Six Dresses, Winter Coat Edition: Celebrating Coats As the New Dresses, Reminding Us of All That’s Possible by Elisa A. Schmitz 30Seconds
Part of maintaining a positive attitude during difficult times is finding ways to inspire yourself. I did that most recently by digging through my coat closet.
The snow is swirling, the wind is whipping and the temps are plunging. Welcome to February in Chicago, better known as Chiberia. The time of year when coats are the new dresses.
Winter can be gray and dreary, and sometimes the lack of sunshine can get this warm-weather-loving Latina down. Needing inspiration more than ever, I turned away from the dress closet and instead to the coat closet, where I found an array of outerwear collected over the years, intended for making it through Chicago winters in style.
Coat One: Wednesday, February 3, 2021
I was never an awesome skier, but I really enjoyed gliding down the mountains. Outside of an airplane, navigating a ski run was the closest I felt to flying.
Just as we arrived at our picturesque hotel nestled at the base of the mountains, the snow started falling. Big, fat flakes that landed with purpose; flakes that were there to stay.
Skiing the Alps was very different than the skiing I had done in Illinois, Wisconsin or Michigan. I had all the right gear, but that didn’t allay the fear I felt, heading up the mountain on a perfectly-engineered lift.
Facing the mountain, knowing I had to ski my way back down to the charming village, my fear fueled me. I charted a path in my mind. That changed quickly as I picked up speed fast. I pumped the brakes, the way they teach you when you first learn to ski: making a pizza shape, skis pointed inward. I pivoted left and right, doing everything I could to not fall. After what seemed like hours, I made it to the bottom. My legs were shaking, but I hadn’t fallen. I felt triumphant: I had not let the fear hold me back, and I had not let the mountain take me down.
A couple years later, we went to Vail, Colorado, with our friends. Vail was like being in Kitzbühel again: breathtakingly beautiful and incredibly challenging. A lot of the time I was simply trying to not fall, and my body was feeling the strain.
After a couple of days, the pain in my legs and hips finally got to me and I decided I was done. I looked up at the mountain, acknowledged her power and thanked her for the lessons learned on her slopes. That was the last time I skied.
A few MRIs and several rounds of physical therapy later, I still deal with pain brought on by literally “being out over my skis.” While skiing made me more cautious about what I can do physically, it also empowered me emotionally: using my fear as fuel, charting my own path, stepping on the gas, pumping the brakes, pivoting to stay the course and not be taken down.
Most of all, skiing made me feel that I can fly. Even on days when I’m out over my skis, that gift from the mountains reminds me of all that is possible.
Coat Two: Friday, February 5, 2021
This long black puffy coat with gold zipper accents by designer Michael Kors has kept me warm throughout the past few arctic blasts, especially because of its generous hood (which is fighting the fierce wind in this photo).
The snow will be falling for quite some time, so I’ll be enjoying the Polar Vortex in this little number, accessorized by red gloves and my seriously warm snow boots by Columbia Sportswear. Because snow happens, it’s beautiful and exhilarating, and there’s no point in not celebrating it.
Coat Three: Sunday, February 7, 2021
What happens when you have a daughter who’s a designer? You get one-of-a-kind gifts that come from her heart. This leopard-print fleece scarf and hat were handmade by my daughter Jules on her grandmother’s old sewing machine, and they were just the right statement pieces to accessorize my black raincoat by designer Calvin Klein. This is one of my favorite outerwear staples because it can be dressed up or down, can be layered to add warmth and protection from the elements, and it has a fun drawstring feature to accentuate the waist. Plus it has a big hood, can be worn year round and goes with everything.
It’s not really warm enough for Chiberia weather, but with the Jules-made scarf and hat, I was feeling quite cozy out there. Or maybe it was just all the love sewn into them that warmed me from the inside out.
Coat Four: Tuesday, February 9, 2021
The beautifully relentless snowfall freezes everything in place, exacerbating the feeling of pandemic-induced suspended animation. Later, after this is all over, will we ask each other where we were when the world froze in place? Just as we asked each other where we were, how close to Ground Zero, when the planes hit the towers?
While this life-changing event may be lasting much longer than expected, making it seem less like one moment in time, but instead many all happening at once, it will have the same transformative effect. Once it’s behind us, we will never be the same.
How could we be? We will have lost so many and so much. Our bodies and minds may be different, affected by the dramatic changes to our lives. Our hearts will carry added grief and pain, but maybe also more faith and gratitude. We will have made it to the other side, and that will bring us joy, too.
Through the snow and ice that surrounds me, I’m looking ahead to the thaw. Not only to the hope that spring offers us each year, when green grass emerges from white snow, but also to the hope that science offers us, a way out of this world of hurt we are in. But only if we listen and work together to make it happen. Because this time, unlike when the planes hit the towers, we’re all at Ground Zero. This time, it’s going to take all of us.
Maybe this Herculean effort to bring spring back is what we need right now to bring us together again. Maybe this clever virus that’s an equal opportunity destroyer is telling us that we’re not so different, after all. Maybe it’s telling us to cherish each other now, because later may never come.
Coat Five: Thursday, February 11, 2021
This coat reminds me of when we used to travel. That’s because my husband and I discovered it (along with the upcoming Coat Six) on our last trip to Munich, Germany, in September 2019. That was also the last Oktoberfest before the world took its pandemic pause.
The weather was a bit cooler than expected, which provided an excuse to go shopping. That’s when we found this elegant wool coat by Milan, Italy, designer Fay. I fell in love with its timeless design, fastened by three carabiner-type hooks, and accented by a pompon-style collar and cuffs. It just might be my most favorite coat, ever.
I loved it so hard that I wore it almost every day the rest of the time we were in Munich, and even throughout the entire flight home. I dreamt about draping it over various dresses in my closet on my way out the door to some event or other, but that hasn’t happened – yet.
Pulling it out of the closet has given me hope, though. Wearing it today reminds me of travel, of Oktoberfest, of Italy, of dresses, of dreams and of better days ahead. We will get there. And when we do, chances are excellent that I’ll be wearing this coat.
Coat Six: Saturday, February 13, 2021
We may be parents and children and siblings and grandchildren and partners and spouses and co-parents and employers and employees and colleagues and neighbors and friends and caregivers, and so much more. We often use Valentine’s Day to show everyone around us how much we care, and that’s a beautiful thing. But in hectic lives that have been made more stressful because of the pandemic, adding even more may feel like just too much; we may end up feeling simply burned out.
That’s why this year, maybe Valentine’s Day should start with yourself. When was the last time you showed yourself how much you care? Can you even remember feeling a warm rush of self-love?
I need to say it (or at least write it) out loud, because self-care is something I have struggled with my whole life. I do and do and do, and I go and go and go, and I give and give and give – until there’s not much left. Sound familiar?
As someone who feels good about being productive and accomplished and giving, and above all making others happy, this brings me joy. But as someone who struggles with underlying health issues, this has brought me pain and challenges as my body battles more intensely with each passing year.
So I’m working on remembering to love myself a little bit more. It’s a work in progress, but it’s progress.
This Valentine’s Day weekend, what can you do for you?
I started by putting on this red wool coat by German designer Fuchs Schmitt. My husband and I discovered it on our last trip to Munich, in September 2019. The moment I saw it, it made me smile. The vivid color, the timeless style. It’s a joyful thing, and wearing it as the snow continues to fall (OMG, so much snow) is making me happy.
Let’s set an intention that, in addition to everything else we do this weekend, we will take ourselves into consideration, too. Let’s treat ourselves like we are our own Valentines. Because we deserve the same care we give our loved ones, don’t we?
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