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Coming full circle with cords

On Tuesday, a friend asked me the burning question of the day: "Do you have any corduroy in your wardrobe?"

Corduroy? Corduroy? I bet I haven't a single piece in my closet anymore.

It wasn't always that way. I used to have fine-wale corduroy, wide-wale corduroy, corduroy pants, jeans, handbags, jackets, hats . . . my favorite was a long swirly black skirt in a corduroy fabric so fine, it felt like velvet.

Through the years, those items either wore out or were filtered out. Some dated back to college.

Pretty preppy, those cords.

I think I even once had a pair of tan corduroy shorts I wore with tights, but I could be mistaken. We're talking last century here.

Anyway, her question got me thinking: Is corduroy even popular anymore?

But, wait, didn't I just see fine-wale cords in a sea of colors at J. Crew?

Fashioned like jeans with a slight boot-cut leg and a little stretch to the fabric, these cords came in coral, aubergine, golden yellow and more.

Talbots offers a plush corduroy jacket this fall -- again in rich shades of berry, cinnabar and meadow green.

And Lands' End offers plenty of corduroy -- including pants for men and women in classic colors such as loden green and spice brown.

So I asked another friend: "Do you have anything corduroy?"

"You mean besides the book I read to my daughter?" she asked, referring to the popular children's book of the same name by Don Freeman.

She thought a moment. Nope. Not anymore, she said.

This, too, triggered memories. She wore cords in college in the early '90s -- boys' Levi's, to be exact.

"The Levi's cords were as soft as butter after a couple washes; I had two pairs -- chocolate brown and navy," she said. "The chocolate brown pair I cut off into shorts and wore them in the summertime. My cousin cut off hers and sewed them into a skirt."

Next, I called O'Connell Lucas Chelf -- the locally owned traditional clothing store at 3240 Main St. -- now entering its 50th year of business.

"Hi. Does anyone wear corduroy, anymore?" I asked.

"Corduroy is big. It's very popular, and it comes in a variety of wales now," John Huber informed me.

There's 11-wale, which is quite narrow. A six-wale which is very thick. And so forth.

"It's not just cotton anymore, either. We sell some luxurious cords in Zealander wool. Doesn't that sound exotic?" he asked.

And think beyond five-pocket cords. There are cords for dressier occasions, said Huber, noting that today's soft, drapable cords are anything but stiff.

"Everyone knows about corduroy trousers, but corduroy sport coats are popular now, too. You can wear one when the occasion isn't dressy enough for a suit, or tweed or lamb's wool sport coat. A corduroy sport coat raises the bar from just a sweater or shirt sleeves," Huber said.

And women like the cord blazers in a feminine finer wale -- especially in an interesting color such as purple or jade green, he continued.

OK, I'm convinced. But I have to wonder: Whatever happened to those hot pink cords I wore in college?


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