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My first luxury: A Max Mara coat

Jesica Wagstaff recalls how a shopping trip with her mom led to an heirloom piece

Shopping for designer goods is about more than beauty, workmanship and cost. It’s an emotional experience that often comes with a personal story. In this series, women recall a singular piece and a moment in their journey into luxury. 

Jesica Wagstaff, 41, a fashion content creator in Northern Virginia with a full-time job in politics, recalls the circular nature of her first big designer find.

The department store Saks Fifth Avenue used to have warehouse sales in the Washington area. Once or twice a year, they would open the warehouse in “Nowhereville,” Maryland. You drove out, got there superearly, people would even pitch tents. They would open up the warehouse and everything would already be marked and the prices were dirt cheap. It was a moment.

I would go to these sales with my mom and at that point, I was embedded in fashion, I loved fashion. I had a subscription to i-D magazine. I read Vogue, I was very much a glossy girl. So, we go to the sale and my mom would walk around, like, if something caught her eye, maybe she would pick it up, maybe not. But people were like ripping things apart, grabbing stuff. It’s a frenzy.

We were always supercalm, because it was either we’re going to find something, we’re going to love it, we’re going to get it, it’s going to be for us or we’re not. We were strictly middle-class but very single-person income. My mom had a good government job and one year, when I was 15 or so, we went and I think we walked out with only two things. One was a Max Mara cashmere coat for my mom and the second was a pair of Miu Miu kitten-heel mid-calf boots for me.

I no longer have the Miu Miu boots but my mom reminded me I picked out her Max Mara coat. I went down this long corridor of coats, picked up this gray cashmere Max Mara coat and I fell in love. I couldn’t wear it but my mom had to get it, so I brought the coat over to her, and she was like, I love it. She bought the coat and the boots. People are walking out with trash bags of things, and we had two things.

The way that she tells the story is, she wore it for the first winter and it was not warm enough. It’s very much, this is just a dinner coat. Recently, I was like, “Oh, hey, that Max Mara coat, you still have that, right?” And she was like, “Oh, absolutely.” I asked if I could borrow it, and she’s like, “Oh, sure.

I consider this coat to be the first luxury item that I picked up. Now, it wasn’t for me, it was for her. But is it on permanent loan now? Is it hanging in my closet now? 1,000%. Because I fell in love with it first. Technically, it’s my coat and has always been my coat. My mom was just borrowing it. I had to grow into it. I had to grow into it physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, because this is a bad bitch coat, right?

I love that coat and I’m so grateful that she held onto it. I think it’s really important to think about heirloom pieces within our community. I still love Max Mara. I still think that coat is very representative of not only my mom’s style, but the ways in which her style has influenced me, and influenced me even then to think about what is considered classic and very wearable. But it’s also unabashedly luxurious, and I think that’s like the pinnacle of Max Mara.

Liner Notes

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Channing Hargrove is a senior writer at Andscape covering fashion. That’s easier than admitting how strongly she identifies with the lyrics “Single Black female addicted to retail.”