The Old Favourite: That Overcoat

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One of the most irksome hypocrisies of female fashion journalism is the approach to wardrobe ‘repeats.’ A recent article on celebrities ‘exposed’ several stylish females, women who had made a name for themselves as trendsetters; possessed with gargantuan wardrobes, these women were often seen in four or five different outfits in one single day. The exposé was simple; they had been spotted wearing something that they had been seen wearing before. Oh the horror, the unbearable embarrassment! That they should reveal such a limit to their wardrobes; wardrobes which had once seemed, to the salivating reader, to be of an infinite capacity. Where exactly is the shame in wearing something you are supposed to love more than once? Why do these muckrakers prettify and puff-up only to tear down rashly and irresponsibly; continuing the taboo of re-using clothing will only serve to promote and sustain this current culture of disposable fashion: a culture which is frankly, unsustainable and reckless.

Perhaps it is because I am a sentimentalist that I am so adverse to the concept of throwaway wardrobes, or that I am infinitely more interested in style than fashion but I happen to adore old favourites. I like reusing items that have been handed down to me, or that I have purchased in vintage stores or on auction websites. I have, according to a friend, the apparent lifestyle of a profligate. However the reality is I am approaching parsimony. I do enjoy buying clothing but I am not one of those who stops using something because it happens to be a little ‘old.’ Clothes should be kept pressed, clean and mended – the condition of clothing is very important – but I dislike, and disagree with, the disposal of clothing for the sake of a little evidence of age.

I ‘dislike’ because throwing perfectly good items away is wasteful and rather sad; if anything, items should be handed to those who can put it to greater use which is why eBay is such a wonderful marketplace. On eBay, the coups are more than financial; knowing that someone else will make better use of something you have ceased to find useful is spiritually rewarding.   I ‘disagree’ because I happen to believe those who immediately turn their nose up at an old item are missing out; old items have character. They have stories and history and a remarkably positive feeling can be derived from appreciation of this.

Rather like antiques, in which I am also interested, there is that glorious imperfection; with an old overcoat it might be that it is a little rough around the edges: a well used cuff, a creased and unpretentious lining, a general lack of product ‘glitz.’ I happen to find that such items, when used in conjunction with items of more modern a vintage, have a fabulous effect.

Prince Charles often wears a wonderful woollen overcoat (pictured), especially when stepping out into the country. The effect of seeing this substantial and faithful item, something which has the character of a World War Two relic, together with his superbly crafted suits, is splendid.

His overcoat may look weary and overused to some but to me it heightens my opinion of his understanding of style. A favourite item such as this reinforces a sense of humanity; our needs of familiarity and comfort. It looks cosy, trusted and reliable: most importantly, it looks loved.


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Winston Chesterfield is an amateur composer, fashion blogger, trained lawyer and style aficionado. He lives in Westminster, London and blogs at www.levraiwinston.com.