It was February 2015 and I received a last minute invitation to meet my only childhood friend, Adrienne, in Milan for a weekend of debauchery while celebrating her 29th birthday. She was studying in Italy at the time and had been planning this weekend to include a few other classmates of hers. One, however, got cold feet two days beforehand. Cold feet before a trip to Milan? Can you imagine what kind of person that would be? Anyway, Adrienne found herself in need of a third traveling companion on the European continent accustomed to hopping aboard eleventh hour flights,which only left her with one option: me.
[Site of Purchase Pictured Above]
Well, he would if he had felt the faux fur around the neck or stuck his hands in the most adorably tailored pockets or stood in front of a golden mirror while twirling around admiring such a black beauty of a coat.
Anyway, I took the card and told the shop owner that I would think about it and had four days to come back if I decided on it. Over the course of three days, we girls infiltrated enough stores that could comprise the whole Mall of America. We were tireless in our mission to find something fabulous in the city known for its fabulousness. There was no shopping stone left unturned, big or small.
Then on the last evening all together (I stayed on an extra night to attend the opera) after seeing The Last Supper we headed towards a famous chocolate store that I cannot remember the name of but Adrienne probably can. This chocolate store just happened to be in the vicinity of an upscale vintage shop I had read about in one of my Italy travel books. As luck would have it, it was also opened late that evening! There was no way to go to one shop without going by the other.
We entered the vintage shop and I was sure that I had crossed the threshold into Heaven. The rich fabrics swathed mannequins, beautiful displays upon displays, ornate hats, and gorgeous jewelry: this was the shop to find my it purchase of the trip. My it purchase of a lifetime! Something I would eventually pass along to one of my nieces or well, I must admit that I do bring hypothetical daughters into situations all the time and this proved to be no different. This purchase would define an age where I was alright enough to splurge on something with an upscale label and I wouldn’t feel guilty about it because (a) We were in Milan and (b) all women in their upper twenties need to have some purchase like this on a bi-yearly basis. That’s my reasoning at least.
You see, after I hit twenty-five I read a book about Chanel that changed my life and my entire approach to shopping. Now, here was a chance to exercise that philosophy.
Amidst the few items I chose to try was a very unique brown houndstooth coat that had a charming skirt ruffle, delicate collar, and roomy pockets on the front (always a necessity for coats). It fit like … well, an Hermès coat because that is exactly what it was!
Glancing down at the price I could not believe my eyes. And I thought I had found a deal on the Prada coat! I strutted out for the girls to see. We all agreed: it was perfect. “And who can beat this price?” I gushed. Adrienne smiled then said, “You can get two Hermès for one Prada.” She went onto say how she would drop that kinda dime on jewelry but not clothes as that was more an “Edee thing.”
Well, I don’t know if it is possible to be in love with a coat but that same butterfly feeling I get around Jan Henrik or while watching Ryan Gosling on the big screen overtook me. I was smitten. And no other woman was going to get in the way of me & this particular coat! Thus, I decided to put all other purchases on hold and decided to go for IT. I would be able to justify this deal not only to myself but to Jan Henrik as well, who keeps a watchful eye on the splurges in my closet.
Lovingly, I folded the coat on the counter then reached for my charge card. The shop-girl folded it as if it were made for the Queen of England and placed it gently in a paper bag, enclosed in crisp pink tissue paper. The act of purchasing this coat felt like a work of art. A smile spread across the shop-girl’s lips. “Enjoy your coat, Madame,” she said with a wink. I felt so grown up. Also, I felt proud. As if I was getting away with highway robbery because there had to have been some mistake on the price tag.
Turns out, there had been a mistake: my own. I had not been wearing my glasses and let’s just say that a couple of extra zero’s had escaped my attention the way minor flaws tend to escape our attention when we fall in love. It was exactly like that. A tunnel vision of sorts where I just saw what I wanted to see. Just like love, if you ask me!
As we strolled into the chocolate shop, my bag draped proudly over my arm I made a comment on what a deal it was. Adrienne’s face kind of twisted into “a look” and it was then I felt something in my stomach drop. “Wait a minute, it was…”my voice trailed off, a faint whisper. Adrienne gave me another look, this time probably out of concern as a panic hit me. “I said, you could’ve gotten two Pradas for the Hermès,” Adrienne offered up. We all realized my mistake. For some reason, my ears had heard the opposite. Remember that part about love about seeing what you wanna see? Well, apply that to hearing what you wanna hear. Never had a cliché rung so true!
“Girls, we have to go back and return this,” I weakly croaked. There was no way I could justify buying a coat that was more or less in the cost range of my second pickup truck -- not the first one that I managed to total within a week—which is another story entirely. No. There would be no way to explain this one to Jan Henrik either. There would be no way to make this funny or cute.
We hustled back down the street. The shop had, of course, closed. But I manically banged on the front door, catching the attention of the shop-girl who was all set to leave. “Please,” I breathed as she opened the door, “There has been a small… misunderstanding.”
Put three young ladies in a refined vintage shop in downtown Milan who do not speak a lick of Italian and you’ve got a real problem on your hands. “Madame, Madame, this is Hermès. Do you not know? Yes, that is the right price on you.. paper there,” the shop girl waved her hand at my receipt. “Please, I know Hermès. Yes, I know. But I just misread the price.” “But, it is Hermès. How do you think it be that cost?” We went back and forth for ten minutes. I wasn’t going to beg.
At the end of the day, I realized that I would have to wear that coat every day for the next three years. Come rain, come shine, come snow, come monsoon: that would be my attire. No matter what would be under the coat I would not be able to remove it for the next three years. No matter how ridiculous I would look in the middle of summer while visiting Georgia, I would be hanging out in this fancy coat. Even when I would shower, it would have to stay on. Water-ski? I hope there’s a life jacket big enough for the bulk of a well-tailored houndstooth coat of Hermès. It would have to be on me every single day. And I dreaded having to admit this mistake to Jan Henrik, who would be… disappointed to say the least.
However, the shop-girl took mercy on my soul and managed to reverse the transaction. Since the store was officially closed and I had just reversed the biggest sale of her day, I could not muster up the courage to ask if I could buy one of the other items I had eyed (which had no extra zero’s). We left the shop and I felt myself coming down from some kind of high which has been described to me by another shop owner as “the vintage kick.”
I had always gotten this kick in Athens, Georgia and well just about anywhere: Brussels at the Fox Hole, in many narrow Amsterdam aisles, you-name-it. But nothing came close to the high of buying that coat… then managing the panic of realizing it had some extra zero’s attached to it. How I didn’t notice it when swiping my card will always remain a mystery. For I can recall knowing I had made the best deal in all of Italy that evening.
So, I have officially owned an Hermès coat in my late twenties. A brief, exciting, overwhelming, terrifying experience if I ever had one!
The next day we found ourselves roaming some more shops and I found an Italian store-brand black coat. It cost only 75 euros on sale, does its job keeping me warm, has front pockets, and I receive endless compliments on the sleekness. My IT buy from Milan (pictured below). All without the headache of having an Hermès label attached to it!
[My IT Purchase! ]