Social Fabric 5-6 June 2021

Leopard Print Coat

My dream leopard coat found me in a charity shop in Grimsby town centre in 2014. Mum pulled it out, I put it on, the sleeves stopped perfectly at my wrists; and that was that. It is a classic faux leopard print fur, with big bell sleeves. It has a little collar that hangs open, meaning it’s best worn with a thick jumper in colder weather. There’s one big button to fasten it and a tiny one under the collar that barely gets used. I’m only 5ft 4 and it stops around my knees, thankfully. Nothing has ever fit me so perfectly, and the utter joy of happenstance has never worn off. Despite being second-hand, old and cheap, (in my opinion) it is a show-stopping coat. I certainly emit a different demeanour in the coat: it brings confidence and joy, equalled by the compliments I often receive when wearing it.

We have experienced many firsts together. First drink, first cigarette, first gig, first kiss, first night out. It came with me to my first day of college at 16, and my first days at both tries at university. It has lain dormant on the back seat of my first car, been worn by girlfriends and boyfriends, been used as a blanket on Cleethorpes beach. Wearing it recalls lame gigs by ex-boyfriends in dingy Grimsby pubs, deep belly laughs shared with friends over cheesy chips after sweating in it dancing on sticky nightclub lino. We’ve had lone contemplative bus journeys, visits to grandparents, explorative walks in the Manchester rain when I first left home. The coat has been one of the most dependable features of my adolescence, and the signs of its wear are tangible. Fortunately, leopard print is forgiving enough to disguise patches of worn off fur. There are more obvious naked strips on the cuffs, there are slices in the slits that I dutifully have repaired every year, as if she is a car having her MOT. Beauty lies within whether or not her marks have been made by me, or whatever life she lived before. Several times she has been taken to the dry cleaners, and doused in every perfume I’ve ever owned, and yet in true charity shop style the smell of must never lifts. The scent is an endearing reminder of a life I can never know, but respect and imagine.

As for everyone, life has changed a lot from the 16-year-old who acquired this coat, to the 22-year-old who owns it today. Looking at the coat now and thinking of our future together; I’m pleased she saw everything I did, sat on the same benches, hung on the shoulders of people I loved. In this coat I experienced the first tastes of freedom, a world away from my reality living full time with my parents again. Yet my coat and I may still find ourselves in places we have previously visited together: my grandparents’ flat, chip shops, the field opposite my house, supermarkets, wind-battered benches, the beach. These mundane occurrences are now the most exciting parts of my day: bland moments made thrilling by wearing my leopard coat.

Leopard Print Coat by Molly May Clark

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