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The Coat Route: Craft, Luxury, & Obsession on the Trail of a $50,000 Coat

4.15  ·  Rating Details  ·  262 Ratings  ·  59 Reviews
In today’s world of fast fashion, is there a place for a handcrafted $50,000 coat?

When journalist Meg Lukens Noonan learned of an unthinkably expensive, entirely handcrafted overcoat that a fourth-generation tailor had made for one of his longtime clients, she set off on an adventure to understand its provenance, and from that impulse unspooled rich and colorful stories a
Hardcover, 244 pages
Published July 16th 2013 by Spiegel & Grau (first published July 1st 2013)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 920)
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Althea Wynne-Davis
May 03, 2014 Althea Wynne-Davis rated it it was amazing
I don't know what made me pick up this book - just the idea of anyone spending $50,000 on a custom made coat or on any piece of clothing is baffling to me. Yet, upon sampling the introduction, Noonan's curious yet practical voice hooked me. Also, she and I share the same habit of buying cheap, "disposable" clothes at H&M and Forever 21. Once I read the first few pages, I knew I was going to be in the hands of someone similar enough to myself - i.e., not a high fashion insider. Tracing the pr ...more
Kim Olson
Nov 02, 2013 Kim Olson rated it it was amazing
I recently read a book about the trend of fast, throw-away fashion (Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion; highly recommended), so I was intrigued about the other end of the spectrum.

The Coat Route tells the story of an exquisite, hand-stitched vicuna overcoat that was made by John Cutler, one of the world's most gifted bespoke tailors. To tell the tale, the author details Cutler's process and also visits the various master crafters around the globe who provided the fabric and t
Aug 07, 2013 Greg rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kindle, non-fiction
Meg Lukens Noonan wrote The Coat Route after reading of an overcoat made by Sydney tailor John Cutler for $50,000. The book is a loving description of the fine materials and expert labour that went into creating this unique garment. Noonan tells us the stories behind the vicuna wool, the fabric, the silk, the horn buttons and the other elements of the coat's construction. Along the way she gives us potted histories of Savile Row, the Andean vicuna industry, the Yorkshire mill towns, button manuf ...more
Jan 07, 2014 Daledonna rated it it was amazing
Most amazing book. Even if you don't sew, it would be incredibly interesting. She follows the materials used in making a $50,000 vicuna overcoat by a Bespoke Tailor in Australia. She goes backwards and finds the source of the linings (Italy), the bone buttons (England), the vicuna (mountains of Peru) the tailors in trade (Saville Row), and does an indepth history of it all. It may sound boring, but it isn't. She's a great writer, and it makes you think about our throw-away clothes. For me, as a ...more
Hope Smash
Apr 11, 2015 Hope Smash rated it really liked it
I don't normally read non-fiction books, but my dad recommended this and I am glad I followed his suggestion because this was a great read. I studied costuming (design, drafting, draping, tailoring) at school so I have aways had an interest in hand crafted garments. Reading about the process of creating this coat, from harvesting the fabric, to choosing the lining, to fitting and construction, was absolutely fascinating. The writing tended to meander a bit at points, going off on tangents about ...more
Jun 15, 2013 SheilaRaeO rated it liked it
This book which follows the creation of a "bespoke" coat from learning about the rare vicunas animal (distant relative of the camel), almost extinct, which provides the most expensive wool in the world, to the world of specialty buttons and the beautiful silk used in the lining- no detail was missed. A captivating story of the many craftsmen and their skills - quickly dying out - that produced this most treasured of coats. At first I felt like Meg Lukens Noonan was doing for the tailor, and perh ...more
Eustacia Tan
Jul 26, 2013 Eustacia Tan rated it it was amazing
While I don't think of myself as an extravagant person, when I spend, I spend. I managed to shock my seniors when I bought omiyage (souvenirs) on a trip. I like to buy bargains, but I also like to splash out on things I like. Like a piano.

Ok, digressing. Ahem, back to topic. The Coat Route traces the origins of a $50 000 coat (Wait, what kind of dollar? USD? ASD?). If I had that much money, I would have gotten the top-range furisode already for ... Ok, stopping before I get distracted again.

Sep 11, 2013 Joyce rated it it was amazing
Gosh, I loved this book! I'm a sewer and interested in textiles and the surrounding industries, so this pushed all of the buttons, so to speak.

I didn't worry about WHY someone would commission a coat that wound up costing $50,000. I know there are people out there with boatloads of $$, so I'm happy that they're supporting a bunch of crafts that I care about. As the client mentioned, he could have easily spent that on a car which would only last a few years; this coat may be passed on to heirs!

Liina Bachmann
Feb 27, 2016 Liina Bachmann rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2016
This could have easily been a 5 star book but it quite wasn't.

Noonan wrote a book a about something that evokes tactile longing - the wish to touch the materials she describes. The least she could have done to ease that hunger would have been providing proper photos. Especially considering that she states more than once that she carried her camera with her. The poor quality small photos in my edition just didn't do.

The second and perhaps more annoying shortcoming for me was the constant "awe"
Marilyn Thompson
Mar 16, 2015 Marilyn Thompson rated it really liked it
Very interesting about couture sewing and tailoring.
Oct 05, 2013 Sophie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
An excellent look at the dying art of true bespoke tailoring and the many small, local industries it supports. It really makes you think about how to approach your own spending, not just on clothes, but on all of the disposable objects in our lives. I know it made me want to really commit to a different way of thinking about consumer goods overall! Added bonus: this book is a beautifully written travel/adventure journal. Highly recommended.
Sharon Stoneman
Dec 11, 2013 Sharon Stoneman rated it really liked it
What is luxury? Is it the brands you buy or is it something else? Ms Noonan investigates the creation of a single hand made garment and in so doing examines the current reality of fast fashion versus the world of handmade, bespoke clothing. A very interesting look at the people who craft the materials and the products, and at the people who acquire them.

Very interesting book - lots to think about.
Sep 07, 2014 Michelle rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A very enjoyable journey through the world of bespoke tailoring (which, you will learn, is different from made-to-measure). I envy the author her opportunity to peek into this world of true craftsmanship. It is, as you may imagine, also a world of Rolls Royces and penthouses, of traditions passed down through generations, of gentlemen who think brand names are crass. We follow the story of a coat from the Peruvian vicuñas to the fabric weavers to the silk lining to the buttons to the tailor hims ...more
Dec 20, 2013 Eileen rated it really liked it
Ok, there's no way I could spend $50000 on a coat, but this made me think about the disposable nature of most clothes we buy. Incredible that there are more particles of polyester than grains of sand on some beaches. After reading this book I am never buying polyester again!
Mar 08, 2014 Whitney rated it it was ok
There's nothing wrong with the writing, and the author's research is impeccable - but the obsession with extreme material consumption and the unacknowledged male-centeredness of this book just made it off-putting. The author engages in completely uncritical fawning over these very wealthy men and their fancy cars - presumably because they "let" her into their world for a peek at their insulated and privileged lives. The wide-eyed admiration of the man who goes big-game hunting just made me think ...more
Feb 05, 2016 Janet rated it it was amazing
This book is about more than a luxury garment. It is about the dying art of tailoring and handcrafted items. When the author heard about a coat that cost $50,000 she set out to understand why someone would spend that much on one item of clothing. Along the way she seeks out the people involved in the making of the coat and learns about their struggling industries. She meets the villagers who harvest the vicuna wool, the weavers, the button makers, the engravers, the silk designer, and the tailor ...more
Jun 28, 2013 Suniru rated it really liked it
The $50’000. cost of the coat is what first intrigued the author. “If you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it” truly applies here. This glimpse into the rarefied and endangered world of bespoke was fascinating; combining a relatively light topic with a heavier look at industrialization and globalization .

The Coat Route is a very enjoyable read It follows from A to Z the creation of a bespoke overcoat. “Bespoke” was a new word for me(!) Each chapter is dedicated to one aspect of the coat.
May 31, 2015 Dagne567 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Mulle meeldis raamat, aga see ei äratanud vaimustust. See oli sarja (Imeline Ajalugu) sobivalt põhjalik ning minu jaoks ebatüüpilisel teemal, nii et hariv (nt nööpide hämmastav maailm(!), inimesed, kes pidasid sajandeid loomulikuks, et vikunjavilla kättesaamiseks tuleb nahk looma seljast maha võtta jpm).

Raamat oleks võinud olla illustreeritud rohkemate ja paremate fotodega, ehkki oli ilmselt taotluslikult sõnakeskne.
Mar 08, 2015 Kristine rated it it was amazing
"The Coat Route is a love song to things of lasting value".

This is one of the most interesting books I have read in ages. Noonan frames her book around the construction of a coat. She tells how exquisite items made by true craftsman are now mass produced in China. (tailors, woolen mills, button makers,
etc. no longer exist).

Just read it! You will never look at a button the same way again. Trust me.

Nov 24, 2014 Robyn rated it really liked it
A book I would not normally read, however I found it fascinating, a real insight into how the other world of high fashion, otherwise know as "bespoke. The author manages to combine a story that traces the history, business and ethics of clothing, buttons, fleece, silk, gold engraving, that makes a $50,000 coat and the slow decline of the art of tailoring.
Jun 28, 2014 Stephanie rated it it was amazing
I found this book fascinating. As a sewer, you don't get to read these sort of books much.

The author, Meg Lukens Noonan saw a story on a coat that cost $50,000. She wanted to know why and how someone would pay this much for a coat as well as the story behind the jacket itself.

You go from Australia, South America, UK and Italy.. great read..
Aug 24, 2015 Susan rated it liked it
I think this subject - creating a $50,000 top
coat - would have made a good New Yorker
article but was the subject was not meaty enough for an entire book. With all respect
and admiration for artisans and craft people,
still I could not feel positively about using
$50K to fashion one coat for one rich man.
Jun 24, 2015 Jennifer rated it really liked it
This provided fascinating insight into all of the different materials that go into making a quality garment. It's an in depth look at the history of the materials, the economic and environmental impact of today's "disposable" fashion and what is involved in true quality craftsmanship.
Nov 02, 2014 Diana rated it really liked it
An absolutely fascinating, informative story of how a bespoke, quality coat gets handmade from the finest components from many areas of the world. Gave me a greater appreciation for the the history and reality of how each component is obtained and finished. Made me value my mill-workers forbears from West Yorkshire even more!
Aug 14, 2014 Krenner1 rated it it was amazing
What a charming nonfiction read! The author traces every component that goes into a bespoke $50,000 overcoat. To Peru for the vicuna, France, Italy, on down to the buttons. I will never look at clothes the same way again!
Jul 25, 2014 Hallie rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, industry
I really liked this book, but to be fair it's not for everyone. There's no real plot or premise - this book truly does just follow the path with which this one-of-a-kind, ridiculously expensive coat was design and created.

As someone interested in the garment industry and delving into the world of products that are manufactured with care, I really liked this book. I also really appreciated the amount of research it was clear that the author took to write this - there was a lot of time spent trave
Feb 07, 2014 Ciaobella rated it really liked it
Meg Noonan circles the globe, tracing the origins and history of the components that comprise a hand stitched bespoke overcoat. For those who love textiles, creating, quality and bargain priced clothing this is a quick and enjoyable travelogue.
May 22, 2016 Tahrana rated it really liked it
This was an interesting journey through how a bespoke coat is made and the artisans involved. A lot of discussion about trades/crafts/skills that are dying out.
Sep 23, 2014 Mandy rated it it was amazing
Gorgeous! Nicely written account of the manufacture of a $50,000 overcoat, following every step in the process of Sydney Tailor, John Cutler, and his mission to create a perfect coat. Beginning with the shearing of the vicuna fleece in Peru and ending with the sewing on of the 18c gold label in the Sydney workroom.
Evelin Kangur
Jul 29, 2016 Evelin Kangur rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great insight to the handmade sartorial world, loved that the author offers glimpses to the history of towns which have been shaped by various manufacturing companies.
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