My Mother's Best Coat by Dorothy Snelson


Was it elegant, sophisticated, the very height of fashion and chic, with  up to the minute styling and catwalk provenance?

            No, it was a Teddy Bear coat. Purchased nonetheless from that doyen of forties fashion, Mabel Bannister,  purveyor of Gowns and Outerwear, Market Street Westhoughton.

            That coat was my childhood refuge from the cold, a comforter when sick, and later a dressing up staple.

            It was cuddly, thick, and brown. It bore no resemblance to real fur with  that soft and silky feel. This was fake fur through and through, but oh so warm and comforting. It was what was termed in those days a swagger coat , with a loose feel, and without fastenings of any sort. Waiting at the tram stop on a bitter cold winter’s evening my mother would open it’s folds, and I would snuggle inside as she folded it around me. So snug and warm and safe.

            Ill in bed , I would beg her to put the Teddy Bear coat over me, and it was a comfort blanket to snuggle under,  and stroke and fondle.

           As I grew older and the Teddy Bear coat was superseded by a hound’s-tooth check in black and white , again from the renowned Mabel Bannister, it became a wonderful dressing up item.  I would sweep around the bedroom clutching it from the floor, as I became Ava Gardner or Doris Day. Or I would spread it on the floor, and it became a magic carpet or a desert island. It fired my childhood imagination,  that teddy bear coat. I can see it now, stroke it, lay my cheek against it,  plunge my fingers into its soft depths and smell my mother’s fragrance; Evening in Paris, Woolworths,1949.