I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and went to school in upstate New York. I spent a couple of years living in San Francisco before moving to Minnesota, but the majority of my life has been spent in parts of the U.S. that get Winters with a capital Wint. I’ve dealt with waist-high snow for 4 months solid, days that freeze the insides of your nose the moment you set foot outside, and wind chills of 70 below. (Really. No, really.) I’ve seen it all, and survived, and continued to love living in the Great White North.
But last winter almost beat me.
Last winter, it snowed a couple of feet in mid-November and that snow didn’t melt until May. Last winter, it was relatively mild and agreeable until February – meaning temperatures hovered around 20 or 30 degrees – and then there were six straight weeks of cold so brutal it literally made me weep in pain and frustration as I walked to and from class. Last winter was long and dark and relentless, and for the first time in my eight years of MN residence, I considered abandoning my beloved state for less trying climes. And last winter I gave up on style. I wore the same pair of black slacks every damn day, slicked my hair into a bun, and lived in my Dansko oxfords.
BUT THIS WINTER I SHALL NOT YIELD! For one thing, I am not taking classes, so my cross-campus jaunts will be less frequent. For another, I finally got a parking space in the lot attached to my building, so I no longer have to walk 4 blocks of WIND TUNNEL from my car to my office. And finally, I just plain feel better equipped to stay stylin’ this time around. I’ve learned a lot, and I plan to apply it all.
Now, none of my tools or tricks are terribly creative or unusual, but since I had several folks ask how I’d be kickin’ it this winter, I’ll share. And, as always, I’d LOVE to hear how my resourceful readers plan to stay warm and stay hawt during the coldest months of the year.
1. Long-sleeved layering tees: I have amassed quite a collection. At the end of last winter I cleaned out a Target clearance rack full of brightly colored long-sleeved tees, and they’ve already been put to good use.
2. Tights: It’s amazing what a difference a thin layer of nylon can make if you’re sporting a skirt in a high wind. I don’t own a single pair of true fishnets, but am a huge fan of double-layers: A film of sheer black nylon beneath a fishnet = sexy AND warm. I have many pairs of thigh-highs as well, since actual tights reconfigure the mid-Sal, transforming me into a segmented worm. Hate that.
3. Lined wool skirts: Lined because wool sticks to tights, wool because it’s WARM! My beloved Boden makes a fantastic array of super heavy lined wool skirts, from minis to knee-length to floor-length. I typically buy at least one per year.
4. Tall boots: My ankles and toes get cold very easily when not encased in sock-and-closed-shoe. So although I intend to employ pumps occasionally, much of the winter will be spent clomping around town in my arsenal of knee-high boots.
5. Scarves and wraps: I had an evaluation with an acupuncturist once and she told me two things that I have never forgotten. One is that the bizarre, embarrassingly loud single hiccups that I get on occasion are the result of “rebellious chi.” The other is that, if I want to stay warm, I need to keep my neck covered. I believe them both. Since I am not a fan of actual turtlenecks, this means that I employ a lot of scarves and wraps. Fashion scarves get creatively tied, and provide a surprising amount of warmth despite being constructed from flimsy fabrics. Wraps, pashminas, and mufflers get messily slung around my neck and shoulder area.
6. Silk long johns: Silk, as you likely know, is nature’s miracle fabric. Keeps ya cool in the summer, and toasty in the winter. I’ve had my silk long underwear since high school and it has saved me from losing my pelvis, thighs, and calves to frostbite more times than I care to count. Silk is also sleek and won’t bulk up your pants. Wintersilks will be happy to sell you a pair.
1. Wear tall boots under slacks: Keeps calves extra warm, and no one is the wiser! I have several fun pairs of ankle boots that will be in heavy rotation, too, but on those snot-freezing days, fortified lower legs can make a world of difference.
2. Wear a nude cami under everything: When it’s really horrible outside, I’ll throw on my nude cami, one of my long-sleeved layering tees, and a sweater. Three layers, minimal bulk.
3. Load on the necklaces: When you’ve got exposed neck and collarbone during the warmer months, light, feminine jewelery is ideal. During the winter, though, when you’re likely to be wearing your necklaces over/atop cloth, going bold and chunky works best. Some of last year’s uninspired outfits would’ve been a thousand times more interesting if I’d just piled on some funky chains or slapped on a statement necklace. I plan to utilize every piece I own over the course of the next few months to keep my ensembles from looking blank and boring.
4. Follow the “color or bling” rule: By February of last year, my entire office was filled with women swathed in morose monochrome. This winter, I will attempt to wear at least one bright color EVERY DAMN DAY. If I am just unable to resist a black-white-gray outfit, I will apply trick number three with tremendous gusto.
5. Layer colorfully: I buy my layering tees a couple of sizes too small to minimize lumpage, and make sure they’re nice and long. That way, I can throw them on beneath non-cardigan sweaters (crews, v’s, and cowls) and let a little contrasting color peek out at the hem. Bright tights can add another pop of color.
6. Dresses as skirts: I have several sleeveless sheath dresses that I could relegate to basement storage … but instead, I plan to layer them. Long-sleeved layering tee, sheath dress, cowlneck sweater. The bottom half of the dress peeks out from beneath the sweater and just looks like a skirt, but I’ve got an extra layer up top!
Like I said, not exactly the world’s most innovative plan, but I think it’ll work. If any of you lovelies has other suggestions for cold weather chic, I’m all ears!
Snow image courtesy dawn_perry, all other images by me.