I have a coat designed by Norma Komali. I bought it decades ago in the 80’s. It was at a time in my life when I could least afford it but I had to have it. It spoke to me and finally after visiting it three or four times over a couple weeks, it would not let me leave Bloomingdales without it.
Coats back then were big, long and in this case, puffy. In fact it was called a “sleeping bag coat.” It is all black and big enough to hold three of us. Made with some synthetic variation of down it t it could be squished into its own mini sleeping bag and could be used as an emergency pillow. It was warm and…wait! What am I saying? It is still warm! Yes, I am one of those that holds onto something if it still works and even though this looks oh-so-dated, it works!
My calf length parka had no buttons or zippers to hold it together, but I wore it to every outdoor winter event; buttons or not I would wear it all the way up to April, if it was still cold enough to warrant it. It was so big that it made me look petite as I peeked out from inside its enormity and that of course was what every woman wants. My average 5’6” was dwarfed by its size.
It did something else for me besides make me look small and keep me warm, it was a people magnet and not just any people – all people, famous ones, handsome-sexy ones, young, old, skinny and fat ones too! The darn thing, because of its size, looked more than just inviting, it was a challenge. It asked the question: Can one more person fit in there, could we see how many could fit in there creating an endless stream of heat seekers emerging from it like a clown car? More than one celebrity would come running to me on a freezing cold winter set and stick frozen hands around me, inside that coat, while I would wrap the front panels around them. They would run to me and “Norma” first, skipping the all-important meeting with the director or the always-too-distant trailers while they waited for the shot to be reset. It was the ultimate movie star hug – to lil’ol me! Come on, let me think it was me they were hugging and not Norma. Thank you.
Robert Stack was the first to surprise me with this indulgent frontal attack but there were other actors and crew members that would have a temporary warm-up with me and Miss Kamali. Of course my children hid inside that thing every chance they had. It was their hideout and would have set up house inside it if I let them. The two little burrowers would peek out only occasionally if they sensed an approaching threat or a donut. Maybe the size of it turned everyone into a kid. It made grown men cower; its call was like and irresistible siren singing a seductive-wrap-your-arms-around-the-person-inside-that-black-tent-song. Even famous celebrities would lose all their power beneath its protective walls. Norma was used so many times on late night sets either as a blanket or pillow. The bonus was that she always smelled like winter with just a touch of perfume. It was hard to resist on many levels.
One of the strongest memories Norma provided me was trudging down a path through deep snow, holding the flaps together by sticking my hands through the opposite sleeve and crossing them so they were tight against me. Along with a big black wooly hat that covered my ears and tied under my chin, I felt like a starving, poverty stricken person in the Siberian Tundra, with head bent down against the driving snow, while hunting down a bread line or checking the bear traps in the woods. Then shaking off vigorously and stomping off the melting crystals on the snow packed side walk, I would enter the nearby market (Whole Foods) and hike through the narrow passages to the (non-existent) bread line. Good imagination, sorry.
The “old girl” still hangs in my closet some 35 years later – black, huge, long and warm. I talk to her every now and then when I reach for a different jacket. I imagine her sneering at the other “light-weights” that hang along with her. Reassuringly I’ll tell her it’s not cold enough outside for her today or that she’ll be happier inside this afternoon because it’s just plain old rain out there and not worthy of her time. I wonder if age has made her a little more accepting of her closeted life. I know she’ll be ready for the next blizzard though. Out she’ll come with her “head” held high, not even giving the other closet occupants a backwards glance. That’s my Norma, the stalwart winter trooper that I can only hope will continue to attract movie stars.