Saturday, January 9, 2010

Baby, It's Cold Outside

By Mary Margret Daughtridge

Do you know we still have snow on the ground? I’m not talking about the dirty piles shoved into corners of parking lots. I mean honest-to-God white patches still dotting north-facing hillsides and sprinkled in groves of trees. That’s just wrong. Winter has used up its quota of fridigidity, and it we’re not through the first full week of January.

Cold weather comes to North Carolina. It does. Residents will need the complete complement of winter coats, hats, scarves, boots, and gloves. But really cold weather doesn’t last. Many years, the thermometer dips into the teens only three or four times, and then only at night.

As a result, winter coats, hats, scarves, boots, etc, rarely wear out. The thrifty shopper learns to buy winter-wear in the most classic, the least fashion-forward styles she can find.

But here’s a mystery. Things get old and saggy and grubby— without leaving the closet. When I moved, I threw out two pairs of boots that had languished in the back of the closet since time immemorial. They had dry-rotted.

I did move my hunter green parka, even though it was showing it’s age. On the three or four occasions I had worn it in the last five years, I had thought I should replace it. But the next day the temperature would go back into the upper forties and fifties, and the parka would go back in the closet, and that would be that.

Well, as everyone with a TV knows, winter arrived prematurely this year, before the calendar—much less procrastinators like me—got ready. December 18, the winter storm that eventually blanketed the entire East Coast dumped five inches of snow on us. And I had to wear that hunter green parka every day. For three weeks.

Pressed into service when long past its prime, my green parka no longer shed rain or stopped wind. Its fiberfill had lost its loft.

Just not-going outdoors will work for a day or two, but not weeks. When my favorite catalog offered fifty percent off plus free shipping, I acted. The new parka arrived yesterday. It’s a thoroughly impractical cream color--like Pigpen in the old Peanuts comics, I can raise a cloud of dust in a snow storm--but stylistically indistinguishable from the retiree.

It weighs half as much, and is constructed of materials that hadn’t even been invented when the old coat was made. It is warm. We will see, in fifteen years, if it too will have to be given an honorable burial in the Goodwill bin, or if it can go for twenty.

So fess up. What are you clinging to that’s past its prime, because you might get more one use out of it? What you can’t let go of because of sentiment? Or are you like my ruthlessly organized friend who weeds her closets at the change of every season?


  1. I have this really ugly blue one piece short sleeved pant suit type of deal, so out of style that I'll never wear it again, even if I lost the 40 pounds I've put on. Don't know why it's still in the back of the closet!!! Too lazy to pitch it I guess, but I think about it everytime I see it. It's even too old to donate respectably. LOL Sad what one keeps isn't it.

    Dottie :)

  2. I'm like you, Mary Margret! I have lots of winter clothes that rarely if ever get worn because it's so hot here, and winter is so short. So I have a lot of old stuff, and noticed some of the few articles of wool have been moth eaten. But I still keep them because I need something to wear when it's this bitterly cold out. Now summer stuff? I wear it out, literally, because the heat bears down on us most of the year. So that's what I have to update yearly. :)

  3. There are things in my closet that haven't seen the light of day in twenty years. However, I finally bought three new coats this year, after wearing the same ones for who knows how long. Funny thing about old coats, though. They are comfortable, familiar, and they don't have funny quirks like the sleeve that catches on the gear shift knob in my car or bunch up around my neck when I sit down. I'm sure the new ones will improve with age, but the old ones were just...right.

  4. I have this old camo Army jacket that I've had for at least 20 years. It's still in good shape and I love it. I wear it outside when we're cutting firewood or working with the horses. It's not a town coat for sure, but just an everyday work coat.

    Our snow (only about half inch) came Thursday night and refuses to leave. What is melting is turning to solid ice, yeah. :(
    I want spring so bad!!!!!

  5. Welcome back, Mary Margret!

    And I am still giggling about your boots with dry rot. ;-)

    I have a couple of my old 'power suits' that I used to wear to THOSE kinds of meetings back when I still had the Dreaded Day Job. I took them to the cleaners right before I retired and they are still hanging there in the dry cleaning bags, six years later. Even if I could squeeze my chubby self into them, they are hopelessly out of date now. :-P

    Wonder why we keep such things?


  6. Dottie,

    When I was cleaning out the closet for the move, I came across a purple jumpsuit with a rhinestone belt.

    Even though I only wore it once, I think I had kept it because I was in denial. I couldn't admit my fashion sense could go that far wrong.

  7. Well I feel a little ashamed of myself. I don't have anything of age that I keep but I do have two dresses I made about 4 years ago. Made for a couple of Christmas parties I was going was red satin, the other Forrest green velvet looking material. I had just lost 64 lbs. in the last year and they both looked pretty good. The red one did OK on Valentine's day too. The horror of all horrors, I gained back my weight, it took me 2 years to do it, but it is what it is. So now they hang in my closet looking forlorn, and with my hopes of loosing weight...again.

    Gotta go, the cat just coughed up a hair ball....EEWWWW!!!!!

  8. Terry,

    You want to know one of my favorite things? Those stretch-wool gloves you can find, three pair for a dollar, at the dollar store.

    Ugly? My goodness yes, but since losing gloves is inevitable, and since I'm only going to wear them once, it's a relief to have at least item that storage isn't an issue for.

    Our summers are not as intense or as long-lasting as yours. The items I have a lot of, and wear them out, are raincoats.

  9. Oh Cheryl, I get it about clothes quirks. One of the reasons old clothes stay in my closet past their prime is that new ones irritate me so much they can only be worn in short bursts until--exactly as you said--they become familiar.

  10. Mason, we'll have to take a poll, but personally, I'm not sure camo army jackets or combat boots qualify as wear that can become dated or too scruffy to put on.

    No matter how old, grimy or scuffed up, military wear retains a certain hardy utility that speaks for itself.

    It sounds perfect for bringing in the firewood.

  11. A.C. Oh, the POWER SUITS! With shoulder pads suitable for a linebacker.

    And yes, there were a couple that were tossed out in the great Closet Cleansing of '07.

  12. Jessica,

    You don't have to apologize for being organized! Stuff stays in my closets past its "Use or Discard" date largely because it gets lost in there and then I forget about it.

    When I find it again, it becomes an accidental memento.

  13. I weed through clothes frequently. I put clothes in sections- The the this fits section, the this does not fit, but if I lose a few pounds it might section, and the no way in heck will this ever fit again section. I usually get rid of everything in the last section and everything I don't love in the middle section. Unfortunately, the this fits section is getting smaller and smaller. Time to go shopping.

  14. I'm with you, Robin -- time to go shopping. I have quite a large "if only" section in my closet--if only I lose a few pounds. Shopping is a great consolation prize.

  15. AC,

    I had the high heels and power suits. Got rid of the suits, kept the heels for some time then finally cleared them out since I couldn't wear them any longer. I still miss them though.


  16. Sorry I'm late to the game--I was out of town this weekend. I actually JUST bought a new winter coat this past weekend (everything outdoor is on sale everywhere!), after having the same one for 5 or 6 years. I know that sounds like a short amount of time, but Chicago winters are brutal! And it's the jacket that was with me through college and starting my real job," haha!

    Like Robin, I go through clothes pretty regularly, with similar categories!

  17. The only item I have a problem replacing is shoes. I have comfy favs that are worn to death.