Reader Request: Seasons vs. Weather

Jori dropped me an e-mail with this timely question:

What to do when the fashion season and the weather can’t seem to agree? Now that it’s April, we’re all excited to wear some of our springy clothes – but here in New England, the weather this time of year can be warm and springy one day but cold and wintry the next. It feels wrong to go back to wearing winter clothes on those cold days, even if it’s probably the sensible thing to do for comfort. So how to make spring clothes work on non-springy days? Of course, this issue isn’t just about spring either. How can winter fashions be deployed in warm-weather climates? Or summer fashions in places like San Francisco where mid-July days can be foggy and downright chilly?

As I wrote my response, I would occasionally throw a baleful look out my window. Because, you see, we’re due for more snow here in MN this week. And although it’s the end of April and I’d love to be strapping on my sandals, that is just NOT in the cards right now.

Here are my dressing suggestions for times when the season and weather fail to align:

COLOR

Even if you can’t switch from heavy materials to light ones (or vice versa), you can certainly alter your color palette. Right now, I’m trying to scale back my black, gray, and dark brown and focus on creams and whites, pastels and brights. (Emphasis on “trying.”) If I have to pile on the layers, I can make sure they’re layers that bear seasonally-appropriate shades. My giant, engulfing cardigan can be ivory instead of ebony. My boots can be tan instead of black. My scarf can be peony pink instead of charcoal gray.

SHEERS

Although this is most applicable to hosiery, it can be applied in other areas as well. Sheer tights are ideal for transitional seasons: They offer protection from wind and weather, but aren’t as oppressively thick and dark as opaques. During a warm autumn, they can make a sleeveless dress look perfect with boots, and do so without making you melt. During a cold spring, they keep your gams warm without weighing down your ensemble.

You can also layer on several sheer garments to create an airy-but-warm look. Joelle does this beautifully here.

LAYERING

Speaking of, artful layering is a fabulous way to craft outfits that fit both season and unseasonable weather. In spring, you can pile on a camisole, blouse, scarf, cardigan, skirt, tights, and boots but still look springy if they’re all in seasonable colors and textures. In fall, you can do a simple tank, short skirt, tights, and boots – an outfit that gives you plenty of leeway in terms of warmth – and look perfectly autumnal if you go for rich fabrics and darker colors.

PRINTS

OK, I’m thinking mainly of florals. Even if it’s freezing out, adding a floral print to your bundled-up mix will help you look less bundled. Flowers! They’re springy! It cannot be denied! And, of course, darker prints with fall and winter motifs will help transition you through an overly warm autumn … but maple leaf-printed blouses are a little harder to come by than ditsy floral dresses.

SHOES

Although boots are becoming appropriate for year-round wear – especially in lighter colors and materials – they are indisputably heavier than sandals. So if you want to look like you’re dressing for fall, putting boots with an otherwise ethereal group of garments will help root your outfit in the season. If it’s a frigid spring you’re dealing with, try your sheer tights with pumps or peeptoes instead of boots. A lighter shoe will lighten your overall look.

Are you dealing with a persnickety transitional season, too? How are you dealing, stylistically speaking? Do these suggestions sound do-able in your climate? I’d especially love to hear from those of you who live in climates where the weather DOESN’T change, and so you’re forced to express seasonality in less traditional ways.

  • http://over50feeling40.blogspot.com Pam @over50feeling40

    I really love the detailing on the dress you are wearing and it looks great with the scarf. Color is the answer!! There are so many warmer garments in the pretty spring colors. I am jealous you can wear books year round. We cannot do that in Texas…they warm the feet too much. We are already in the 90s with high humidity…sandals have been out for some time! Enjoy your boots…they are always so great looking!!

  • http://www.femininebravery.com Charlie, Feminine Bravery

    Great tips! The climate in Finland is just like that one day sun next three days rain and wind. Really cold mornings and warmer afternoons now in spring. I combine different textures to keep me warm but looking season appropriate, and I love scarves in lighter colours and tights that are not opaque and that have some sort of cute print, perhaps lace. I wear bright colour all year around, but especially in spring and summer.

  • http://ejegmama.blogspot.com/ Stephanie

    I’m in the south where it is already in the mid 80s many days. We do this in reverse in the fall though. It was hot until the end of October in 2010. I do find that I have a larger light weight wardrobe though and that I tend to wear some pieces more in the spring and others more in the fall based on color and print.

  • Tibz

    I live in a climate where the weather does not change, and thus I don’t see a reason to change my look according to the seasons. Basically, seasons don’t matter to us Malaysians, and the same outfit can be worn any time of year. In fact, I’d be somewhat taken aback at anyone here who changes their look according to “the seasons” (that don’t actually apply here), simply because it doesn’t make pragmatic sense. That said, it is a bummer that I cannot go about in Autumn-wear, but that’s what you get with eternal summer.

  • http://www.relatablestyle.blogspot.com Relatable Style

    Agree on everything. I live in Germany, thus in a 4-season climate. Spring has been outrageously kind to us this year, but I’m feeling you – last year we had snow until late March and it got really warm only in July *boohoo*

    One more tip I can give is to wear sleeves you can pull up to the elbows if it’s warmer than expected, or down to the wrists if it’s colder. Apart from that… What she said :-)

  • http://catspajamas-dogstuxedos.blogspot.com/ coffeeaddict

    I’m one of those frightfully misfortunate people that catch a vile pneumonia just because they refused to wear their heavy jacket on a windier day :-(
    So I’m very cautious with my clothing choices. I live in a moderate central European climate and I will wear tights and camisoles well into May.
    Besides brighter colours and delicate floral chiffon scarves, the one easy thing to trick me into a happy spring mood is perfume! A nice floral scent, so different from the heavy eau de parfum I wear in the winter times really helps to change my mood. My current favourite is Summer by Kenzo with a central note of Mimosa.

  • Francesca

    Great question & one I had to deal with moving from seasonal Connecticut to mostly hot Atlanta where the fall temps can still be in the 90′s in November and we get summer-like temps in February. I opt for seasonless fabrics (so no corduroy which screams fall/winter or eyelet which screams summer). Or if I buy eyelet, I choose a color that can span more seasons (no white eyelet, but I have a fabulous cropped orange eyelet Chanel-like jacket that I wear fall, spring & summer. Black or navy blazers in a tropical wool can be worn in all but the hottest of summer days. White jeans pretty much year-round if you adjust shoes & color of tops to season-appropriate ones. I’ve learned to buy very thin but fall-colored tops & dresses that can be worn August thru November, and lightweight wool & cashmere sweaters in bright but untraditional or season-spanning colors that can be worn almost year round. Colors like citron or mustard instead of pastel yellow, strong oranges or coral instead of popsicle orange, clear bright reds instead of burgundies or wine, magenta, rosy pinks or orangy pinks (coral) instead of hot pink or baby pinks, turquoise, cobalt & teal instead of baby blues or mint. That way I can layer and reference the appropriate season without having a set of cold/winter-only or hot/summer weather only clothes.

  • http://www.fishyfacedesigns.com Lisa

    I love how you pull your outfits together, you look beautiful.

  • http://www.stuffjewishgirlslike.com JG

    This post is fabulous. I finally stopped fighting the weather today and donned tights (sheer-y! you’re right, they work) but I died a little inside. I’ve tasted bare legs and I don’t want to go back!

  • http://www.avidaccents.com L of Avid Accents

    love the dress especially the ruffles.

    great tips! This year has been extremely difficult to dress for the weather. Our spring has had a little of every season mixed in.

  • http://www.futurelint.blogspot.com FutureLint

    I am TRYING to put away the boots and opaque tights, but it’s tough with the snow… I have been trying to lighten up the color palette and switched to lighter coats. I feel like spring is always tricky with all the puddles and temperature swings!

  • hellotampon

    I’m liking this post a lot. I live in Connecticut and I face this problem quite often. By the time I’m finally accustomed to it being spring (or autumn), it’s already pretty much summer (or winter). Reading the other comments has opened my eyes- I suffer from seasonal depression and complain about how long, cold and dark the winters are here, and yet I think if I were to live in a place without seasons I would be thrown for a loop.

  • Dee

    This is a good topic! Very timely. I live in a 4 season climate with almost no spring — we go from blustery to hot pretty quickly. I do many of the things mentioned already, but one thing I do is stop wearing cordoroy, velvets and turtlenecks come mid march regardless of the weather. I will layer and wear lighter coats (as Sal said the other day, us midwesterners have coats and jackets for all degress of cold/rain/snow!). I will wear cardigans/indoor jackets that have brighter colors and/or are floral. Since I have a long walk in my daily commute I have to dress for the weather, even if the calendar says spring. In the fall one of the hardest things for me is when the weather dictates that the sandals must put away and socks must go on…but we won’t think about that now. :)

  • http://www.scandiewear.com Ana

    GREAT topic and perfect timing since I too woke up to snow this morning in Minnesota! With the weather changing 10, 20 + degrees daily here, I have found wearing bright colors, fun scarfs, jewelry a great way to make the spring change. Today was different however…I put on my brown tights and skit and a long winter white sweater. It was just too cold and snowy to pretend it was spring!

  • http://scribblesfromemily.blogspot.com/ Emily Joyce

    Where I live, it’s practically eternal summer! It gets cooler in the winter, but a coat is rarely necessary. So, I definitely follow the suggestions you’ve used here, changing colors, shoes, adding floral prints, and tights to fit with the “seasons.”

  • http://maytheweed.blogspot.com Maythe

    I’m facing this now but in the other direction! It’s April but here in the south of the UK we’re dealing with June/July type weather (seriously as a gardener I’m *begging* for rain) and am finding myself wearing floaty summer dresses on the weekend and feeling slightly… wrong. Thanks for the advice – I’ll wardrobe rummage before reaching for a sundress whis weekend!

  • http://shelflove.wordpress.com Jenny

    Spokane is the first place I’ve ever lived where I really had to deal with this — it snowed yesterday and the day before, and I definitely feel I want to be wearing spring clothes. Today I’m wearing an Easter-egg purple shirt, an ivory cardigan, a khaki skirt, tights, and flats with lavender accents. (And my wool coat!) I’m warm enough, but I look springier than usual.

  • http://www.geekthreads.blogspot.com Audi

    This post couldn’t be better timed, Sal — I’ve been thinking about this very thing a lot lately. I’m actually toying with the idea of boxing up some of my wintry items and stashing them out of sight, both for the sake of additional closet space as well as inspiring me to dress in a more seasonally-appropriate way (even though it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference between the seasons in SF). I also feel like it’ll help me to get excited again about the clothes I’ve been wearing all winter if I don’t see them for awhile. For the time being I’m trying to spring up my outfits using a lot of the approaches you mention here — colors, lighter shoes, and of course plenty of layers.

  • rb

    Sal, you’ve lived in San Francisco before, so you know this is an issue YEAR ROUND here! No, we don’t usually get bitterly cold, and we only have a few truly sweltering days each year. But the rest of the time, you never know. It can be a beautiful summer day and all of a sudden a bone-chillingly cold wind blows the fog in. Or it can be February and all of a sudden the weather gods decide it’s summer! And then it’s rainy through early May. So this is definitely the city of layering.

    I do what you do – I vary up the seasons with color and texture. By late fall, I can’t wait to start wearing my boots and black tights, but we’re still having chilly mornings and undexpectedly hot afternoons at that point. Then by this time of year, I really want to wear spring clothing, but it’s rainy or cloudy most days. But I’m getting sick of the black. So I wear clothing in blues and greens and orchid, but still warmer weight. I put away the wool flannel and anything overtly fuzzy, but I’m still wearing wool – just more tropical weight and crepe and fine gauge knit. Even on a cloudy day, I can wear fine-mesh nude fishnets with peeptoe shoes, rather than opaque black tights and boots.

    In the summer months, I know I will want to wear earthy browns and ivorys and bits of red and turqoise, so I buy these colors this time of year from the winter clearance so they’re the appropriate weight for our cool San Francisco summers.

  • http://www.youravon.com/kemi Kemiavon

    This was my dilemma this morning. It’s cold here in Boston even though we were told it’s 50 degrees, It feels colder. I started out wearing boots with my 3/4 sleeve sweater tunic and skinny pants but I switched to flats because the boots didn’t feel right and i’m tired of wearing socks. Now I’m regretting it. My feet are freezing and I’m cold. Spring is definitely not coming fast enough.

  • http://sololisa.com lisa

    Ooh this is a very timely topic to bring up Sal! It’s been a cold, harsh, wintry spring so far in Vancouver and many of us are bemoaning the fact that we can’t wear our spring stuff.

    Some things I’ve been doing lately to lighten up my winter look while still keeping warm:

    -wearing a spring trench and layering a cardigan underneath for warmth
    -swapping my heavy knit scarves for patterned silk scarves and lightweight ones
    -adding pops of colour to dark neutral outfits with accessories
    -wearing close-toed oxfords, ballet flats, and ankle-high moto boots instead of tall leather boots
    -substituting shorts and tights for jeans

  • http://www.joellevandyne.com joelle van dyne

    hey thanks for the shout-out! that outfit pretty much describes what i do in these cold early-summer times. wear my summer dresses layered with sweaters, adding heavy winter foot wear or thick tights w/ summer shoes.

    i’m trying to branch out like your other ideas suggest too. it is so refreshing to see bright colors right now, for instance. and you are right about florals! i love how you bring them in with your scarf.

  • http://www.alreadypretty.com Sal

    And here I was feeling sorry for myself about the craptastic spring we’ve been having in MN. Sounds like it’s an EPIDEMIC! Possibly even a PANDEMIC!

    Oh, who am I kidding: I still feel sorry for myself. Two inches of snow today people. I cried a little.

  • http://spidersilkstockings.blogspot.com/ Cel

    Oh the weather is very odd right now. Last week we had near summer temperatures and now it’s freezing rain and snow again. I’m at a total loss. I have no shoes for this weather, eep.

  • Mandy

    Hi Sal, Ive dealt with both ends of the scale re weather. I grew up in Melbourne, Australia and now live back in the same state, and Victoria is known for it’s variable weather.
    The joke about the local weather is that it’s got four seasons in one day! It can drop 10 degrees in an hour. The weather has been unseasonal here for the last 20 years, at times.
    It was 25c/80f (ish) during the last week, now has dropped to the 60s. It willg o up again, and it’s Autumn here…
    I agree layering is the way to go, and when I lived out of the state it took me years to not carry 2 extra layers :)
    I have also lived in the tropics for 14 years, and it was always warm. I used to get cold during winter, but not enough for a full winter coat, etc, unless we were at an outdoor party.
    I simply never really went full winter. It was easy as most other people werent either :)
    I lived in Sydney too. You would think their fashion would be top notch as they DO have full seasons, but it’s Melbourne that’s the fashion capital over here, in terms of which city is the most chic.
    Anyway, good topic yet again. Keep up the good work.

  • Mandy

    oh.. and it’s snowing in the Alps here.. which doesnt usually happen til June/July/August even.. wow is all I can say!

  • http://filumenasespresso.blogspot.com C.

    I live in Arizona, so the air conditioning is on pretty consistently. Twice a week, however, I commute an hour and a half north in the pines for school, where it is still beyond windy (40+ mph winds) and actually kind of cold (well, for Arizona), so I try and keep an extra scarf and/or cardigan in my car and refrain from wearing skirts capable of any sort of movement.

  • Jenn

    I live in the Bahamas: so even during ‘winter’ its still pretty hot during the day. The past few years have had more cool weather, and the nights have been chilly (mid 50s F!!!!). I was so excited that my sweaters and 2 pairs of boots got some good use…but it was never cool enough to do the fun layering of tights. :( That having been said, we are blessed with hot weather most of the time. Currently we have 70%+ humidity and mid 80s F, with sunlight so strong you need jeans to be protected from it but they kill you with the confining of body heat. The ‘official’ start of summer is Easter Monday, so starting next week I expect to hear everyone talking about putting their A/Cs on! And consistently cool weather can’t be expected again before Christmas! So that means I’m siding with the “Seasons? Do we still get those?” group.
    Enjoy your seasons everyone!

  • Elizabeth Ann

    Seriously, where did you get that fabulous blue dress?

    • http://www.alreadypretty.com Sal

      It’s by a company called Tulle. Bought more than a year ago, so sadly no longer available!

  • http://fashionforgiants.blogspot.com Gracey at Fashion for Giants

    Wonderful and very, very timely post. In Oregon right now, it’s sunny but cold. The sun makes me want to wear skirts and the low temperatures force me to keep wearing my tights.

    I recently tried wearing tights with sandals as my way of transitioning, and it actually worked pretty well.

  • http://suburbanplumage.blogspot.com Suburban Plumage

    Okay, giving it a try… layering a sunny summery skirt over leggings and boots. Sadly, it’s snowing here.

    http://suburbanplumage.blogspot.com/2011/04/oufit-1-april-21-2011.html

  • Pingback: HBH Link Love: Things I Love Thursday - Hot Beauty Health

  • Pingback: Candy Dish: Fashion & Beauty : College Candy