We have been instructed, traditionally, not to cast a clout ‘til May is out, but at this rate, some of us are beginning to wonder if we will ever be able to cast off any clouts in Yorkshire ever again.
“Clout”, for our younger readers, is an old-fashioned word for a piece of clothing. May is generally assumed to mean the month, but it’s thought more likely that it refers to the hawthorn or May blossom, which flowers late April to early May. So, the advice is, don’t remove any items of clothing until the blossoms are in full bloom.
Even then, I’d think twice.
April, meanwhile, is the cruellest month (according to TS Eliot, anyway), and is associated with showers of rain. It is to combat these that macs were created, to replace our heavy woollen coats with something lighter, both in terms of weight and often colour, but weatherproof(ish), in case of contact with water and gusts of wind.
Generally speaking, spring macs and trench coats are not expected to have to deal with bitter cold and blizzard conditions.
They tend to be slim-fitting, unable to accommodate large woollen jumpers and cardigans beneath, as anyone who has tried will testify. A mac or trench which does allow for thick layers under in any case does not look like a spring coat. Still, they are flooding onto the High Street and online stores right now, so here is hoping that investing in a new one this year will not be a waste of money. There are some excellent options at excellent prices, so it seems a shame not to.
If you don’t already have a classic trench, this is the year to invest in one, as there are plenty to choose from. Go for cream or buff, if you want to keep it for ever, but there are also versions in pink, silver, turquoise and white.
Personally, I would avoid the ones with contrast piping on the collars and cuffs, because I suspect this will soon look outdated. In any case, there is something slightly “cruise ship entertainer” about contrast piping.
The military mac is still going strong, and at least can be buttoned up to the neck when the winds start to howl.
The slim, single-breasted, cream, above-the-knee mac is another classic to invest in now, if you haven’t already got one, or, like me, you have, but it’s looking rather beaten up, Columbo fashion.
Again, these don’t suit being overly roomy, unless you are deliberately going for a 1980s’ feel, so no woolly pullies under these either. Instead wear with slim, cropped cotton trousers or jeans, and with ankle boots or flats, if you can get away with it and don’t need the height.
If you want something a little more casual, look for a thigh-length swing mac or a fisherman’s short coat style – great for holidays and the beach on chilly days, easy to carry and perfect to throw on over pretty much anything, including thick woolly jumpers and cardigans.