Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Coated

    Coats, cloaks, capes, and other final outer layers seem to have a special fascination.  In one sense the coat is our first presentation, the first word, if you will, in our apparel statement.  But its also our first best layer of protection, both literal, and figurative.
    Being one of our oldest garments, since it relates directly to the hides we wrapped around ourselves in our long ago past, it has a deeply rooted psychological power that cannot be denied.  We took those hides onto us, not just to keep the elements at bay, but to take onto ourselves the perceived qualities of those animals we hunted successfully.  In that sense, a coat maintains to this day an aspect of sympathetic magic.  A coat transforms the wearer, in part because it so often covers a good deal of the body.  It can conceal us, masking our bodies from view, or it can accentuate our body shape in some way we desire. It can broaden out shoulders, or create the illusion of a smaller waist counterbalanced between large volumes above, and below.  It can narrow us, widen us, lengthen us or shorten us visually.  Coats are routinely worn largely for warmth or other elemental protection, and so the feeling of being safe, and cared for, is implicit within the wearing of them.
   
Though we no longer wear animal hides directly in most of the world, the power of the coat, the cloak, the cape is still profoundly joined to that primal practice.  We wear a leather biker jacket to feel hot, and a little dangerous, though the hide we are using is processed, and so not quite the same as its ancient forebears.  We slip into a fur to feel ultimately luxurious, and that too connects us dimly to that eons ago time.  
     Because coats tend to be firmly structured garments, with denser, thicker materials than our other clothing, the connection to carapaces, and protective layering is inescapable.  But the coat is also the loudest, (because its the first), part of the total Attire sentence we construct.  Whatever else is underneath the coat, it operates like the primary noun in a sentence, driving the meaning of everything else we see.

   
   
    So, unless we're just leaving the house for ten minutes to shovel the driveway in the winter, when we put on a coat, it becomes like a shield with an armorial crest on it, proclaiming something with vigor to everyone, even if what is being proclaimed is, I don't want to be seen.

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