>The only thing worse than shopping for a bathing suit is shopping for a winter coat. When I was a youth living in Chicago, this twisted situation was not the case. Chicago is obviously freezing in the winter. Hence nearly everyone buys a big, puffy down-filled coat. These coats tend to come with hoods because it is cold and snowing and you’d be stupid not to have one in the event of a storm. Anyone can wear a big puffy coat, no matter if you are tall, short, overweight, underweight, or just right. People in Chicago have worn them for years, way before it was trendy to wear a puffy coat on the East coast.

New York winters are much milder than Chicago winters. Big puffy down-filled coats are for the more part not practical because they are too warm and you will sweat to death in the subway station. I learned this when I moved here for college with my Triple Fat Goose coat (below, second from left).This coat was so tricked out that it even had a whistle tucked away in a sleeve pocket for my safety, but I digress. Because New York winters are mild, and because New Yorkers, until two seasons ago, would not be coat dead in a formless puffy coat, everyone here wears long wool coats, usually in black or dark grey.

I resisted getting a wool coat all throughout college and grad school, relying on my Land’s End Squall Jacket (below, from Nov. 1995)on moderately cold days and whipping out the Goose for those few times it was sub-zero. When I began working full-time, I began to feel like an idiot when I would go to meetings with outsiders and walk in wearing a coat the size of Alaska. I trekked over to Burlington Coat Factory (supposedly, they are “more than great coats,” although just having great coats fit my purpose just fine) and began perusing.

The reason why I hate shopping for coats is that I seem to violate some unspoken Law of Long Wool Coat Designers. According this super secret document, forged sometime around 2003, it is forbidden to make a long wool coat for a short woman that also includes a hood. Need a long coat for a woman under 5’4”? No problem. Need a long wool coat with a hood? Easy as pie to find. Need a long wool coat for a short woman that has a hood? Sorry, no can do.

I was lucky when I bought my last winter coat because the Pact had not yet gone into effect, apparently. I walked into Burlington Coat Factory, fell in love with a stunning Albert Nipon long black coat with princess seams with a lovely hood, and walked out looking like a million bucks. I love this coat more than a person has any right to love a coat.

Sadly, I discovered that the fabric on the back of my beloved coat was worn through. Not on the seams, as that would be fixable and I would have it done in two seconds, but in the middle of the back. Fabric would basically need to be rewoven. As much as I loved my coat, I needed a new one. I set out for a replacement. That is when I discovered the Law. After hitting every possible store – department store, chain store, boutique, whatever – and trolling the internet, including eBay, I gave up. It was not possible to buy a long wool coat for a short woman with a hood. The holes on my coat became bigger. I knew I would have to face reality the next winter season, which is coming up on me quickly.

Even if I could find patches for my coat to bring it through another season, I ate a few too many fried items on boardwalks or at state fairs this summer. My hips ain’t what they used to be, and that baby just is not going to attractively button over them any more. I am hoping that the Law has been nullified and that some brave designer will have decided that short women need coats with hoods, damn it! The hunt begins on Friday. Wish me luck.