How to layer clothing for winter weather

Friday, December 7, 2012

Recently, I had two friends reach out and ask for my assistance on dressing fashion forward in cold climates. One might ask how does this Southern California resident have the authority to give advice for cold weather fashion… well let me tell you, I have put in my time. I lived in Chicago for 3 years and I have to say the Midwest has the harshest winters! I moved to Illinois after living in Central California my whole life. The coldest it ever gets in my hometown is 30 degrees, and even that is rare. I knew when I moved, that Chicago was going to be cold, but I didn’t have a clue on how to dress for the climate. I bought myself a couple huge jackets, some scarves and Uggs, and I thought I was good to go. I was so wrong! The biggest mistake people make when dressing for cold climates, is they don’t factor in how their clothing is going to affect them once they reach their destination. It's easy to layer on a bunch of clothing because you know it's snowing outside, but what do you do with your thermal underwear once you get to work and the office is 70 degrees?

There were numerous times I found myself in a bathroom stripping my tights from under my jeans and pulling off the three undershirts I put on that day. I thought layering meant putting on as many things as possible to stay warm in the elements, but I totally forgot what a sweaty mess I would turn into once I got indoors. I have lived in a climate where it's so cold you can't breathe, where your tears crystallize and your bones feel frozen. I have witnessed -20 degree temps, horizontal rain and hail the size of golf balls. So you see, I feel more than equipped to discuss this topic with you...

Let’s being by discussing what proper layering techniques are and then we’ll get into how to remain fashion forward. Believe it or not, there is a scientific method to layering. Outdoor adventurers have figured out the equation a long time ago, but unless you’re planning a trip up Mt. Annapurna, you probably have never heard of the science behind layering for cold weather.

First, you have to focus on your bottom layer, that’s the layer closest to your skin. Your bottom layer is going to not only insulate you, but also manage your moisture. You don’t want to wear undergarments that will make you sweat; you want more breathable fabrics, like silk and cotton. Who knew those silk panties might actually be worn outside the bedroom.

The second layer is to help insulate and regulate your body temperature by moving perspiration away from the skin. You will want your second layer to be a bit looser to create a thin layer of air between your layers. The air trapped between your layers is what is going to help keep your body heat in and keep you warm. Natural fabrics like wool are great insulators.

The last layer is called the “shell” and this is what is going to protect you from weather conditions such as wind and rain. This is also the layer you are going to take off as soon as you set foot indoors. When choosing a third layer consider something that is water resistant and will help block the wind.

Now that we have gone over the practicality of layering, let talk about how to utilize this knowledge in a fun and fashion forward way! 

Just because it's cold outside doesn't mean you have to retire your dresses and skirts. As long as you layer properly you will be able to wear most of your clothing year round. Tights are the best winter staple! You should layer them under all your dresses and skirts, you can even put them under your pants if you know it's going to be extra cold!

Remember that most of your body heat escapes through your head and your feet. Make sure you wear hats and thick sock to prevent the loss of body heat. Scarves are also a great way to lock in heat, and add a bit of flair to your outfit! Click here for 50+ ways to tie a scarf!

Having a good collection of outerwear is also a plus when living in cold climates. You will have to wear a jacket everyday for 4-6 months so make sure you have a quality variety! Trench coats and fur trim coats are my favorite this season!

Accessories are key in maintaining your cuteness during winter! So frequently, your clothing is covered up by bulky jackets and sweaters, so express your style with scarves, hats and gloves! Accessories are also the cheapest part of any outfit, so splurge on a great neutral jacket. Then, head to Forever 21 and H and M for cheap accessories. I also suggest that you keep your accessories playful. Wear bright colors and patterns to keep it fun in drab weather!

One of my favorite ways to layer, is with shorts and tights. This is definitely a taste thing, but I love layering my shorts in the winter. I hate wasting clothing on only one season, so this is a way to cross-over your summer wardrobe into fall and winter. Check out some of the ways I styled shorts with tights below.

I hope this was helpful! The best thing to remember in cold climates is to A) check the weather before you leave the house, B) Plan your attire for the climate outside & inside too, C) have fun with it! Never take yourself too seriously and take some fashion risks! Hey, if Joan Rivers can wear electric blue nail polish, then you can wear a beanie with kitty ears!!

For more information on layering in a fashion forward way, check out these two articles: I think Hubpages and Glam Check have a good take on the topic.

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