J.Crew does J.Peterman

The J.Peterman duster has been around since I babysat for professors' kids and thumbed through their magazines (Peterman advertised in The New Yorker, not Highlights for Children). It gave me the idea of protecting the bottom part of my trousers, or my legs in fragile hose, from being splashed by inconsiderate drivers. Even though there's lot of short rainwear around, long remains my preference. I've copied the Peterman catalog's description to show that it is possible to write fanciful or evocative or even silly descriptions without doing serious harm to the English language. I don't think the duster's waterproof, or even water-resistant, nor does my current lifestyle call for anything with a "saddle vent," but I can like the coat, read the copy, and chuckle. In a nice way. I've never known anyone who owned this coat, although I once saw one on a tall guy with clipboard outside a sample sale. He looked like he wanted to be recognized.

Now I turn to another duster-like outer garment, which I haven't seen in person, even on someone with a clipboard. This is the J.Crew Nili Lotan overcoat. The breathless description leaves out the part about the elves who weave the magic fabric while waiting for the cookies to cool and then hand the fabric from tree branches for the birds to admire while the elves box up the cookies. This is disappointing: I would expect no less for an unlined garment going for $528. Otherwise the copy ticks all the boxes: in love, streamlined, understated, effortlessly chic, crafted. Aha! they left out "our newest obsession" and "we're obsessed." I always thought if you had obsessions, you dealt with them and if they really bothered you, you got help. It appears that some (collective) obsessions can just go away. Oh, and it looks to me like the coat "hits" at or above the knee, not at mid-thigh. Now I am chuckling, but not in a nice way.

It's not just the human anatomy that confuses the interplanetary crowd: I've concluded that everything on their home planet is a colloid, since the most basic concepts of, say, a straight line, up vs. down, down vs. across, and the like, continue to elude them. Clearly such concepts are not necessary on a planet where the basic means of locomotion is the ooze.

Let us look at horizontal vs. vertical. is a vertical line. is a horizontal line. We will deal with the names of other kinds of lines in the Advanced Session. Now we look at a New Arrival in the J.Crew catalog: the Snowbound Sweater. Made of cashmere along the lines of the classic shetland crew. So far, so good.

 Granted, this is a sewn-in yoke, and a very nice yoke it is. However, there are two seams that connect the yoke to the body of the sweater, and to do this, one of them has to be horizontal. The other has to be vertical. Otherwise the result would be a dustmop, not a garment. So having seams hold one piece of a garment to another is not a feature. It is sewing. It could be a feature if the seaming were decorative. As it is, telling me that my sweater is sewn together suggests that others may not be. Well, if the sweater had been hand-knitted on circular needles, then there might not be any seams, but in that case why add them? Enough, stop, it looks like a nice sweater, I like the idea of the yoke, and I hope some kind soul will order it and let me know how it fits and how the construction is on the inside. I used to cringe when my mom would turn something inside out and point out the reasons she wasn't going to buy it. Now of course I -- is every woman's worst fear turning into her mother, or not turning into her mother? Have you ever heard tapes of your mother coming out of your very own mouth?

I warned you, didn't I, that as Hallowe'en draws near, there will be a number of posts with scary subjects. Turning into one's mother is one of the scariest.


  1. The sewn-in yoke looks gimmicky to me and I would totally be flipping it inside out to see how it is made. I often get a raised brow while shopping because I must see the content tag at the very least and sometimes you have to put your hand up the bottom of a skirt, shirt or dress to find it on the side seam.

    I'm not so enamored with the latest from J.Crew. Things seem expensive for what they are or what they are not, really. Surprise, surprise, another pencil skirt, suiting dress and mixed-tape cardi in my cart. This is getting too predictable.

    I adore my mother and would love to be like her. I wanted to be a doctor too but I don't like to be around sick people, it's depressing. I don't know how she stays so positive. I got the much more pessimistic outlook that my father had. At least he was old enough to be considered crotchety. I don't have an excuse.

  2. Hi, xoxo - My mom was great when I was little, kind, supportive, imaginative, but my adolescence was more difficult for her than it was for me. And then she had my sister to deal with! Fortunately we all survived, and returned to being one another's closest friends again. And my dad? enjoyed being a colorful character, is the succinct way to put it.

    I can't buy an article of clothing without checking the fabric content. Just can't.

  3. Southern Belle Ph.D.October 14, 2011 at 2:59 PM

    Hello WFF, Refraing from JC purchases due to quality concerns expressed by all. Would love three of the cashmere sweaters but will wait for more reviews and lower prices, just in case they develop holes as they have for me in the recent past.

    Thank you for reminding me of J Peterman. Have not received that catalog in years. Just checked the site and they have some things I really like.

    On the subject of Mother's, I aspire to be just like my mother every day of my life. She is deceased and I miss her terribly. Such a gracious and kind Southern Lady.

    Have a nice weekend preparing for your trip!

  4. Very funny! Gosh, J Peterman is blast from the past. I love the deconstruction of J Crew...if only all the product descriptions had your footnotes attached, I'd save a lot of money.

  5. Hi, SouthernBellePhD, given what's been happening with all the other retail "greats," I'm not sure J.Peterman is owned by the people who started it - but in looking through the catalog, I sure thought a few things were worth trying!

    I pack this weekend while Himself suffers at the football game. It will not be pretty.

  6. Hi, Sue/The View, I guess I'm like my mom in that I like to know what I'm getting, so I guess (again) that her work was not entirely in vain!

  7. Gosh, I had forgotten about J. Peterman!
    I used to read their catalogs as a collection of short novels, the descriptions were brilliant. One of my favorite was the one for the Progress Turtleneck, no longer available, but it can still be seen here http://www.fjkluth.com/greps05.html
    This stayed with me since I first read it "People expect to see a Walther PPK strapped over it, so you don't even need to bother."

    I am sure that J. Crew would hugely benefit from weaving interesting stories about their items, and by a whole different team of copywriters!

  8. Wow, Cris, thank you for the trip down Memory Lane. Beyond evocative!

  9. I NEVER noticed before the ridiculous errors JCrew included in their write ups. I gloss over so many words these days...just show me the pictures quick! They are entralled with themselves aren't they? Cause that's what it is bottom line. Why simply describe when you can gush--more marketing bang for the buck!

    I loved the JPeterman catalogues back in the day too. That's when I'd go buy a facsimile at Banana Republic without paying for shipping! That's before BR went urban and started working in offices instead of going on safari. Oh, well. Things change.

    Back then JCrew models were university kids doing fun stuff and going camping--cafes and traveling 'round the world in cute clothes were the trust fund kids we didn't know. Still have my wool black funnel neck sweater (that I wore to cafes travelling in Europe--I never said I was the girl next door).

    Really loving your blog!!!

  10. Hi, Dannie, thank you! Yes, dreams of adventures and Gauloises Bleues.... By the way, I actually tried them and smelled for days. Mom asked if there was something wrong with the drainage at school. And I still have my black funnel neck too!

  11. My mom was like that as well. Since she was a knitter, she always checked natural fabric content. Now so do I. Except I haven't knitted anything in ages.

    Looking forward to more scary posts. :D

  12. Hi, Rose, find the fabric tag is getting to be an Olympic sport around here!


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