Let Me first Embarrass Myself. Plus Perfect Picture Book Friday Review of The Purple Coat

As you’ve come to expect, and hopefully look forward to, I have a little memory to go along with today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday review of The Purple Coat by Amy Hest. And yes, it’s embarrassing.

Back when I was in Jr. High, I saw a fashion magazine at the dentist with page after page of svelte women wearing culottes. Culottes, for those of you unfamiliar with this fashion statement, are split skirts or wide-legged, knee-length shorts. Back in the 80’s, the only place I looked svelte was deep in my imagination. To the outside world, I was a five-foot, scrawny girl, weighing in at 90 pounds who owned three pairs of shoes, none of which looked trendy under any circumstances. One pair were my fuzzy house slippers, the second were my scuffed sneakers, and the third pair were clunky, brown, lace-up, walking shoes my mother bought in a women’s shoe shop. (Please, no comments, I feel bad enough.)

I bought a copy of the magazine and raced home, hopeful my aunt, who sewed all my clothes, could duplicate those super cool culottes for me. I showed her the magazine.

“Are you sure about this?” She looked me up and down, wrinkled her nose at the picture, and shook her head.

“Oh, yes!” I said. “I LOVE these! Can you make me a pair?”

My aunt reluctantly took me to the fabric store where I found the perfect pattern and a bolt of electric, mint-green polyester that screamed, “Make your culottes out of me!!!” (Please, no comments, I feel bad enough.)


My aunt gaped at the bolt of fabric clutched in my arms. “Are you sure about this?” She looked me up and down, wrinkled her nose at the fabric, and shook her head.

“Oh, yes!” I said. “I LOVE it! Can you please make my culottes out of this?”

When those fabulous, mint-green culottes were sewn, I teamed them with a frilly blouse, a pair of white knee socks and my brown, lace-up, clunky, walking shoes my mother bought in a women’s shoe shop. (Please, no comments, I feel bad enough.)

My friends couldn’t bottle their laughter. Kids at school I didn’t know slapped hands over their mouths and swiped at their tears. Cute boys rolled up their pant legs and mocked me. And those culottes? Strangely and most mysteriously disappeared after I came home.

So…what does my memory have to do with my picture book review? The Purple Coat is the story of a girl who, despite her mother’s opinion, wants a coat that looks different than the one she gets year after year.Except in her case, everything turned out better. Lucky…

Title – The Purple Coat

Written by  – Amy Hest

and illustrated by – Amy Schwartz

Published by – Aladdin – 1992

Suitable for ages – 3-8

Theme – Knowing what you want and compromise.

Opening –  Every fall, when the leaves start melting into pretty purples and reds and those bright golden shades of pumpkin, Mama says, “Coat time, Gabrielle!”

Amazon Review –  View it HERE.  Every year, in the fall, Gabrielle gets a new coat. And every year her coat looks the same — navy blue with two rows of buttons and a half belt in the back. But this year Gabrielle wants something different — a purple coat.
“Purple?” Mama laughs. But Gabrielle is quite serious.

Alone with Grampa in his cozy tailor shop, Gabrielle does some fast talking. Still, even Grampa is dubious. His solution makes The Purple Coat a very special book, just right for every child who has ever wanted to try something different.

Why do I like this book? Because I was a child much like Gabrielle who wanted something different. Except in my case, the culottes flopped. But back to the book. Gabrielle is a little girl with gumption. She has a vision of what she wants, and she’s not about to back down. And, because I like books with strong main characters, I loved this one. The illustrations by Amy Schwartz brought back sweet memories of the days when my aunt measured me for the clothes she made. The colorful, well-researched pictures capture the time this story takes place in. All around, this book won me over.
Learn more about Amy Hest HERE.
Learn more about Amy Schwartz HERE.

Find more “Perfect Picture Book Friday” reviews at Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog HERE.


  1. What a sweet choice and its memories for you. The pressures for teens to wear what everyone else wears will always be. Kids can be so mean. I remember culottes. I had a bright pair of yellow that I wore in my senior year of high school. We weren’t allowed to wear slacks to schools, dresses, but at the end of the school year we were allowed to wear culottes. But, remember wanting a pastel coat with a big hood trimmed in white — like the other girls. My mother bought me a grey wool coat with a hood and wooden buttons. It was a warm, beautiful coat — but I didn’t like it. I was so disappointed. And, kids can be so mean.

    • I can well relate to your wool coat. My aunt once knit me a dress when I was seven. I soooo wanted her to use light blue wool, but my mother chose the color and didn’t think light blue was conservative enough… My cozy, wool dress was the color of an oxidized avocado. Talk about disappointment. Still…like your coat, it was my warmest, winter dress.

  2. I love Amy Hest’s books – all marvelous!
    My gauchos/culottes were also green, made of pale knobby cotton dobby cloth. My mom probably used that same Simplicity pattern! I wore them on Kite Day, and there was a photo in our local paper of all the kids and their kites. So somewhere in the archives there may be photo evidence!

    • Thankfully, my mom didn’t view my electric, mint-green culottes as a photo op, so… lucky for me, I have no photo evidence. I’m sure you looked far better than I did. The polyester fabric I chose had quite a lot of weight. So, instead of draping, they stood stiff and straight away from my body like a cone.

  3. I totally remember culottes! Ahhh, the trends we remember! Thanks, Leslie, for the walk down memory lane as well as the great book review.

    • I’m glad you liked the walk down memory lane, Val. I have to say I’m glad culottes aren’t in fashion. Even though I’m not the same scrawny kid I was back in Jr. High, I can’t imagine I would look any better in culottes today. My mom wasn’t one to step in and tell me when she thought one of my fashion ideas was a flop. She somehow knew I’d either grow out of the phase or get teased enough by other kids to move on.

  4. I think I still have a pair of culottes in the back of my closet! Paisley. Will they come back in fashion . . . ?

    • Hmmm. I’m not sure if culottes will make a comeback. Best hold on to your pair. In my case, I was glad to see my electric, mint-green culottes disappear most mysteriously. The fabric was stiff and heavy, and those silly short pants looked like an inverted green ice cream cone on me.

  5. What a wonderful story. (My own involves an enthusiastic attempt to wear cologne for the first time. My first period math class did not appreciate my enthusiasm.) The Purple Coat looks nice. I’ll have to look for it.

  6. David, thanks to your cologne memory, I’m recalling a younger (high school freshman) version of myself who all but bathed in perfume. I remember entering the auditorium one day, and without turning around, my friends called, “Hi, Leslie!” I asked how they knew it was me, and they said they could smell me coming in. Along with those ridiculous culottes, my perfume bottle also disappeared most mysteriously. Back then, I believed if a little was nice, a lot would be better. Which clearly was a mistake… Thanks again for sharing your memory.

  7. I hadn’t heard of this book. Yes, I was a fan of the culottes, too. Those were the days when girls couldn’t wear pants to school. We got there slowly! Thanks for sharing!

  8. Ah, another fan of culottes. Although, for me, the period of time I was infatuated with them was rather short. Maybe if I hadn’t chosen such ridiculously stiff polyester, they would have looked less comedic.

  9. Culottes. I haven’t heard that word in ages. I don’t remember if I ever wore them, but my sisters did. The illustrations are great.

  10. Ah yes. Culottes. I sure remember. I must have worn them (I must be blocking those memories), but I sure wasn’t built for them. I don’t know “The Purple Coat,” but it makes me think of Dolly Parton’s “Coat of Many Colors.” I’ll have to look for Amy’s book. Thanks for sharing, Leslie!

    • If you’re blocking your culotte memory, there might be a reason. Maybe you also had a pair sewn from electric, mint-green, heavy, polyester… Considering the ribbing I took for mine, I’m surprised the fashion police didn’t come after me.

  11. I believe I owned a pair of culottes studded in rhinestones. With a matching vest. Yep — those were the days. I’ll look for The Purple Coat!

  12. LOVE your story…Leslie…both the book you picked for PPBF AND your clothing faux pas story. I, too, had a point in my life (well, actually, many points) when I felt clunky, unattractive, and out of place. For sixth grade graduation, we had to wear a blue skirt and a white blouse. I was a bit on the chubby size, with frizzy curly brown hair, extremely nearsighted eyes that required thick glasses…so of course, I had to pick a light blue pleated skirt and a frilly puff sleeved white blouse…what was I thinking? 🙂
    Thanks for sharing, dear friend…I totally understand the bright green culottes.

    • Oh, Vivian, thank you for sharing your sixth-grade graduation outfit with me. I’m feeling so much better knowing I wasn’t the only one with a What-Was-I-Thinking moment in their life. And… can I tell you about the skirt I sewed to wear at my sister’s wedding? A yellow fiasco. The skirt pattern had a few too many pleats on the back side, but, despite that, I thought I looked fabulous. Then, the photographs came back. My first response, before throwing the skirt in the trash, was, “I LOOK LIKE A DUCK!”

  13. Great book choice! It reminds me of when I was about 15 and my mom and aunt decided that I would look fabulous in a lime green coat! I didn’t want it but they pressured me into it. I wore it exactly once and never again!

  14. You really need to write “The Green Culottes” ! Thanks thanks for the great recommendation too!

    • Do you really think so, Ingrid? I guess I could put my mind to it and see what I can come up with. However…a story like that might just bring culottes back in fashion, and I’m not sure I’m ready for those wide-legged, long shorts to make a comeback. But, I promise I’ll give this some thought.

  15. I love your story of culottes. reminds me of the bright orange striped bell bottoms I just had to have. I had 3 pr of shoes too – hiking boots, ski boots, and some kind of shoe called a “desert boot” that was supposed to be hip but just hurt my feet. finally gave them up and bought earth shoes.

  16. Thanks for sharing your clothing memories, Sue. I would love to see those bright orange striped bell bottoms. I’ll bet you looked stylish! I’ve never heard of desert boots. I’m finding out that many clothing fads considered fashionable or hip tend not to fit well or look the best on me. Still…when I saw those culottes, my heart pitter-pattered for them.

  17. Oh, I think we’ve all got wardrobe skeletons hiding in our closets! Just looking back at pictures…ugh. Love this picture book! Will have to look for it. Thanks for reviewing it!

  18. Hi, Angie, Yes, even after ditching those mint green culottes, I still have a few unfashionable disasters stored in my closet. I hope you enjoy reading The Purple Coat. It’s one of those books that I enjoy reading often.

  19. Wow. That’s such a memorable incident to recall( we should have some embarrassing memories, otherwise what is life if you have had it perfect 😀

  20. Hi, Zoya. You’re so right. Frankly, I think those embarrassing moments that become memories are what give me many of my smiles. Yes, I’ve had many.

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