Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Arctic flunky

I was warned about the New York winter. I didn't really listen.

The American used to drone on about the temperature for years while I listened via SKYPE from the comfort of my centrally heated thermostat controlled house in Cardiff.

"Honneeee it is 22 degrees here in New York! 22 degrees!"
"Is it darling?"
"Honneeee, do you even know how cold that is?"
"Umm, not really, are we talking Celsius or Fahrenheit?"
"Fahrenheit Em-ma."
"Right. Yeah. Which one is that?'

I am still not really sure now. All I know is that when it hits '70' in the summer it's hot. And '0' in the winter is really cold. Freezing in fact. It's not my fault I was taught metric in school but suffered parents who still talked imperial. Therefore I am a hybrid of both. How wide is that? About 2 metres and 5 inches I'd say...

So when it came to the NY winter I just thought The American was being a drama queen because he spent the previous decade of his life in California, bathed in year long sunshine. Now I see he had something of a point. Every day he tortures himself by checking the forecast on the West coast:

"Honneeee. It is 70 degrees in LA today."
"That's great babes" I say as we face the biting headwind wind along 7th avenue.
''70 degrees!"
I t least know that means hot.
"So what is it here?" I ask
"IT. IS. Twent-teeeee Twoooo fucking degreeeees!"
"And that is below freezing?"
"Uh yes Honnee! Thir-teeeee Twooo is freezing. IT. IS. Twent-teeeee twoooo."
He likes to spell out the stats like that. It adds weight to his suffering.

Not having a car is the kicker. Back in the UK I would go several metres from my front door to my car and then several more from the car to work, preferably by parking illegally somewhere near a BBC entrance. Admittedly my W reg Fiesta would take a while to heat up, in fact it would usually only kick in by the time I was pulling up to Broadcasting House.

Here you walk everywhere. And it's way colder. When the headwind hits you is face palsy freezing. It makes me want to wear a balaclava. As a fashionable substitute I often leave the the house with headphones and sunglasses and hat and scarf- looking something like a rapper about to explore the Arctic.

Here there are two options to keep warm. Real fur or a duvet coat. Being as I am not about to throw my principles out the window, it looks like I will have to throw my fashion sense out instead. Let me explain to those of you fortunate enough not to be familar with a duvet coat. Think puffa, but less puffy. Literally it is a duvet-with down inside and the fabric outside. The fabric is usually nylon, so possibly more like a sleeping bag? Anyway, yuck right? Do I need to add pounds at any time of year, let alone the winter? Do I want to look like the Michelin man while strutting my stuff around New York? Do I want to hark back to my puffa wearing rave days of the early 90's now I am a grown up? No, no and no. So I tell myself ''Emma. You will freeze rather than wear one of those hideous things."

I have scoffed at the duvet coat for years of visiting New York. What I didn't realise is that not only have I not visited in January before but have never lived with extreme cold day in day out.
What I was forgetting is that what New York demands, New York gets-and New York wanted me properly bundled up against the cold. This city had made me succumb to flats after years of being a die hard heel wearer. Who did I think I was trying to fight?

So I found myself playing with the idea in my head. Could I? Should I? I watched other duvet coat wearers and scanned them for signs of style. Could It be that even the fashionable were donning these too? In secret I logged onto some department stores and browsed the duvet coats. The models seemed happy enough, they didn't look like anyone was forcing them to wear duvet coats under duress.

Then on a snowy January 2nd The Teenager, The Boy and me are shivering in Madison Square Park waiting for a famous Shake Shack burger. In front of us are two stylish looking girls wearing duvets. They are cool and warm.

''I want a duvet coat." says The Teenager
"Me too."

So we find ourselves in Macys coat department and there's a whole sub section of duvet coats and everyone is buying them and it all seems quite reasonable and normal and what's this? Betsey Johnson does duvet? And Calvin Klein? Oh. They can't be that bad then.

The Teenager has the Betsey on and it's not hideous. In fact I might go as far to say it looks funky. I tell her I'll buy it for her as duvet-coat-by-proxy seems like a less painful way to initiate myself. She makes an 'I'm not sure' face and says she needs more time.

And then I am trying one on and it actually looks ok on me too. Then I am trying lots on and I find a navy one which is more sort of horsey that council estate chav and the duvet pattern is quilted, like a Chanel bag. And it's $80 down from $240. This excites me even though I know the full price is a con in the perma-sale world of Macys.

It's by Tommy Hillfiger, which just makes me think of pretty blond preppy girls in navy polo shirts frolicking in sunny parks with frisbees. Which seems like a nice image in the depths of the bleak mid winter. I am ignoring the other half of me says Tommy Hilfiger? Tommy frigging Hilfiger? Have you lost your mind woman? Next you'll be hanging out in malls.

So I remove myself from Macys and go home to stroke some vintage clothes and forget the duvet coat ever happened. But the coat has got to me. I toss and turn that night and stare at the Macys extra 20 extra percent of sale voucher on my bedside table. Sleep comes in the early hours but it is disturbed, peppered by dreams of duck feathers chasing me.

Then the next morning I find myself back in Macys and a woman is packing up the Tommy Hilfiger duvet thing and I am handing over cold hard cash that could have paid for something far more beautiful and far less practical yet I feel strangely excited and compelled to leave the store wearing the coat like I am six again.

So I bundle my vintage velvet number into the carrier bag and I put on the Tommy and I step onto 34th street and I feel no cold. I catch sight of others and realise that no one looks slim in a duvet coat, so there's a kind of great democracy in duck feathers.

I was warned about the New York winter but I didn't really listen. Next time I'll remember the city is the boss of things, not me.

Either that or I'll do as my friend here suggested and get a fur burka.


  1. Hey!! I have also given in to the duvet coat temptation, also a heavily discounted Macy's number!! Really it was only a matter of time... and just so I don't look *too* cool I pair it with a Buff when cycling to prevent ear burn. Ravishing!

  2. The concrete jungle where dreams are made of. Brilliant. Love it. Keep doing it xx

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