We are accustomed to new technology driving old ways to obsolescence, but Kathleen Gray Farthing found that her mother’s old fur coat is an exceptional guard against winter cold.
The Ohio painter put her mom’s old coat on to battle wind-chill temperatures nearing 5 degrees. It was up to the task. Who needs fancy modern fibers?
“The coat is almost 60 years old,” Farthing says. “My grandmother bought it for my mom when she moved to Boston for the cold, windy winters. She was a tiny little thing — 5’ tall and about 100 pounds. I have a hard time picturing her in it — it’s big and weighs a ton! It was roomy enough to wear through her pregnancy. When my daughter moved to Boston to study art at Boston University, my mom offered the coat to her. Haley wouldn’t consider wearing a fur coat (and I would never buy a new one). But I kept the coat here and discovered it is incredibly warm. For my first snowy plein air outing, I decided to give the coat a try. Who wants to freeze while they’re painting? I feel like a big, brown bear when I paint in the coat, but I don’t get cold.”
The photo of Farthing in the coat caused a stir on social media, with one person saying the artist looked like Nanook of the North. “Nancy [Hawkins, a painting buddy] says I look like a cozy teddy bear. I like that better than Nanook.”
In typical plein air painter style, Hawkins and Farthing bring plenty of alternative apparel so as to be ready for variable weather conditions. Berets, winter hats, ball caps — all come along with them, in case they are needed. Farthing said despite what she may have looked like, she was plenty warm, and the duo only bailed when their hands and feet protested too much.
“One thing’s for sure — you can’t worry about being fashionable if you want to stay warm,” says Farthing. “But who cares? People already think we’re crazy going out to paint when it’s 14 degrees.”