23 November 2009

How to keep warm and look good at the same time - General Tips

Lucky Strike

Everyone everywhere says that they have the worst weather, wherever they may live. Even if they are from Florida or Hawaii, they will tell you it’s not as nice as you think it is. No one likes his or her own weather.

However I am convinced that Indiana has not the worst, but at least some pretty damn bad weather. We’re a four-season climate situated in the center of a continent and we’re right next to a giant lake. So we get the hottest, stickiest summers and really cold, snowy winters. Chicago people complain about the cold wind that comes off the lake but northern Indiana gets the cold AND a heaping helping of the dreaded Lake Effect Snow that Canadians can relate to.

What makes Indiana so bad is the schizophrenic weather. I’ve read “You know you’re in Indiana when you have to use your car’s A/C and heater in the same day.” Know what? It’s true. We’ve had surprise blizzards in May and sudden 70 degree sunny days in January. Truly our weather is mentally ill. The weather gods are moody and bipolar. If they feel like being sunny and blue skies in the morning, it can easily turn into a hailstorm/tornado combination with eerie green skies during your lunch hour.

Basically, I’m saying that I am fully qualified to talk about how to keep warm during the winter months.

How to keep warm and look good at the same time - General Tips

Favor natural materials

Remember that one dress you got when you were in junior high? It was made of rayon, acrylic, polyester and you thought it was so cute. It probably itched like hell. Remember how it made you sweat through the homecoming dance but the slightest breeze cut right through. Learn your lesson.

Natural fibers are general much more comfortable and are very good at trapping in heat. Wool, cashmere, angora, and silk are great at keeping you warm without making you spontaneously combust because they can breathe. Leather is ridiculously good at keeping the wind from getting to you. Cotton is not the warmest but it is soft and is great for layering up underneath your coat. If you’re not against fur, it is extremely warm but beware that certain kinds of fur, like rabbit, can make you too warm and are better used for accessories or the trim of a coat.

Layer, layer, layer!

Layering is fashionable, so dear reader, you probably know what you’re doing.

My father's wedding cake
Not quite the same thing.

Layering is the foundation of staying warm. Many thin layers traps heat better than one or two thick layers. Layers fill up the gap between you and your coat and keep your body heat from leaking from the bottom, top, and sleeves of your coat. Layering is also useful for when you start to heat up; if you get hot, start to remove or open up one layer at a time.

Indiana’s weather necessitated layering long before all the cool kids started doing it. That’s why all Hoosiers spent the 80s and 90s with a sweater tied around their waist, even if it looked really stupid. We just never knew if it was going to be really cold. And wearing layers was necessary in case a freak bout of heat broke out and you didn’t want to die of heat exhaustion.

Layering has less extreme daily applications. You’re grandmother is always right; movies are always too cold. And your office is inevitable way too hot, when the heater isn’t broken in the middle of winter. The chances of your office being too warm are even greater if you work with someone who is pretty sweaty and malodorous at the best of times.

Cover every inch.

I have fairly long arms. Therefore the bane of my existence is that gap between where the sleeve ends and where your gloves begin. Snow always gets in there, even if I wear long gloves.

Your skin is always giving off heat. If you want to conserve that heat, keep it trapped close to your body. The more bare skin you expose to the wind, the more body heat will be stolen away from the rest of your body, starting with your limbs. Your body knows which parts to keep warm to keep you alive, but it can't keep you comfortable. If you keep your jacket open, your body will work to keep your torso warm while your arms and legs will not receive as warm, toasty blood.

Ice mask, C.T. Madigan / photograph by Frank Hurley

You are allowed to look ridiculous.

It’s winter. If it’s cold enough, no one is going to give a crap about how you look. Want to wear your dad’s giant flannel shirt over your coat. Do it. Want to wear Pete’s hat from “The Adventures of Pete & Pete”? Do it. Your ears will thank you. In the dreary gray of January, break out the neon yellow scarf, Red Riding Hood red coat, and striped green gloves.

Look at those kids from the supremely annoying GAP ads: They are wearing a dozen different things and they are happily cheerleading. I mean, yes they are getting paid but you’d be pretty happy too if you were wearing a bunch of ridiculous crap and were super toasty.

But I still hate the GAP and their creepy Satanic Christmas commercials. This year everyone merely look like they have taken a lot of Ecstasy, instead of looking like rapists.


That corgi :) said...

wonderful advice you gave for dressing in layers for the cold weather; we did a lot of that in Montana which except for the lake effect snow sounds a lot like Northern Indiana's weather; but then our humidity wasn't toooo bad.


Anonymous said...

This is a really great entry: so many nice tips :).