I’ve been thinking about the way clothes have their own life stories…
I bought my frock coat second-hand at the Royal Arcade in Melbourne. I must have been about sixteen. As far as I was concerned it was the most perfect coat ever. It was a fairly ungiving fabric, fitted close everywhere until it reached my hips where it flared out. Little velvet covered buttons and lapels. The most wonderful thing about it (apart from the fact it was a frock coat, and I was lost in the romantic, frock-coat-bedecked world of Anne Rice novels) was that it fit as if it had been tailored for me.
I wore it to the Gothic Ball. I’d been to two Gothic Balls before that and they were occasions that you got very dressed up for. Let’s face it, the Gothic subculture had a high percentage of seamstresses, much as the Steampunk culture has. And yet, how could I improve on my humble frock coat? Impossible. Well, perhaps if I was an amazing seamstress. Kato springs to mind…
A few years ago it was this frock coat I put, among others, over the body of a dying man who had fallen from a height. I remember regretting it was such a thin fabric when something so much warmer was needed. How could I have known, when I first pulled this coat off the rack all those years ago, that it would one day serve this sad purpose?
In more recent and happier times, many months after the birth of my child, it was doing up the buttons on my frock coat that made me feel I was restored to my physical self. Perhaps my stomach now had the capacity of a puffer fish (should I so choose to use it), but I could still fit into the confines of my favourite coat. I felt a sense of continuity with my past self. In many ways a different person, but still very true to the same interests and loves. I may not be an out and out Goth, but I’m still happy to wear a frock coat every now and then or use a sun umbrella if the occasion is right.
As an adult, it was the only coat I wrote my phone number inside. Just in case. Because it’s my coat. I keep meaning to fix the cuff, loose on one side, but it’s been that way so long it’s almost become part of the character of the coat, as has the gesture of folding it back under every now and then.
I’m sure we all have a piece of clothing like this. Something that travels with us and defines us somehow. For me, it’s my frock coat!