Monday, January 11, 2010

Pimp My Down Coat

In a land where small talk is overwhelmingly dominated by what's up with the weather, even the Britons are wearying of chat about the recent spate of snow and cold, and the insufficient supply of sandy grit to lend traction to the roads. Given that this is an island nation, i.e. ringed with beaches, the latter seems a bit mystifying to the non-native, but the whys and wherefores seem best left unasked.

Anyway, apart from conversation, the weather has lent an excellent excuse to revisit my Land's End down coat. Fashion writer India Knight, in her brilliant blog Posterous, recently rhapsodized about her own brand new one. I'm less thrilled about my ten-year-old one, because it's dowdy and it's black and I've worn it through rain and snow and sleet and hail and pregnancy on my appointed rounds. In this case, familiarity has bred contempt. Nowadays I'll only put it on when conditions are so dire nobody can see properly anyway.

But it's a perfectly serviceable coat. And I have the services of Sagheer, the wonder tailor. There's no reason apart from the dowdy factor that I shouldn't be wearing it when it's cold. So instead of rushing out to buy a Uniqlo Jil Sander puffa like countless fashionable others, I decided to give the old warhorse a makeover.

The first problem was the length. Mid-calf is great if you live in Fargo or Land's End and need that extra two feet of goose featherage to make subzero liveable. In London it's a sacrifice you can make in the name of style. So I had Sagheer cut it down to mid-thigh.

The next problem was the volume. The coat hung straight down from the shoulders, a silhouette designed to fit all shapes and sizes, i.e. dead boring. What it needed was a belt. Since we had like fabric aplenty from the cut-down, some of it was used to make an inch-wide, snap close belt. Just enough to lend some shape.

Finally, the special effects. How I would love to have added a pelmet or shawl lapels like Giambattista Valli did brilliantly for his Gamme Rouge line of down coats for skiwear specialist Moncler (above), or Junya Watanabe's marvelous line for Commes des Garcons (below).

But this kind of refashioning was beyond even Sagheer's formidable skills so I'm going to settle for draping on my faux fur scarf, pinned crosswise in front, so that it will sit like a collar.

And presto! A new look from old, for much less money than it would cost to buy afresh. If you'd like to try this at home but don't have a tailor on call, consider revitalizing your down coat by:

1) Just add a belt in similar nylon fabric, or go for a bold contrast. A bit of snug around the waistline could transform the coat's look. Keep the belt in the pocket when the coat is not on.
2) Fold the sleeves under to 3/4 length and wear with gorgeous long leather gloves.
3) Instead of wearing any old scarf, find one that suits your coloring brilliantly, and experiment with ways of tying it. If you want to splash out, check out this very cool down scarf by Nau.

So here's the end result. Sometimes a few tweaks are all you need.

1 comment:

  1. These puffy coats look really warm - the curious refashioning is interesting, but I'm not convinced that puffy and dowdy can be so easily dissociated - how about fluffy and cute, or velvety and glam - or woollen and womanly?!