My mother came to town for one day (that’s how she rolls) for my birthday. She warned me, “I have nothing to wear because my entire suitcase was filled with this!” as she pulled out the 100% cashmere coat you see below. The single most valuable fashion tip that my mother taught me is, “Never pass up 100% cashmere,” which is how she ended up with this oversized, going-to-flatter-no-one, BLANKET of a coat. I tried it on, refused its ugliness and then suggested to my mother, “Maybe it’s a men’s coat?” At which point she shook her head and said, “Couldn’t be. The buttons are on the left.” I just looked at her quizzically and said, “I think we need coffee,” which is my response to any situation that has hit a stalemate, or a point in which I may quickly look dumb.
We got our coffee and then hopped in a cab. In the taxi, my mother immediately picked up the conversation again, “Excuse me sir, what side of the shirt are men’s buttons on? And do the buttons and holes of shirt differ by gender?” The Greek man behind the wheel said, “I have to think about this. All I know is that your mother is right.” He spent the next twenty minutes in silence, and then blurted out, “My buttons are on the right. Sorry it took me so long. I had to close my eyes and watch myself putting on all the shirts in my life.” For this concerted effort, I gave him an extra tip. But! How have I been wandering this world without ever realizing this?
I thought that if the buttons were on the other side it was just a eccentricity of the design! I had no idea there was a GENDER DIVIDE for BUTTONS AND HOLES! I stumbled around in a stupor, feeling disappointed both in myself and the world. How did I miss this? Apparently it’s because back in the day many women were dressed by servants who were right-handed. Later that evening, at a restaurant I love to frequent, I asked all of the servers and bus boys, “Did you know that the buttons and holes for men’s and women’s shirts are on opposite sides?” Every single one of them knew.
So, I moved along. I started thinking about the coat itself. Clearly the coat my mother brought was going to look good on no one, which is why after two bottles of palate-stopping wine, an aged white rioja and a soft Italian number if you must know, I ended up on the couch, sleeping under that coat.
But back to coats. If I have one fetish in life, it is for coats. Growing up in Hawaii, I dreamed of one day being able to wear coats. Relegated to a wardrobe that consisted of what I considered cloth napkins, I felt wholly dissatisfied that people were wearing what basically amounted to post-it notes. So the second I moved to the mainland I started stockpiling coats. Here is the first coat I bought off eBay. It continues to be my favorite of them all.
I wore this coat out at Litquake and made ten new Facebook friends. Someone stopped me on the street the next day, gave me their card and said, “You’re the girl with the coat, right?” If I publish a book, it will likely be due to this coat.
The other main reason I love coats is because I’m a lazy fashionista. Which basically doesn’t exist. That’s definitely an oxymoron. Coats are wonderful because you can look terrible underneath and everyone is still turning their heads. For five seconds of work, you reap rewards all day long. If I put on a coat, it’s like the whole world all of a sudden treats me like a lady, especially when I wear this coat.
This is what I am sharing with you. It’s my most valuable fashion tip. This is the real explanation of how to win friends and influence people (yes, I just violated your trademark): an amazing coat. If you only make one correct fashion choice in your life, please lord let it be a coat. If you don’t know anything about how to dress, you can feel amazing and spare the rest of us, by covering up in one of the world’s greatest garments.
Here’s my go-to coat. It’s an ’80s Japanese number that shifts, has a kind of undulating ocean collar, and in general is about the greatest example of a blanket coat that exists. No buttons, no belts, no fastening of any kind. And deep deep pockets, just like an oceany coat should have.
Also, when in doubt, surround yourself with those more fashionable than you. Here’s me out in the coat, with the formidable Kareem and Michael, style icons if there ever were.
After dinner, my mother and I went home. I let her sleep in my bed, and I took the couch. Curled up with too much wine, I took the fetal position. Outside the window the stars were still blinking, maybe doubly so, and I pulled that oversized cashmere coat up and over me. I thought about how down the hall was my favorite person, the person who taught me just about everything I know. I thought about how once I was curled up in the fetal position right inside her belly, underneath the best coat I ever wore, a coat with only one very important button, that I’ve been attached to ever since.