAKE IT!!!!!!
Anyway, I hope this was helpful. I’ll be back with more unsolicited recommendations soon!