Back in the fall, I saw a mom from school wearing an army green puffer coat with lots of pockets and asked her where she got it. “Amazon!” she told me excitedly. “It was under $100!” She texted me the link and I was planning to buy it later that day. I forgot. As I do with most everything. It’s a good thing though, because a few weeks later, that coat spread through New York City like a disease, affecting almost every mom I know. My friend Lindsey Kaufman Palan is going to tell you her tale of survival.
“Have you seen that Amazon coat? It’s like 100 bucks and apparently the entire Upper East Side is wearing it—there was an article about it,” asked my friend Lizzie last fall.
“Amazon—as in the site I’d been frantically ordering hoards of diapers, wipes and pacifiers from since I had my baby three months ago—has coats?” I responded incredulously. No, I hadn’t seen it. And, while I prefer originality and usually shy away from trends, I thought about my current winter coat, so uncomfortably snug on my post-baby body, and immediately jumped on the ‘Zon to find that mythical creature my friend spoke of, the Orolay Thickened down coat. It came in five colors, including my favorite, army green —and they were having a flash sale! $63 and one click was all I needed to send that puffer my way.
Since having the baby, the concept of function over fashion had taken on new meaning the moment leggings had become “pants” for me. I was just trying to get by as a sleep-deprived zombie mom, my main goal each day: be clothed, try not to look homeless.
When my new green goddess arrived, it was everything and more than I had hoped for. Knee-length with a seemingly endless amount of pockets and zippers, it was like an overstuffed sleeping bag and cargo pants had a baby, one with a giant, fuzzy hood. Its oversized nature had a bizarrely slimming effect, a much-needed bonus for a weary, just-back-to-work new mom trying to camouflage a body that no longer felt like her own. And it suited my original intent for it, to fit over my baby carrier for blustery days when we both needed warmth.
I joyfully traipsed around my neighborhood in my new outerwear. At first, it was fun. “Where’d you get that, it’s so cute?,” I’d hear frequently from fellow moms and enjoyed replying “Amazon!” Occasionally I’d run into another woman sporting one and we’d grin at each other. “I don’t even wear a purse anymore!,” one mother giddily exclaimed as we passed each other, as I yelled back “Right?!,” air-high-fiving her and beaming in agreement. I wondered if we should create some sort of Coat hand sign we flash when we see a fellow member of the crew.
Then, a few months later the true explosion started. I passed more and Coats each day. Was this what the Upper East Side women had been experiencing for months? My mom friend Janine started texting me daily Coat counts: Saw 3 in 2 blocks on my walk to the subway—some even on young girls in Soho! She enjoyed attaching a picture too. I suddenly flashed back to strutting into my 5th grade class, proudly wearing a t-shirt embellished with denim and rhinestones—apropos for the 90s, and San Antonio, TX. My friend Courtney gushed over it, to which I boasted “Marshalls, $14.99!” 1 Two days later, she arrived in the same t-shirt. I went home crying and told my mom to burn mine. Sure, I hadn’t started this coat trend. But seeing them daily in throngs brought back those 10-year-old feelings.
I turned my trendy, non-mom friend Erica on to the Coat as well (she opted for black). In turn she sent me an article about the Park Slope “mom uniform,” consisting of shearling boots and a bizarre strap women are attaching to designer bags. I felt nauseated. I didn’t need a “uniform;” I just wanted outerwear that was fashionable, warm and functional. Originally, I had joked about how becoming a mom had made me “basic” and I loved it.
Until I didn’t.
The Coat’s burgeoning notoriety had devolved into an insane craze, touted on national morning shows, newspapers and social media. It even had its own dedicated Instagram account! Instead of feeling cool or as if part of a club when I passed another Coat mom, I felt embarrassed. Once, another Coat woman was seated right next to me on the subway. We avoided eye contact. As I rode home, an ickiness coursed throughout my down-swathed body and I wondered, “Did becoming a mom make me into someone new?” I didn’t know her. And I certainly didn’t like her.
I had gone from feeling happy and satisfied, even embracing—nay—touting my newfound mommy basic-ness, to feeling ashamed, estranged from my former self. I wondered if people were pointing and chortling when I passed them, Oh, there’s another one! Had I been part of someone else’s Coat count?
A trip down the Google rabbit hole showed I wasn’t alone. In one editor’s article about how she bought the Coat, loved it then quickly loathed it, she questioned, “Why would my tastes have changed in the span of a month, if not because I fear death by hive mind?”
I wished I could abandon the Coat, as I’d done my bedazzled t-shirt in elementary school. But between the warmth and pockets (laden with my wallet, cell phone, gloves, keys, pacifiers and baby wipes), I just couldn’t quit it. But I couldn’t keep wearing it either.
Then, I had a vision of my pre-baby self at a toga party a few years ago. While everyone donned the traditional white sheet, I was clad in leopard print with a faux fur shrug. During pregnancy, I’d strived to keep my wardrobe and accessories fresh and unique, dressing even more creatively than before. I’ve always thrived in making something my own, so why not now?
But…I was stumped. A puffy coat is not a toga.
I brainstormed ideas: patches (too grunge), bedazzling (too puncturing). Nothing felt right, so I desperately called my friend Randi, a top prop stylist and artistic wunderkind. “You should splatter paint it!” she exclaimed. I loved the idea. In fact, I jumped up and down. She suggested using varying two shades of green; it would be 2 tonal and wouldn’t seem out of place, just textural and different. I raced to the art supply store, invigorated with enthusiasm and, imagining myself the Jackson Pollock of coats.
After a couple of hours in my heavily-tarped basement, I emerged like a paint-covered phoenix rising from the ashes. Ok, so I was just a mom in Brooklyn taking her baby to drop-off, but still. I had a renewed swagger in my step. I felt proud, like I had reclaimed a piece of my former self; all it took was a little ingenuity and a decent amount of paint. It proved I could be a mom and still keep my identity intact.
As I left my son’s school and headed to work one morning, another mom stopped me, brow-furrowed. “Excuse me, is that the…Amazon coat…?” she asked. “No,” I replied. “It’s my coat.”
Lindsey Kaufman Palan is a writer and creative director who’s new(ish) to the mom game and enjoying the wild ride. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband Dan and their baby Jack. Follow her @linzfaryl.