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A Winter coat: One of the many happy returns of the season

wintercoat_optBY LORI SENDER
NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM
THE MAYBE CHRONICLES

I'm not a good shopper, be it online or in an actual physical store like Annie Sez; I always seem to be returning things. "Return to" Sender, my friend Rona calls me, when I persist in this unproductive vein. We're on the phone on this Tuesday morning, and I'm grumbling to her about my latest return, a Kitchen Orange winter coat, purchased online and now being sent to the hinterlands of Ontario (USPS $27.00). "It's the lack of definition," I complain. "It's meant for an orangutan."

Much of the problem is that I don't assess material well, with a critical enough eye; the nuance of shininess, the ply of cashmere, that angora, at a certain titration point, can itch like hell. And it's hard enough determining this at a store. Online it's complete guesswork, full of middle-aged farsighted squinting and repeated clicking to enlarge ... are those tiny polka dots or actually the material?

I order another coat online, this one from Lands End. The thrill of seeing the box sitting on my doorstep, patiently waiting for me like a school-age best friend, is the high point of the purchase. Once my son, Ben, rips it open it's all down hill. The zipper isn't workable, not just by me, but by my husband, who is kind enough to try it on, and Ben, too, can't manage it. And the seriously long belt – destined to dangle like a leash – when tied around my waist, makes my breasts look smushed and flat. Another return.

Not good. These shipping fees are beginning to add up to the cost of an actual coat. And still I'm wearing the bright green sample sale Isaac Mizrahi jacket with lime green lining from what, 1995! I see an advertisement in the New York Times Magazine for a smart-looking Rainforest down coat. I Google it ... 650 dollars? But what's this? Rue La La comes up; my sister had mentioned this online sample sale site, an Internet incarnation of the 1980s when we women tugged it out over designer sweaters on 40th and Broadway.

But alas, the sale has passed; I'm two days late for what would have been a substantial markdown. Then I notice this little number. Even my husband agrees, this Diesel sweater is something I could use. The sale starts at 11 a.m. After breakfast and laundry, my husband reminds me about the sweater. I go to the computer and, unbelievably, the sweater is gone, finished, the words sold out plastered across the photo in a taunting typeface. Rue is me. I just know this braided wool wonderment will never come back to me despite the website's claim that on Sunday nights a sold-out item may reappear. Talk about enabling an addiction.

I call over to the Canadian hinterlands to see about my refund for the Kitchen Orange coat. "It's an exchange," the salesgirl tells me sweetly. I plead with her, appeal to her twenty-something sensibility; she remains sweet, a bit giggly, and then turns hard-nosed.

I'm stuck. Forced to one day endure skinny jeans and large flowered tunic shirts. I'm feeling weary, tired of the chase.

Still, later that evening, I gather my last bit of resolve and return to Rue La La when I spot it, the epiphany of belted chic, a stylish hooded down coat from DKNY. Yes, it's sold out, in black, but brown may be in soon. Whew La La.

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