Here in Ukraine we have winter. And it’s damn serious. Russians, who are like 50 miles to the north have it even more serious, but our winter is more than enough to get the idea.
Most of the time in winter we have temperature somewhere between +5C and -20C (41F and -4F). It starts in the beginning or in the middle of November and ends in the end of March. Sometimes temperature can drop down to -35C (-31F)*, but it happens not every winter. the weather can change drastically during the day. Humidity is usually quite high and it’s also windy. From this description you can guess that right winter clothes are essentials. There are a lot of sayings like “Siberians are not irresistible to cold, they are just dressed right”. We are not Siberians, but it’s 146% true for us too.
So what does it mean to be dressed right for severe winter conditions?
- You need good boots on a thick sole (5/8″ is a minimum) which was designed for winter temperatures. If we are talking about a city then it should be waterproof (reagents create liquid dirt even when it’s well below freezing point). There should be no way for snow to get inside. High boots are better than low.
- You need a warm coat. Good materials for it are down, thick wool and cashmere, fur. There are some hi-tech synthetics designed for winter sports, but one freeze pretty quickly in many of them without active movement, so choose carefully.
- You need good gloves (high enough, not supertight, lined with cashmere or fur, water resistant) and a winter hat (that means made from thick wool or cashmere or fur or leather lined with wool, for colder days it should cover ears completely).
- You always should take wind and slush or snow into account. That means thick raincoat fabric or leather after special treatment or special windshield/waterproof fabrics. But you can care less about waterproof after it goes below -10C (14F). Of cause you can always just get an umbrella, but if it’s windy it’s not that much of help.
- It’s virtually impossible to create a coat which will be good both for +5C and -35C, so in a fact you need not one winter coat, but at least two (but more is more in this case, it’s much better to have several for flexibility).
- You most likely will need at least two layers under winter coat, so you don’t want your coat to be too form hugging, but too loose is also no good, because loose not only often looks bad on curvy ladies, it also allows frost to get under the hem.
- Warm scarf is usually a good idea.
- Bare legs or nylon tights are very bad idea. Jeans are great for temperatures around freezing point, but not well below: they become very stiff and insulation become really poor (there are pants which look like jeans, but have fleece inside, those are much better). From my experience tights with wool or polar fleece leggings + something windproof is the best combination. Something windproof could be a long skirt (but no maxi for me, too dirty roads and pavements**) if you aren’t going to run a winter marathon. Of cause it could be pants, but they shouldn’t be very slim. Some air between layers creates better insulation.
So here comes interesting part: how to look good in all aforementioned when you have body with curves. I have to be honest: it’s tricky, but it’s totally possible***.
First of all: bulky is your worst enemy. Not only because it looks super frumpy, but because it prevents you from moving comfortably. You need the most insulation effective (thin and warm) clothes you can get, but you don’t want anything to be tight, because it prevents normal blood circulation which is very important for staying warm and cozy.
Second: you want some waist definition if you have a waist.
Third: 1 : 1 proportion for top and bottom is no-no. So if you have contrasting color blocks avoid the equal length and amount of each color. If you want to elongate your body it’s always better to use hints of the same color or the same color head to toe.
Four: double breasted coats could be great or the could be your worst enemy. You will never know until you try them. But if they look good on you then you won a lottery because it’s always easier to find one that fits (when unbuttoned a little bit more, but it still could be warm because of the construction) than find a single breasted coat that could be buttoned.
So here are some Polyvore sets which in my opinion are good for winter.****
Leggings are leather and turtleneck could be quite lightweight if dress is warm or dress could be lightweight and turtleneck wool/cashmere. You can wear tights under leggings and warm turtleneck under warm dress to accommodate this set to lower temperatures. You can often see sets like this with opaque tights, but wind will make you miserable in them.
When you wearing a jacket and a coat it’s important that not both of these items have shoulder support. You can add warm tights under pants and wear cashmere turtleneck instead of more lightweight top and this will allow you to survive -10C. Scarf could be worn overhead. Wide leg pants are more tolerant to layering than slim fit, but they require clean pavements, because they should be not shorter than one inch above the ground to look good. If you want shortened pants look for slim fit, but then you will need higher boots (like 5 inches above the ankle without any embellishments on top).
Actually there are quite a lot of sets like these which are labeled as winter, but you can rarely see something more serious like this:
This could be quite comfortably worn when it’s like -15C, a key factor here is that boots are much taller than the skirt hem and the skirt is made from something windproof (like leather), and of cause that there are warm leggings underneath. With that you don’t need a long coat, so the aviator jacket totally makes sense, but it should be made from real fur which wasn’t perforated and stretched.
This is approximately how we dress for outdoor activities in winter when it’s cold. Some women, who use public transportation system opt to dress like this and change to more work appropriate bottom in the office when it’s really cold. Sometimes there could be mittens worn over gloves.
An alternative looks like this:
This is the set for severe weather conditions. Long fur coat is quite heavy and uncomfortable in the car, so it’s not what you want to wear if you have other options. Combination of thin gloves and mittens allow you to drive, use your wallet etc while staying warm. And of cause the trick with warm leggings is done here too.
Women with a very strict dress code usually invest in a long mink coat if they can afford it (often it’s a true investment like buying a car). This is very warm and super expensive way to dress, because it’s also includes a lot of cashmere and fine wool, mostly not as jersey items, but as garments made from woven fabrics. But I can’t find all the right clothes to make such set.
What not to wear in winter
- Clothes which are too cold for the season. Blueish lips, reddish nose, uneven skin coloring when you step inside always look pathetic. And hypothermia weakens your immune system.
- Long down coats: they almost never look good unless they are super deluxe designer coats. And they look especially bad if you are larger than S.
- Bulky coats. And bulky clothes in general when it’s more than one item or something large.
- Anything that looks like a trash bag (I don’t know why but some coats do look like that).
- Tight beanies. There are some very rare exceptions, but as a rule they look awful and kill any volume your hair had before you put them on.
- Embellished beanies and barrettes. Barrettes could be used if you are going for a retro or military look, but it’s a thin ice.
- Too much fur when it’s not that cold.
- Too dark clothes for your coloring. I don’t know why, but many people tend to wear dark clothes in winter even if dark colors look terrible on them as if it’s not dull and gloomy enough.
- White boots except the case you have super clean pavements and roads. And if you have then still think twice.
- Heels when it’s rime (it’s not only uncomfortable, but it also kills insoles pretty quickly).
- The same pair of boots every day. They need some rest believe it or not!
- Cotton as a first layer if there is any chance of serious sweating. The reason is that cotton looses insulation qualities when it gets wet.
- Very tight clothes, clothes which don’t breath (except the last layer when it’s near freezing point).
So that’s what I think about how to dress for winter and I will be happy to hear from your winter experience.
* Record is somewhere around -40C (-40F), but I was never stupid or unlucky enough to be outside when it’s that cold.
** In our climate we can choose between dirty and icy. I prefer ice, but actually it’s very egoistic of me, as icy could be a serious problem for senior citizens. Alas we don’t have crazy oil money or natural sources of warmth to make all our roads and pavements warm and sometimes it’s snowing pretty heavy.
*** Well, when it’s -35C (-31F) with strong wind and snow you usully don’t give a damn about how you look. So sometimes you more than willing to sacrifice appearance to comfort. When it’s really really cold I usually wear sky mask, because several years ago I was stupid enough to get a frost bite and since then my skin is very sensitive to cold.But if you can look good and feel cozy then why not?
**** I’m not a vegetarian, I eat meat like beef, lamb, pork, rabbit, so I would be a hypocrite if I was refusing to wear furs. I won’t buy lynx coat or coat made from any kind of fox e. g., because I like these animals, but I see that more as my personal choice. If your choices are different, please adjust.