Wednesday, November 3, 2010


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A question on another blog: What did YOU covet in high school?
Beginning about the ninth grade, I coveted a Mouton Jacket---the softest, smoothest, dig-your-fingers-into-that-lush, cut pile garment that ever came off a sheep. They weren’t for school---oh, No. they were for church and special dates and other VERY special occasions, and I longed for one of those beautiful things for YEARS. Even the linings were slipper satin, a fabric reserved only for wedding dresses and the finest fur coats.

We'd sit in Sunday school or BTU, in the folding chairs ringed round the room, and nobody, no matter what the temperature, would take off their Mouton. Except maybe Karla Kay, who would casually shrug hers off over the back of the chair so her fancy embroidered monogram on the inside left would show to advantage. Hers was even richer with the redolence of her Daddy's cigars, which seemed to permeate their whole lives and lend an air of added elegance to the soft fur.

And I finally got one---Christmas of senior year---perfection, with my own initials in gold-outlined
-in-red-satin-thread, right there inside on that smooth chocolate lining. I cannot tell you how luxurious it felt, that piece of sheepskin and satin, cut and sewn to fit. There was more magic in that fluffy garment than in a dozen glass slippers or invisibility cloaks. I felt beautiful---just showered and made up in the best Revlon and Woolworth’s had to offer, hair gleaming and eyes bright, looking and smelling marvelous, feeling the nervous, happy anticipation as a sweet succession of nice young men arrived at my door to escort me out for a lovely evening.

I wore it all through college, as well, and once, at a fraternity party, I got the wrong coat. My date George had handed it over at the little check-table, and in the flurry of all leaving-at-once to get back to the dorms for curfew, the young pledge handed me the wrong jacket.

My Date did the obligatory holding; I slipped into it and slid my hands into the pockets. The size was right, but It was like picking up the wrong baby---It was not mine. It didn’t hang right, my hands didn’t fit right, and it was just OFFF. I flipped back the left side---no initials. The coat-check guy headed for the big front windows, pointing to a brother holding the car-door for his date. “That must be it” he said. “It’s the only other one I handed out tonight.”

Old George ran for the door, with my little red pumps in twinkly pursuit---he flagged down the car, we ran up and explained things, and then he opened the car door.

The other girl feigned amazement that she might have on my coat, staying firmly seated, doing that hugging-shrugging motion that hugged it and herself, running her hands up the neckline and preening herself in it like a satisfied cat. She even pouted a little bit when she stepped out of the car. I reached and flipped the front to show my monogram, and she gave a resigned sigh as she took it off and handed it over.

SHE KNEW. And I knew she knew---she’d almost got away with my beautiful coat, and left behind a lesser version, thin and cheap as her intentions, with a stiff lining and no beautiful satin frog-loop at the waist. There was even the nasty scent of her Intimate cologne all around the neck fur, and I had to go sit up on the big old widow’s walk sunroof with it blowing in the breeze two cold afternoons before the traces of that awful smell were gone.

I wore that coveted coat all through college, and its slightly-shopworn remains are in the guestroom closet upstairs, still in its Goldsmiths bag. It was the only thing I ever really aspired to HAVE in all my high school years, and it took three each of hopeful Christmases and birthdays before it finally appeared, for I was never one to press for anything. If my parents said, "No," it meant no. If they said, "We'll see," then you could live in hope, but you'd better not mention it again.

That gleaming lining is only a soft whisper now, but the initials still shine. I just go hug it sometimes, and I swear I can smell a long-ago spritz of Woodhue, and recapture the luxury of that young time---the evenings of shining hair and bright eyes, of stepping out into a fun evening when all things were right, and a mere coat made the world perfect.


Marlene said...

Rachel, As always this is a wonderful "share." Mouton coats were not very IN here in Florida, but I certainly identify with that lovely Woodhue. Some of my very first paycheck went to pay for a bottle at the corner drugstore. Thanks for the memories.

Patsy said...

I had a Silver Mouton and I loved it.

Beverly said...

I loved this sweet memory. But, I must tell you that this is the first time I have heard of a Mouton. Maybe it was because I grew up in south Florida.

Now, I do remember longing for a houndstooth London Fog with my initials. And, even though it wasn't nearly as luxurious, I felt quite "the thing" wearing it.

Tonja said...

I have never heard of this kind of jacket, either. But, from your must have been beautiful. Isn't it funny how a garment can go so far to comfort and uplift us? I'm just sure you looked lovely in it, too!
Oh, and I DO remember Woodhue! For me it was an Aigner purse and Youth Dew by Estee Lauder. It was not sold in our little town, so if you wore it, it meant that you were able to go shopping in the big city of Atlanta!

Kim Shook said...

OOOOOOOHHHH! A furry mouton! Momma had a silver one and I inherited in when I was in high school. She had worn it so much that the satin lining was missing, but I adored it! No one in my school in the 1970's had ever seen one and it was when thrift shop fashion was chic. It was the only time I remember the 'cool kids' noticing anything that I wore! It was soft and warm and had those wonderful fold up sleeves. I felt so dashing in it. I have no idea what happened to it. I'm betting it was tossed in one of my "OMG, am I a horder?" panics! Thank you for a reminder of one of the few times I felt GORGEOUS, my friend!

Cape Coop said...

Ah, Rachel! I adore mouton jackets! In Florida thrift shops they about for a few dollars apiece, I owned FOUR when I was finished collecting them!
They get quite a good price on ebay these days, I sold all four, when Funds Were Needed, at a very handsome profit.