I don't always re-post old posts but on the rare occasion I do, it's for good reason.
The reason I didn't write a fresh one today is not because I'm lazy (well, it may be because I'm lazy) but because my friend Susan, who is mentioned in this post from January of 2010, left us three years ago yesterday.
Not recycled are the photos, which I took only today of the subject thirty-seven-year-old black velvet coat, still a cherished possession.
It was the autumn of 1977 and I was a penniless 20-year-old senior at a medium-sized Northwest Indiana Bible college.
There were strict rules at that place, which I actually loved and of which I have fond memories (the place ... not necessarily the rules).
For fun, mostly we went to the mall, where we ogled stuff we couldn’t afford at stores like Carson Pirie Scott and Rosalee, ate cheap hamburgers at York Steak House, visited Walgreens for sundries, then headed back to the dorm before curfew.
(I now loathe spending time at malls. I’d rather listen to Chairman Maobama read from a teleprompter.)
(On second thought, maybe not that. But believe me when I say, I avoid malls.)
And so it was that one night I wandered into Evans, a store that purported to dress glamorous, fashionable females at prices north of Sears Roebuck but south of insane.
And I saw it.
It had been hung for display on a rack all by itself and placed at the very end of a long, open, luxuriously carpeted and softly lit space, with fetching merchandise lushly arranged on either side.
It was itself long, and black (by far my favorite color to wear, even then), and soft, and mysterious, and unique, and rather expensive.
It was a full-length velvet coat in exactly my 1977 size: seven. Inside, sewn into the shiny satin lining just below the collar, was a huge black label with “Evans ... Chicago Paris Milan” emblazoned in elegant white.
Farther down, near the hem where the coat closed with simple black buttons, was another label -- this one itself in snowy white -- with the words “Junior Belle” monogrammed in stunning black cursive.
The labels spoke to me in a language I understood innately, and which filled me with a strange excitement.
And I simply had to have the article of clothing defined by those labels. I had never seen anything like it, or for that matter any garment that was more utterly, completely, inescapably me.
So -- trembling -- I tried it on.
And found to my delight that the coat had been designed and constructed especially for my frame, my femininity, my attitude, my sartorial vision, my inner glamour girl.
The coat’s waist cinched with a wide self-belt. There were saucy epaulets on the shoulders, and other vaguely military details. The voluminous skirt had been cut from a full circle of fabric and its heavy folds swayed, gracefully flirtatious, just below my knees.
I don’t remember how much it cost; I only know that without thinking thrice I put it on layaway and thought of scarcely anything else until, several weeks later, I paid the balance and walked out of Evans with my gorgeous black velvet coat, swathed in protective plastic, draped over my arm.
Last night I was talking with an old and dear friend as she drove, alone except for her two dogs, from her parents’ house in Inverness, Florida, to her own home in Huntsville, Texas.
She was, in fact, my roommate during my senior year in college ... the year I found and bought and first wore my beloved black velvet coat.
“I love the new look of your blog,” my friend remarked. “Are those your pearl necklaces and bracelets and things?”
I told her that they were. “Not only that,” I said. “I photographed them lying on top of the black velvet coat I bought at Evans during our senior year. Remember?”
She laughed and, with the unconditional generosity of long friendship, assured me that she recalled the glamorous swath I tore through the landscape while wearing the only black velvet coat on campus.
My friend was incredulous that I still have the coat (although Jimmy Carter was in office the last time I fit into it), as well as the long antique-ivory lace scarf, dripping with fringe, that I always wore hanging down the front as a counterpoint to the inky-black velvet.
In 1989, following the birth of my fourth child and only son, I bought a second black velvet coat. Although its cut and style is more matronly than that of the tiny-waisted ingenue that was its predecessor, the coat is equally glamorous (I think), and it still fits.
In fact I wore it yesterday, to church.
If I were told could no longer be human but was obliged to morph into a length of fabric, I would aspire to be black velvet.
Dramatic yet soft, black velvet is feminine and alluring and faintly dangerous.
Beginning as humble cotton, my black velvet coats were woven and cut and dyed and shaped and sewn into elegant and beautiful -- while surprisingly durable -- warmth-giving things.
In a denim world, black velvet takes no prisoners. It brings a thrill of timeless glamour to everyday life. It is a treat to see and to touch. It is an experience unto itself, for reasons known only to those affected by it.
Black velvet plays for keeps.
I want to be exactly like that.