No Puffy Coats in Paris
In an old notebook somewhere there are crude sketches of the outfits I would wear. A vintage red skirt I had shortened back in LA, a lace Phi top I bought at a sample sale, one pair of black boots to wear over and over and over again. I wanted to make sure I got it right, that I could impress this person who had been featured on The Sartorialist, this man who traveled the world buying beautiful clothes, surrounded by beautiful women. I wanted him to be able to look at me and think, “That’s my girl. That’s my girl right there.” I had to get it right.
And so I met him in Paris that January with my bag filled with every decent piece of clothing my closet could afford: A sheer Jenni Kayne dress for dinner with his bosses, a silk mini-skirt and a blue button-up for meeting his friends, jeans and tee-shirts for the days I would spend alone while he worked. I remembered everything this time, even my hairbrush, because I had only known him for twelve hours and I already wanted him to love me.
But there was the coat. That damn coat.
I had bought it from a Nordstrom Rack years before, back when I was living in Los Angeles and only traveled to New York during Fashion Week. It was black and puffy and came to my knees, the hood lined with the type of fake fur that could only remind a person of old used teddy bears from thrift store bins. The coat was wrong. The coat was completely and utterly wrong.
That season he — the man I wanted to love me — had taken to a beautiful blue pea coat. Prada. Wool with black buttons. He wore it with his Acne jeans, his Prada boots, a black cotton shirt. But mine? My coat was a mess, the clearest evidence that I was young and poor and out of place. I was nothing by comparison, just a ridiculous girl with a closetful of altered vintage clothes and designer pieces I had purchased secondhand.
That first night I dressed in my tights, my boots, my red mini-skirt. He finished his Heineken and we got ready to leave.
“Do I need my coat?” I asked, my voice dredged in self-doubt.
Every outfit I wore that trip, each painstakingly put together piece of clothing I brought from New York, he complimented for those next five days, but the coat could not be salvaged.
“Just leave it here. We’ll be driving anyway.”
I left the hotel wearing only a skimpy leather jacket. It was 39 degrees.
The restaurant we went to was closed and the car was gone. A group of us wandered the streets of Paris, my bare hand in his gloved one, every piece of me nervous and freezing. “What are you doing with this guy?” his friend joked. And all I could think was, “What is this guy doing with me?”
That trip, the only other time I wore that coat was when I got back on a plane to New York, leaving the man with the Prada coat and the Prada shoes in Europe. The romance would last for another three disastrous weeks, ending not because of my coat but because of timing and distance and other horrible things that give shape to a person’s life, whether you want them to or not.
Though he would leave me and never return, I began purchasing better things, nicer things, never wanting to feel inferior in that way again. Soon I had all the beautiful coats a girl could ever want. Fall coats, winter coats, rain coats. I had Proezna Schouler booties and Alexander Wang heels. Phillip Lim dresses and Stella McCartney skirts. I wanted to be the girl he could have had. I wanted to see him one day and for him to look at me and think, “That was my girl. That was my girl right there,” sadness filling the space where there once was pride.