“I want a new winter coat,” I said to my friend in the fashion business while visiting her in London. “Maybe in a color,” I added. I was newly separated, single again since college, trying on different looks like a teenager shopping for a persona. Was I classically sophisticated? Loose and bohemian? I knew I wanted a coat as far away from my black, suburban, down-filled, hooded anorak as I could find.
“Go down to the store and ask for Lorenzo,” my friend told me.
Lorenzo immediately pulled out a beautiful red shearling in my size and helped me put it on. “I love this color on you,” he said in his Italian accent. It was a classical knee-length cut with a standup collar in a sublime red—not too bright, not too dark—and trimmed with red leather patch pockets. Red shearling fur peeked out along the edges like fringe. It fit perfectly.
And it was expensive. I had never owned such a nice coat.
Then Lorenzo said, “it’s reversible.”
I watched him pull the sleeves through, flip it over, and help me put it back on. On the reverse side, it was still the same perfect red, but covered with long-haired shearling fur.
“It looks fantastic on you,” Lorenzo said as only the top salesperson in the company knew how to do.
I felt the soft texture of the long fur through my fingers. I wasn’t used to seeing myself in such a statement coat.
It was big and furry, and I felt a bit like I was wearing a giant red muppet on my 5’3” frame. This was no suburban soccer mom coat. It was a ‘look-at-me’ coat—big and flashy, and what the kids call today “extra.”
“I don’t know,” I said, pulling it off and reversing the sleeves again, “I don’t think I can pull that look off.” I didn’t think I was tall enough, thin enough, or cool enough to be that woman in the big red furry coat.
I did love the sueded side though. ‘If I used it nearly everyday during the winter,’ I rationalized to myself, ‘the cost would amortize over a few years. And maybe I’d venture out on the furry side. But probably not.’
I bought the coat and patiently waited until the weather turned cool enough to wear it.
That autumn, I started seeing a man, the first one I was excited about. On an evening date, I got a little more dressed up with a long polka dot skirt, patent leather booties, and dared to wear the coat on the reversed furry side.
We met up among the crowds of Grand Central Terminal.
“Everyone’s looking at you,” he said greeting me. “Men and women.”
“It’s the coat,” I said a bit self-consciously. I considered removing the coat and turning it to the sueded side.
“It’s not the coat,” he said. “It’s hard not to notice you.”
I felt a lump in my throat, surprised by my reaction. For so long, I had felt invisible, relegated to the suburbs while my husband developed blinders, barely looking over his phone giving me the requisite “yea, you look nice” feedback.
“Are you crying?” My date asked.
“I’m sorry.” I sniffled and smiled. “That’s the nicest thing someone has said to me in a long time.”
On that balmy night, I held hands with my date, the coat swinging open, and the long skirt swishing with each stride. I felt sexy, chic, and for the first time in a long time, I felt seen. From that moment on, I preferred the furry side of my red shearling coat.