You can imagine that my mind is generally awhirl with highbrow thought, and the conversations I conduct with my friends consist almost entirely of intellectual debate of foreign affairs, early philosophers, international economics and, erm, classic literature. However, every now and again, in an idle moment, my mind turns to shopping.
I have been out of action for a while with an extravagant litany of health problems, the most recent of which – back complications – has left me free to mull, if not move, and to conduct some thorough online investigation.
During my convalescence, the temperature seems to have dropped like a stone and in my enfeebled state I have given even more thought than usual to keeping out the chill. I hate to be cold. I am virtually reptilian in my cold-bloodedness and generally only countenance removing my outerwear between mid June and late August.
Consequently, I have quite a selection of coats and jackets (really more necessity than choice, you understand) and it occurred to me that there were a few different types that every mum needs in her armoury. Lest anyone be lacking in any of these departments, I thought I would share my list, in the interests of public service.
In the manner of a serialised Dickens novel, I shall reveal all in instalments over the coming weeks, though I accept that The Pickwick Papers may prove to have a longer lasting cultural impact than my shopping notes.
Part 1 – Faux fur
A close friend calls me Pat Butcher, and, indeed, the temperature only needs drop below about 18°C for me to whip out my faux fur coat. In fact, I have rather a collection. I don’t go (out) out often enough to have many clothes expressly for this purpose, so my faux fur is not, for me, a fancy wear item: I wear it to do my Aldi shopping, to take the girls to school, to walk to the library, to take myself to school (a few little insights into the whirl of my life for you there) – in fact, I wear one pretty much whenever I want to do anything without being cold. I highly, highly recommend you get one. Or more.
This year there are a lot of ‘teddy’ coats around, which would be a reasonable substitution. I bought one, but was turned against it somewhat when my smallest lady informed me, dispassionately, that I looked ‘like a giant, fleecy poo’. If you have a less cutting audience, then perhaps consider one. They tend to be quite shapeless, which did my ‘shapely’ hips no favours, but I’ve seen lots of others look splendid in them. I do, however, think that a faux fur would probably wear better and prove more useful in the years to come… but I am pretty biased in this argument.
I have a leopard, a plain minky coloured affair, a shaggy Mongolian confection and a massive vintage white faux fur that looks like something a low rent Joan Collins may have worn during the Dallas years. My entire family despises the latter, which only encourages me. I bought it from a lovely vintage shop in lovely Southwold, but charity shops and eBay are the best place to test the water if you don’t want to shell out much, lest it turns out you’re less keen than me on a life as Pat B.
If you wouldn’t be happy wearing real fur, make sure you read the details carefully if you’re buying online. I saw a couple of beauties that on closer inspection were genuine fur, which wouldn’t have been for me.
Faux fur care (possibly suspect).
The following advice comes with the massive disclaimer that it is probably wrong – and the garment labels would certainly prohibit it – but I have washed my faux fur in the machine with no ill effects. If you’re buying second-hand, you might fancy this – who wants to spend a fortune dry cleaning a bargain purchase if it can be avoided, after all? – but I reiterate that I absolutely cannot vouch for the safe passage of your garment. If you do decide to risk it, I use a 30°C wool cycle with non-bio detergent and a dash of softener (but then give it a fast spin, because in these matters I’m impatient and reckless.) I hang it on a coat hanger to dry, give it a quick brush (honestly) and it’s been as good as new.
Fab faux fur choices
There’s a fantastic selection of different styles and colours in the shops at the moment. My pal once told me that she’s jealous of me never having watched Downton Abbey, because of the pleasure that awaits. I feel a little like this about those without a faux fur.
Here are a few of the beauties that have caught my eye:
Of all my faux fur, I would least like to be without my leopard. This Next version (£65) is fairly lightweight, very snuggly and quite generously sized. If you’re hot stuff, this might be better than one of the thicker ones, and would definitely be super comfy. Other rather lovely leopards can be caught in H&M (£69.99) and Zara (£99.99)
credit: Marks and Spencer
I am mad for this M&S beauty. It’s £79 and also available in a lovely teal colour. This pink will clash splendidly with just about every colour you could wear it with.
I was very tempted by one of these New Look longline coats, but there was nothing in my size in store the day I was perusing – recent restocking means most colours are now available in most sizes. It’s a lighter-weight coat, like the Next one above, and I was reluctant to take it off, as it was like wrapping myself in the dreamiest, softest dressing gown. I have a soft spot for yellow, but it also comes in baby pink, black and a rusty-brown.
If you’re after something short, this green Very jacket (£80) is rather gorgeous, I think.
I love a bit of bright and clashing colour, but if your wardrobe has room for something more neutral, this Wallis coat (reduced to £68) comes in purple as shown, as well as black and charcoal.
Finally, I’m not sure my lifestyle (or pallid complexion) could support either of these pale pink pretties, but I think they’re rather lovely. If you’re someone who can make it through a working day without needing to employ a scarf to cover coffee splashes on a white top, you may be safe to proceed.
Dorothy Perkins coat: reduced to £62.10.
Marks and Spencer coat: £89
Any faux fur thoughts or tips? Please comment or email – and share with anyone you think would appreciate a bit of faux fur fabulousness in their life.