How to Dress for the Cold

The weather outside is about to get frightful and I’m not allowed to use my fireplace, so let’s talk about dressing to avoid hypothermia.

This post is for women like me who chose to leave their tropical climates to experience cities with seasons. This post is not for those magical women in Montréal who can wear denim skirts with bare legs in February (jk, I love and admire you). 

Don’t listen to your mother or the sales person at that one store selling “winter” clothes in your home city.

Your mother is going to tell you to wear long underwear or at least tights under your jeans which, no, you don’t have to do that. The sales person is going to try to sell you a jacket that just won’t work. (Shoutout to that gentleman at Patagonia who totally conned me and my mom before I moved to Montréal.)

Cold weather is going to involve some mistakes and trial-and-error on your part. You’re going to have to learn what certain temperature ranges mean to you, and if you have my memory, you’re going to have to relearn it every year. Which brings me to…

Actually check the forecast in the morning

Some of the sunniest days bring the chilliest shivers. Wind chill is something to keep an eye out for and, once you get into deep winter, snow fall can actually mean things are warmer.

Just glancing out your window in the morning isn’t going to cut it anymore, even if you’re trying to judge based on what other people are wearing (because other people are weird and out there wearing winter coats in October and you’ve got thicker skin than that). 

Keep your core, fingers/toes, and ears warm – everything else can handle it

I got advice from someone somewhere that the most important place to keep warm is your core, and they’re not wrong. I find that typically if I’m bundled up in layers on my torso, I don’t particularly care how my legs are feeling. Other sources of discomfort are fingers/toes/ears, so make sure you have gloves (the touch screen ones are great so you can still text), thick socks, and a hat/ear muffs. 


Layer up, Buttercup

This is the advice in pretty much every post on this topic ever, but I’m reiterating because it’s true. Layers are your best friend, and not just because they allow you to wear most of your clothes all year long. The true battle with cold weather clothes is that you’re only outside for a limited amount of time, but once you get inside, it’s really fucking hot. So put a tank top under your shirt under your cardigan under your winter coat so that you can strip down (appropriately) as necessary. 

Figure out what you’re going to lose

Gloves go missing. Hats get left on restaurant tables. I’ve yet to meet an umbrella that’ll stick around. Save on the items that are most likely to get left behind, but spend the extra money on investment pieces that are harder to lose track of, like really good coats and really good shoes. 

Know your essentials

You can carry your personal style through the winter months. (This probably seems obvious, but it took me a while to realize that my love of skirts and dresses doesn’t have to be sacrificed once it starts to snow.) Your essentials are likely different than my essentials, but here’s a general idea to get you started:

  • Heattech tights / leggings: Heattecch is a Uniqulo line of especially warm but thin products that are well-priced and very warm. I’ve heard that Costco has something similar. Either way, this is how you carry your cute skirts and dresses into the winter months.
  • Thick, knee-high socks: Layer them over skinny jeans or tights/leggings for an extra layer of warmth. Also, they’re cute AF
  • Fall coat: Layer with a cardigan/hoodie for those days where you really can’t figure out if it’s cold or too cold outside.
  • Winter coat: this is an essential essential. If you do research on anything, do it on this coat. It should last you for years and be the easiest way to give yourself wiggle room to wear whatever you want and still be warm. 
  • Hat/earmuffs: Protect your ears! And don’t let anyone make fun of you for the earmuffs, they’re hella cute on you.
  • Camisoles: An easy extra layer.
  • I’d say winter boots but I’d be a hypocrite. I’ve been roughing it in fall boots out of sheer laziness for the past two years ever since my good winter boots gave out. 

When in doubt, dress cooler

Unless you’re planning on doing a very long outdoor activity, you won’t be spending too much time outside. It’s better to be cold than warm because it’s probably going to be colder tomorrow, or at least in a week or two. Better to acclimate yourself now than get used to your winter coat when it’s 40 degrees out and freeze all over again when the temperature drops to 32. 

I am not a Jersey girl but this is basically what I tell myself when it feels really cold but isn’t too cold out. But also, bundle up if you want. I won’t judge you (too hard).

Ultimately, though, it comes down to mind over matter

At a certain point everyone is cold, but some people ignore it better than others. 

Enough of my pontificating. What are your tips for dressing in the cold? Is the solution just alcohol? Let me know in the comments.

xoxo, Kim

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image courtesy of alisa.

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