Statement Pieces: Caroline Ritchie’s Corduroy Jacket

A $69 jacket from a Melbourne charity shop gives Caroline Ritchie more trouble than she bargained for...

In its life of unknown length, my big black corduroy jacket must have had many adventures. I am not its first owner, and so I can only describe one chapter of its history. But it has been, I think, an interesting chapter.

It didn’t leap out at me at first. Mum had taken me on a random spree into one of those dust-darkened ‘vintage’ stores in Melbourne’s inner city. There were all manner of baubled, artfully frayed jackets, absolutely packed like sardines along a teetering rack. I’ve always loved random, glittery clothes, so I was a pig in mud. I must have tried on about fifteen different jackets, mostly just as a bit of fun. It was just as we were about to leave that I pulled the black corduroy jacket out from where it was buried, deep in the jackety jumble. I was struck by how unadorned and quiet it was, next to the busy buzz of kitsch applique and sequin. It seemed to me almost immediately to be the perfect jacket for the coming Melbourne winter: not too thick, not too thin, and roomy enough to accommodate any of my ungainly, baggy jumpers that mum hated so much.

Mum hated that jacket too, but she did buy it for me, in what must have been a momentary lapse of judgement, for $69. Not an altogether unreasonable price, we thought – at the time. When I got home, I eagerly threw off my nondescript puffer jacket, and enveloped myself in the roomy new jacket. It was only when I rolled down the left sleeve that I noticed a small tag, attached to the cuff, which read ‘Vinnies: $6.’ It’s common knowledge that vintage retailers scour local charity shops to find bargains, and proceed to cheekily mark their loot up for resale. But it was pretty maddening to have it shoved in our faces like that!

Still, I loved that jacket, and was wearing it almost every day on top of whatever outfit I had cobbled together (exerting great effort, of course, to appear effortless). But one day it disappeared. I retraced my steps. I had worn it out into the city that day, to see a screening of David Lynch’s ‘Blue Velvet’. It was a sort of mild day, perhaps breathing the first breath of spring. I had grown warm and must have taken the jacket off on the tram, in the cinema, or in a café, and simply walked away. It was a shame to lose something I had become so fond of. I doubted that I would be able to find a replacement.

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A few weeks later, on a day out charity shopping, I came across what looked like a carbon copy of that black jacket. I was thrilled: the velveteen corduroy looked exactly the way it had on my old jacket, and it had the same worn look that I had loved so much. Perhaps I would be able to replace it after all. I hastily tried it on. Reaching my hands into the deep pockets, I heard a small papery rustle. I pulled out the piece of paper and found, to my amazement, that it was a movie ticket – a ticket, in fact, to a screening of ‘Blue Velvet.’