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

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  362 ratings  ·  71 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
Hardcover, 244 pages
Published July 16th 2013 by Spiegel & Grau (first published July 1st 2013)
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4.13  · 
Rating details
 ·  362 ratings  ·  71 reviews

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Sep 11, 2013 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!

Althea Wynne-Davis
May 03, 2014 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
Aug 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: e-books, non-fiction, 2013
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
Sep 06, 2013 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
Nov 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The concept behind the writing of The Coat Route instantly appealed to me. The author, Meg Lukens Noonan, had heard of a coat that had been sold for $50,000 and decided to follow the path created in its making. The journey took her across the globe as she met with primary producers, textiles manufacturers and artisans who had contributed to the making of the garment.

I have to confess, up front, that I have a great passion for all things related to textiles so I’d built up very high expectations
Liina Bachmann
Feb 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 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"
Eustacia Tan
Jul 26, 2013 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.

Kim Olson
Oct 31, 2013 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
Jun 15, 2013 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
Hope Smash
Dec 16, 2014 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
Mar 08, 2014 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
Jul 31, 2013 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 08, 2013 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.
Dec 12, 2013 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!
Marilyn Thompson
Mar 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
Very interesting about couture sewing and tailoring.
Sep 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating glimpse of the exclusive world of bespoke tailoring.

This is less about a rich man's fancy coat as more about the very specialized art of personalized tailoring. I loved how the author went through it step-by-step and allowed us to travel with her to many countries, on the trail - route - of a vicuna bespoke coat. I had a lot of fun reading this book as I build up boards on Pinterest to illustrate its main chapters. I discovered a lot of things about the textile industry and the spe
Jan 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Oh dear. I didn't think I cared too much about 'designer' clothes. Well, I didn't. And I still don't. But now I want only bespoke items made just for me!

What a fabulous premise. Find out what an expensive (and that's an understatement) coat was made of, and follow everything to its source.

With a fantastically astute, and sensitive, portrayal of the people she meets along the way, Meg Lukens Noonan weaves the story of this incredible coat as carefully as the fibres were woven, and the buttons cr
Aug 21, 2018 rated it liked it
In a world of waste and fast fashion, this book reminds us that tailoring, like many arts, is a dying one. The author tells a compelling story of how things are made and highlights the many differences between handcrafted and mass produced. It's well written, and gives insight into a world most of us don't know about. A really great read for the most part, this book has two elements that made me question the author's character, taking some of the joy out of the story - one is the author's almost ...more
Dec 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
As someone who has taken up the challenge of learning to sew garments, I found this book to be an interesting exploration of the many aspects involved in the production of a garment.

There were points in the book where I grew tired of the glorification of wealthy people and their lifestyle. While I was reading this book, I was listening to Evicted, about the poor living in Milwaukee. That book was at times unbearably sad, but reading it served a greater goal of opening my eyes and making me more
Megan Crust
Jul 29, 2017 rated it it was ok
I thought I would enjoy this book more than I actually did - while I was interested to learn of the artisans and processes involved in bespoke clothing - and the book was well researched - somehow the narrative just didn't capture my imagination and it wasn't a page tuner for me. I would like to see this as a TV documentary - maybe visualising the richness of the locations, people and resources would work better.
Jan 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Loved it. I can never look at clothes in quite the same way. Loved how the author wove the history of tailoring and bespoke clothing into tracing the making of one particular item. One doesn't have to be rich to love the richness and beauty of a dying art.
Mar 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written book detailing the fading world of quality textiles, trims and bespoke tailoring. An entertaining homage to excellence.
Nov 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
In this wonderful piece of narrative journalism, Noonan tracks the components and craftsmen involved in making one of the most expensive coats recently made, from the cute and formerly endangered Peruvian camelids (that's animals in the camel family, as I found out) that provide the wool to the fabric dealers, silk printers and button makers.
The Coat Route is in the same vein as Paterniti's The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and the World's Greatest Piece of Cheese, though muc
Jun 28, 2013 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.
Dec 12, 2015 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
Aug 15, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, fashion
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
Feb 03, 2014 rated it liked it
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
Dec 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The Coat Route Meg Lukens Noonan
“One should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art.’ Oscar Wilde
The original meaning of the word ‘bespoke’ was clothing made from scratch, using a pattern drafted to the precise measurements and wishes of one individual. This book tells the story from start to finish of a $50,000 bespoke coat. Yes, this occurred in the 21st century. Being from Spokane I was further intrigued that the book contains a quote from The Spokesman Review. I found this to be a fa
May 31, 2015 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 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.

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