Almost without exception, my childhood wardrobe was updated twice a year from the Land’s End catalog. At the beginning of each school year, my Mother would pick out matching sets of jumper dresses and long sleeve shirts, mix and match cotton trousers and crew neck shirts, and consult me on colors. I was going through my surly phase (ages 6 to 15) and insisted on no silly patterns, no bows or ribbons, and absolutely no 95% of all available everything. I ended up with a lot of navy and dark purple.
Seeing as I never grew very quickly, and in general failed to grow very much at all, shoes, coats, hats, and trousers that my Mother bought a size or two too large stayed that way for several years. In fact, the last pair of shoes we bought larger, so I could grow into them, was at age 14. I wore them yesterday with an extra pair of socks, but they’re still 2 sizes larger than my feet.
The only other time I got new clothes was at Christmas. Aunts and Uncles might send a sweater, or pajamas, and my parents always got me colorful socks, and any clothing I’d happened to wear out between Septembers. One year, that item happened to be my winter coat. By the time October rolled around, my wrists were uncovered between my sleeves and gloves, so Mom took me out to try on coats. My coat would probably come from the Land’s End catalog, but I tried some on in person in case we found something that would work without shipping costs.
We only went to The Mall perhaps twice a year, and Mom took me around to all the stores that November. I tried on anything that looked like a possible size match, but the biggest problem was definitely my 13 year old self in an 8 year old sized body. This coat had sleeves much too long, and this one was so puffy my arms couldn’t rest at my sides. This one had a pink lining and was automatically vetoed, and no Mom, it doesn’t matter that you can’t see the lining when it’s zipped. This one has flower buttons, and little ribbon ties around the hood. No, that one is plain brown and ugly. So it went, with nary a coat to be found.
Then suddenly, it was there.