My heart is tinged with regret every time I latch onto a choice vintage garment, as I did this winter when I added two stunning coats to my personal collection. Both were the product of separate estate sales. From their immaculate condition and age, it was obvious that the owners kept them back, “for good.” What would these women think of someone like me snatching them up for everyday wear?

I would like to think that they would be glad to see them worn and appreciated the way I will. But I’ve known too many depression-era babies to assume that. I think the philosophy went something like this: once gained, an item might never be feasibly replaced, and therefore it must be forever preserved, even at the expense of never wearing it. One or both of these ladies might have winced to see them with jeans and boots. For my part, I can only say this: when I am dead, I hope some lively person will find some of my better things, love them, and give them new life. That’s not all that I hope for, but that’s all I’m willing to mention here!

Here’s the story on these coats

The first coat (in burnt red velvet) was designed by Marguerite Rubel and still had the tags hanging on it. It had never been worn! Rubel was a member of the San Francisco Fashion Industries, established in 1920. From her biography, you can deduce that she was something of a trailblazer. A product of the Great Depression, Rubel grew up on a farm in Iowa and moved to San Francisco in the 1940s to join the Woman’s Auxiliary Service Pilots. When her flight training was over, pilots were no longer needed.

Rubel turned to dressmaking and custom sewing for work while working as a waitress and attending school to learn pattern making. By 1945, her career in fashion began to flourish after she designed a popular raincoat worn by international visitors meeting in San Francisco. The purpose of the meeting? To establish the charter known today as the United Nations.

Although this coat is made of velvet, it is intended for wear as a raincoat. It’s made of de Ball True Velvet, a water-repellant fabric manufactured by the J.L. de Ball  of America, Ltd. Established in 1963, the company specializes in velvets and corduroys.

The label and other research indicates it was probably made in the late 1960s. From the tags, I can see that it was purchased at Ferris Brothers, a clothing store based in Saginaw, Michigan, where it did business from 1898 until somewhere around 1980.

There is almost nothing to indicate where the second coat originated. With its ginormous houndstooth print and today’s trend of solid colors in coats, it’s a real head turner. I love the pockets, the collar, and the large buttons. Great with jeans, brown boots and a hat.

Always be on the lookout for great vintage coats. They wear like iron and you’ll see many that have been delicately cared for!

Life is short. Wear the good stuff.