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The Big Question: Put Down Your Coffee Edition | Manolo for the Big Girl

The Big Question: Put Down Your Coffee Edition

Let’s talk about muffs.

(everyone recovered from their spit takes? Good. Let’s move on.)

For some, the holidays begin at the lighting of the first advent candle, for others it’s when when Creepy Uncle Kyle hits the eggnog juuust a bit too hard and starts loitering under the mistletoe even though he’s directly related to everyone in the room. For me, it’s the annual unveiling of my vintage beaver muff.

People just don’t wear muffs anymore, and I think it’s a shame. They’re so damn handy, especially when you live somewhere where it’s not really quite cold enough to need a full proper coat, but you do need something more than gloves. I bought mine a few years ago at a now-defunct antique furrier stall at Austin Antique Mall (you can get yours on eBay or at Ruby Lane, but fair warning: be ye careful with your search terms) and people just LOVE it, in fact, it’s getting worn out from so much petting that I’ll probably have to get a new one soon, so I can rotate.

From a fashion standpoint, muffs tend to require a certain presence, which makes it one of those great pieces that are actually more successful on a big girl. Think Shelley Winters, not Shelley Duvall.

I’d suggest if you’re procuring a muff for the first time to go with a color other than white, as white tends to be both a bit infantilizing –think of the millions of little girls with their precious little white rabbit muffs– and costumey (we don’t mind referencing Dickens and Victorian Christmas carolers, but we don’t want to actually look like one) so stick with brown or black instead.

Today Miss Plumcake wants to know:

What piece of clothing/accessory signals the beginning of the holidays in your heart? It can be a current favorite –embarrassing turkey sweater anyone?– or something from your youth. I just want to know what gets your bells a-jinglin’.

42 Responses to “The Big Question: Put Down Your Coffee Edition”

  1. Jennifer December 2, 2009 at 3:27 pm #

    For me, it’s gloves. In SoCal we don’t have snow (except at the ski resorts and that’s not real snow), and the most we have is wind chill or rain. When you pull out the gloves and mittens, you KNOW it’s winter.

  2. Jane H. December 2, 2009 at 3:34 pm #

    Putting my blue ceramic Christmas tree pin on the collar of my red winter coat. I’ve had the pin for years and it has been on several red coats. I have a lovely red and blue plaid wool scarf and blue leather gloves trimmed in red. Puts me right in the holiday season.

  3. LL December 2, 2009 at 3:40 pm #

    My penguin print pajama pants. I also live in Austin and it doesn’t really get cold enough to wear flannel (even at night, with all the windows open) until, well, about now.

    I only wear them at home, on the fashion no man’s land of my couch, while drinking hot chocolate (beer), watching educational tv (football) and making blankets for the poor (snuggling a cat).

  4. Twistie December 2, 2009 at 3:50 pm #

    The annual unveiling of my glow-in-the-dark pajamas of reindeer going Christmas shopping. Tacky? Youbetcha! But they’re comfy, cozy flannel and the only person who sees them is Mr. Twistie who gets giddy at the glow-in-the-dark aspect. They make him giggle, which is a very special thing.

  5. Plumcake December 2, 2009 at 4:03 pm #

    aw Jennifer, that’s so sweet. I wear gloves regularly because it’s part of My Thing but my favorite winter gloves –wild velvet Lacroix, which Style Spy picked up for me the last time she was in Paris– only come out when it’s truly cold.

  6. Plumcake December 2, 2009 at 4:03 pm #

    Jane, will you treat us to a picture of your pin when the time comes?

  7. Plumcake December 2, 2009 at 4:08 pm #

    LL, what? You don’t believe we’re going to get The Storm of The Century on Friday? I’m loaded up with toilet paper, booze and a gingerbread cake the side of a pony. I say bring it on!

  8. Plumcake December 2, 2009 at 4:10 pm #

    Men, in my experience, appreciate women who glow in the dark.

  9. TropicalChrome December 2, 2009 at 4:25 pm #

    My Snacks at the Ritz Christmas Tree earrings. All the Lunch at the Ritz jewelry proudly walks that fine line between tacky and statement, and these trees are no exception – they’re enameled with embedded glitter, so they’re a bit more subtle than rhinestones :). I love them and receive the most wonderful smiles in response to them, which is a lot of what the holidays are about.

    Scarves and gloves and the like don’t say holiday to me – I’ve been wearing them since it started snowing in October.

  10. Beth December 2, 2009 at 4:28 pm #

    For me, it’s the annual unveiling of my vintage beaver muff. *snicker*

    What?! I CAN’T HELP IT! Yes, I am ten.

    Anyway, I don’t really have a “holiday” thing, but I know winter is starting when I need to pull out my red wool coat.

  11. LL December 2, 2009 at 4:32 pm #

    I know we’re safe this weekend, and I’ll tell you why. I am going grocery shopping tonight. We never have TSOTC when I have a house full of food. It only shows up when I have nothing but wine that’s been open a week (“cooking wine”), a parmesan rind and soy sauce packets from 2005 in my fridge.

    On the other hand, I do think you’re set to throw one HELL of a party.

  12. Plumcake December 2, 2009 at 4:38 pm #

    Chrome, oh man those are SO awful! I love them!

  13. Peaches December 2, 2009 at 4:43 pm #

    My charcoal gray cashmere robe that I like to think passes as a sweater coat when worn over jeans. I live in it during winter. Its just so cozy! And… flannel pj’s. The dogs also get ready for the holidays with festive theme collars.

  14. 30 Dresses in 30 Days December 2, 2009 at 4:53 pm #

    I am so with you. My Grandma had one to die for (my Grandfather was a furrier so it was nice) but it was too small for me. I know you’re thinking how could it be too small? Well my Grandma was like 4 1/2 feet tall and everything she owned was in miniature sizes, inc her muff. You’ve inspired me to go looking for one of my own.

  15. gemdiva December 2, 2009 at 5:16 pm #

    I have an antique silver Jeorg Jensen Reindeer pin that I wear all through the holidays and sometimes even after. It was a gift from a friend and always helps me get into the spirit of the season

  16. cedar December 2, 2009 at 5:32 pm #

    No one thing, really, but because I live for bright colors I have lots of red clothes AND lots of green clothes (true red and moss green are the colors in which I look most superfantastic) and it kind of limits my wardrobe not to wear them together. But I never do, for the same reason I don’t wear my red stuff with my bright blue stuff and a white t-shirt. Tacky. But in the few weeks surrounding Christmas I feel like I can wear my well cut red slacks with a green cashmere sweater and be sort of festively appropriate.

  17. Holls December 2, 2009 at 6:12 pm #

    I have a beautiful vintage muff: mink with a Bakelite handle. And it delights me all winter long.

  18. Plumcake December 2, 2009 at 6:22 pm #

    omg, bakelite handle?! Yes please! My muff just has a loop.

  19. Jo December 2, 2009 at 6:31 pm #

    I am now hunting for a muff…in the UK there seems to be a bit less choice though!

  20. Melissa December 2, 2009 at 7:29 pm #

    I don’t have a thing to wear that puts me in the spirit – although now I absolutely MUST find something amazing. For me it’s an event. In Houston they have a ballet benefit called the Nutcracker Market. It’s Christmas on crack and makes me oh so holly jolly. From the little precious ones singing carols up on the stage to the smells of mulled ciders wafting about. Oh, and the big honking Neiman Marcus jewelry counter in the center. Sadly, I missed it this year.

  21. Friv December 2, 2009 at 7:42 pm #

    Of COURSE your muff is beaver.

    Mine is mink, and was made for my grandmother out of my great-grandmother’s mink cape. Or capelet, I’m not sure – it had sufficient pelts to make 2 muffs, one for grandma, one for great aunt Mary. Sadly, I live in California where it is rarely mink-muff cold, and I don’t have anything approaching your presence, but perhaps I’ll see how much presence I can drum up next time I head to the City for Symphony on a chilly evening.

  22. Jeni December 2, 2009 at 10:18 pm #

    I also have a mink muff made out of my great grandmother’s mink capelet (or something I don’t really remember)…My grandmother had it made up for my as a present last year. I love it like cake! The women who did it even managed to use the original silk lining that had my g-grandmother’s initial in it which I found awesome. The muff is for winter reenactments (yes I’m a civil war reenactor, I know major dork but who cares, its fun) but I will break it out when I need to fancy up my winter outerwear.

    I don’t really have anything that I wear to usher in the holidays…No holiday sweaters, or jewelry (I wear pearls, only pearls). I don’t even own any cute holiday pjs, how sad (must remedy!). I break out my silk long underwear about this time (I volunteer at a equine therapy school) but I wouldn’t say it puts me in the holiday spirit more like puts me in the “Yay its winter” separate…

  23. Lizb December 2, 2009 at 10:35 pm #

    December in Boston is ordinarily the time to break out the wool coat, scarf, hat, gloves, boots and what have you (ordinarily but not so much yet, thank you very much global warming). I love dressing up said coats with bright, sparkly, and not-so-small brooches. A touch of glamour and elegance that lets me wear the holiday spirit in my own way.

  24. Bobbi December 2, 2009 at 11:47 pm #

    Black patent mary janes to go with velvet dresses. That was my childhood, is a part of my daughters’ and I am thinking there are some very good reasons to reinterpret it for my adult hood.

  25. zanthine December 3, 2009 at 2:26 am #

    For me it’s my flannel Sock-monkey christmas jammies– said sock monkeys have santa hats and christmas wreaths. High of class and sophistication, but I love them and don’t actually care. I’m actually wearing them now whilst watching a bootlegged copy of “The Hogfather” which is clearly going to be a new christmas tradition. So much Terry Prachett love!

    As kids my grandmother sent my sister and I matching rabbit-fur hats and muffs. Central Texas made very few demands on them, but we loved playing dress-up all the same!

  26. raincoaster December 3, 2009 at 2:58 am #

    I’m having my mother’s muskrat coat turned into matching muffs for my sister and me, just as soon as I’ve saved enough to pay the labour of the two crazy lesbians who live in the converted Baptist church down the block. Seriously, how they can make a career out of converting old fur coats, I do not know.

    They make teddy bears as well, for $90 labour each, by the way.

    For me, I always know it’s winter when I bring out my fun ruffled, pleated, plaid pink scarf. It sounds horrible, and it would be if I wore it with anything other than black or grey. It cost me ten bucks at Winners and then of course I found a handbag that matched it at a little boutique and spent literally 20 times what I spent on the scarf buying the bag. But buy god, people stop me in the street to tell me how fabulous I look with my pink explosion scarf, pink bag, and black coat and hat.

  27. Margo December 3, 2009 at 7:18 am #

    In NZ, Christmas means summer, so when I smell sunscreen it zaps me back to that time of year instantly.

  28. La Petite Acadienne December 3, 2009 at 10:21 am #

    I have a cocktail ring that belonged to my stepfather’s mother, and I only bring it out for holiday parties. So that ring immediately evokes the holidays for me. That, and anything velvet.

    A question about muffs — I love the glamour of them, but what does one DO with them? I’m sure they’d look amazing while standing there, with snowflakes falling softly. But do you use it while running errands? Do you find it hard to walk with both hands tucked in front of you like that? And what do you do when you take it off in a store — with gloves, I can just shove them in my pockets or in my bag, but one obviously can’t do that with a muff. I’m intrigued by the idea of them, but am just unsure as to how it would work for everyday life.

  29. All Women Stalker December 3, 2009 at 10:29 am #

    I live in the tropics. The weather is usually hot especially during the day. I know when it’s the holidays when I need to wear jogging pants and a sweater to bed. It gets colder here in December…. In fact, right now, I have a sweater handy.

    -Denise

  30. dcsurfergirl December 3, 2009 at 11:41 am #

    I want to see the glow-in-the-dark PJs! Got pics?

    I really don’t have any holiday wear other than a brooch that was my mom’s and a holly print silk scarf (bought at the downtown DC Hecht Company a few months before it morphed into a Macy’s).

    Department store cosmetics counters signal the start of the holiday season. Yeah, I am a makeup geek, like the website of the same name. All those gift sets get me happy, especially the perfume ones!

    Why? They remind me of my mom (died 1993) and grandma (my mom’s mom, died 2007). They always dressed well on their limited budgets and never left their houses without makeup. I miss them.

  31. Lisa December 3, 2009 at 12:24 pm #

    Oh I just love those perfume sets!!

  32. Kai Jones December 3, 2009 at 1:14 pm #

    I have a muff…I knitted it myself out of ends of my favorite yarns. The pattern is free: http://www.knitty.com/ISSUEsummer06/PATTmuff.html

    I mostly use it in the car while my husband drives me to work. I occasionally think of it as part of that fashion for objects that restrict women’s movement in order to restrict their ability to run away, or think for themselves, or take care of their own needs. After all, if both your hands are in the muff, who carries the packages? Who opens the doors? etc.

  33. Janey December 3, 2009 at 5:30 pm #

    Winter means my gloves with SPIT and FIRE embroidered on the fingers.

  34. Margo December 3, 2009 at 6:19 pm #

    Janey, my hat is doffed.

  35. MJ December 4, 2009 at 2:01 am #

    Coincidentally, I have my hands thrust deeply into my muff as we speak!

  36. Karol December 4, 2009 at 4:15 am #

    A red sweater with a touch of sequin always brings a holiday warmth to me. Problem is, living in California, I sometimes forget to pull it out from the back of the closet. And when this happens, I have to wait till the next year and hope i don’t forget again. What can I say, it has its limitations and just works best during the holidays.

  37. La Petite Acadienne December 4, 2009 at 10:54 am #

    Evidently MJ has learned the art of typing with her nose….

  38. Plumcake December 4, 2009 at 10:56 am #

    I knew I could trust Mistress MJ to have room enough for a keyboard!

  39. Vivian December 4, 2009 at 2:40 pm #

    About 20 years ago I found a Suttles and Seawinds ruffled skirt in reds and greens. Shockingly, it also the only piece of theirs I’ve found in a plus size *and* it’s long enough for me. It has a bit of black velvet trim so I usually wear a dressy black top and shoes, but I’ve been known to go with a red one, if I’m looking to really make a splash. It’s my one piece of seasonal wear. (except for a few pairs of decorated socks)

  40. La BellaDonna December 5, 2009 at 10:47 am #

    @La Petite, the muffs I have (worn one at a time, of course) are FABULOUS for standing in the unsheltered cold, wondering if SEPTA is finally going to send a bus so I can get home. In stores, while shopping, the muff can either dangle from its wristloop (usually attached, can be attached by oneself), or around one’s neck, on a long chain (seldom found thus nowadays, but again, can be added), OR, what I generally do: I shove it up one wrist like a big furry cuff whilst I use my hands, and then resume the Muff, Waiting position again when I’m done.

    @Jeni, there are several fabulous/dorky re-enactors here; you’re in good company.

    @Raincoaster, money WELL SPENT!

    @Kai, muffs have been popular for centuries, but women have managed to lug stuff when they’ve needed to. It isn’t really that difficult if you have a cord attached so that the muff can hang from your wrist, or around your neck, when you’re not using it – or simply pushing it up one arm, if you don’t want the muff swinging from your wrist. I wear a shoulderbag, which isn’t inconvenienced by the muff, but a LOT of muffs actually had pockets inside them, so your money, your keys, and your other bits and bobs fit inside the muff itself, making it a bag that kept your hands warm. If you include those little handwarmers that sell for .50-1.00 a pack, they can stay REALLY warm inside the muff! For women who expected to walk several miles during the course of a winter’s day, muffs might be what kept frostbite at bay (especially if you tucked a hot potato inside to keep your hands even warmer).

  41. Toby Wollin December 5, 2009 at 5:16 pm #

    Wow – there must be something in the air because I’ve been working on a winter coat project and all the while in my head has been a little voice saying, “What you REALLY need to go with this coat is a muff.” Now, unfortunately, the person who would have been my source for said muff (or even lessons on how to make one) was my dear, grouchy, totally un-PC grandfather who was a furrier. I do own one of the coats he made for my grandmother, in Persian lamb, which frankly from age probably only has enough useful skin in it to make a muff..if only I knew how to work with that sort of thing. But definitely, a muff is something I would dearly love to have since my walk to work in the mornings is about a half hour and up here in Upstate NY, a muff on that walk would be very handy indeed. As for some article that puts me in the holiday spirit, I’d have to say that my mom used to do that since she entertained in a mighty way between Thanksgiving and Burns Night, and used every opportunity to dress up to and beyond the red line in sparkly tops, yards of gold chains and gold shoes. She is no longer with us, but damn she lived with enormous style.

  42. Taybeh Chaser December 9, 2009 at 1:05 am #

    I still remember (somewhat fondly and somewhat ruefully) the red velvet and lace Christmas dresses my mom used to put on us for the annual Christmas photo. Still what I think of when I think of Xmas clothes or winter clothes, even if I wouldn’t be seen dead in such a thing today.