This painting made during the last truly cold spell in South West England, illustrates the strange phenomena that is unusual, bitter coldness in this small area of the Devon and Cornwall borders. This part of the country is much more used to wet winters. A huge shock to me when I first moved here over 30 years ago. I arrived in mid- November and the rain didn’t seem to stop until March. I had a very small child and no friends. For nearly a month I contented myself with sorting out a new house, driving to supermarkets and waiting for the rain to stop. When it didn’t stop I went out and bought properly waterproof clothing for the first time in my life. Unlike in Canada, the U.S and parts of Europe seriously wintery coats don’t get a lot of wear, so they stay around for many years, not a fashion item more like a winter friend.
House moves and changing needs mean that my actual “Old Friends” winter coats have made their way into other peoples lives by being donated to Charity shops. They have been replaced as needed by other peoples ” Old Friends” from the same or similar sources. One of them is certainly older than me. Worn only in darkest December and early January it is a Hollywood Starlet 3/4 length fake fur jacket bought on eBay for £15 about 15 years ago.
A more recent purchase is an extra long length tweed coat that called to me from a charity shop window two years ago. Essential for November to March. The shop was closed because of Covid restrictions so I had to play the long game to get it. My instincts were correct it is a fabulous garment, 100℅ wool it shrugs off all but the most persistent rain. It must also have had the most fabulous life before I met it. It was bought at Saks Fifth Avenue probably in the 60’s then very expertly remodeled in the 80’s. By the time I got it in 2020 it had been very little worn. Risking the £40 spent on it I decided to unpick the remodelling and take it back to it’s 60’s swing styling. The remodeling may have saved it, although it looked good it was almost impossible to wear as a highly styled garment because the tweed is so dense. None of the surplus fabric had been cut away which added to the discomfort but made my life so much easier when refurbishing. Quite the travelling coat from North American luxury store to and English Charity Shop found in the the Barbican, Plymouth. A reverse Mayflower journey.
My last winter coat is the newest to the collection. A barely used Barbour wax jacket from a Charity shop in Wimbledon. This one definitely is the most useful. I bought it in October this year and expect it will still be useful in April.
I am really not certain what set me off on this second hand clothing journey. Probably a love of style but not always fashion what I wanted wasn’t always available new, nor could I always afford it. What started on a whim has become a lifestyle choice for me and increasingly the ethical choice, the exact opposite of fast or throwaway fashion. When I am tired of these glorious coats they will find themselves back in a charity shop. Their unknown journeys will continue.
* Beast from the East – currently on loan but is For Sale 1.5 metres square. So quite a big beast.