Monthly Archives: December 2013

Winter clothes for slim and curvy. Ukrainian edition

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.****

Set #1. For moderately cold weather, when it's around freezing point. Down coat is more convenient for slush

Set #1. For moderately cold weather, when it’s around freezing point. Down coat is more convenient for slush, but I really like coats much better

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.

Set for a weather aound freezing point, office with dress code

Set #2. For a weather around freezing point, office with not super strict dress code

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:

Set for cold weather

Set for cold weather

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.

Set #4. It's freaking cold and I don't care

Set #4. It’s freaking cold and I don’t care

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:

Set #5. Hell may froze, but it's not the reason not to look nice

Set #5. Hell may froze, but it’s not the reason not to look nice

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.

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Ode to boring clothes

This is the post in which I want to praise basics.

They are boring. Wiring and sewage system are also boring. But I don’t think that any of you would like to live in a house without them. And when they are not in a good shape, then house becomes uncomfortable no matter how much you paid for decoration. The same applies to wardrobes: without good basics they are driving their owners nuts. Basic clothes often look the same for people who don’t pay great attention to details (- stop sending identical cardigans to our what to buy and where chat! – but they are absolutely different!).

They all are so different, what should I chose?

They all are so different, what should I choose?

Details are very important when it’s a basic cardi (or jeans, or shirt or whatever), because when something is off with the basic item it’s like electric socket in the wrong place: it constantly gets on your nerves until you fix that.

I have some cool stuff in my wardrobe (bright colors, complex, asymmetric cuts, daring details), but that’s not what I wear most and it’s not what makes my wardrobe integral. All those wonderful things allow me to add drama or simply visual interest, but if my whole wardrobe was built on such clothes I would look like a total freak (not that it’s a bad thing, but I’m not a freak by nature). So clothes I love and I wear most are boring: dark blue skinny jeans, white shirts, black and silver grey sweaters and cardigans, black and dark blue jackets, black oxford shoes, flat sandals without embellishments. There are also not so boring clothes which serve as basics for me: leather leggings (I wear them a lot with tunics and sweater dresses in winter), black leather midi skirt (again ultimate winter item, which allows to hide thick ugly and super warm polar fleece leggings), high winter boots (like knee high, and they were intended to go a little bit above the knee if I understand correctly) with bright zipper in the back). I call such things “basics with a quirk”. When you add to otherwise very basic item some touch of your personal style it still can be basic: but only for you (or your style twin).

Pleated leather midi-skirt fro ASOS, mine is almost identical

Pleated leather midi-skirt fro ASOS, mine is almost identical

There are many lists of ‘must haves’ a.k.a. basic wardrobe lists floating around the internet and almost every book about style has such list.

Usually they look like this:

Your typical basic wardrobe

Your typical basic wardrobe

But problem with all those lists is that they are useless for most of women. Useful list should correspond to climate, lifestyle, body shape, coloring and personal preferences. Not the case if it’s not personified.

Black pencil skirt? For a mom sitting at home with her toddler? Really? )))

Trench coat? In Thailand? Funny.

LBD? For woman with very soft and warm coloring? It will make her look like an ER patient.

I could go on and on and on… Possibilities why any item from those lists could be irrelevant are endless.

I think that if you want a list of basics more effective approach is to identify where and how you spend your time, situations which regularly occur in your life, identify functional and social requirements to your clothes and then choose your basics in accordance with your coloring and body shape. Yes, they should be more classic cut, they should be neutral and have minimum amount of embellishments, but it’s still a lot of possibilities.

As you may know from other sources, there are three main pairs of characteristics that define coloring:

  • warm/cool
  • light/dark
  • soft(muted)/bright(clear).

There are several color analyses systems: 4-seasonal, BFAS, directional, 12-seasonal, 16-seasonal, but they all built on top of these three pairs. And if you have time and spare money you can go through draping with a consultant and get your color palette, but if you don’t then you can just follow your natural colors and buy clothes with approximately the same color temperature, saturation and level of contrast. The little trick I learnt over years is to look at my face without looking at the garment I’m trying: if I start to look tired, or there are odd shadows or lips look pale or jaw line looks less defined or anything else is off then it’s definitely a wrong shade for me.

For body shape recommendations I like ones from Trinny and Susanna (they are detailed and cover not only basic types like hourglass or apple, but a lot of specifics). Of cause they doesn’t cover every possibility, but they are a good start.

Basic wardrobe should be re-evaluated after any significant life change: e. g. when I changed my job (in the office, struggling to balance software development with managerial tasks) to my current job (remote worker, working from home and people I’m managing and my manager are in the different countries), there was a big change: I wear jumpers now! and I don’t need elements of power dressing.  While the second is obvious, first needs to be explained (I think that is a good example how local specific plays important role in what to wear). Actually it’s simple: in Ukraine offices in winter usually either too cold, or too warm (because as a rule in my country many buildings share the same heating system it’s almost impossible to fine tune the temperature and even when a building has it’s own heating system, owners always try to increase the temperature, so they can charge renters more for heating). So in my old office it was like 25-26C (77-79F) in winter and I was wearing lightweight blouses and tops (so for colder days I needed warm cardigans or jackets under winter coats). Now I don’t have this problem and I wear jumpers again, because smaller number of layers is more comfortable, I like when it’s two layers, but three or four are too much, I feel dressed in a cabbage costume.

Sometimes changes are much more dramatic (consider having a child and becoming full time mom after an office with a very strict dress code or moving from Anchorage to Miami).

So how it looks on practice.

I spent almost all my time at home sitting behind my desk. I don’t need to be active at home (I outsource cleaning).  So what I need from my clothes: they should be comfortable, but I don’t need active wear, they should be grey or greyish (my cat is grey and she is always happy to share some of her fur) and just a little bit dressier than PJs (I don’t know why, but it’s very hard for me to work, when I’m wearing PJs). I can wear both pants and skirts, but in winter I feel more comfortable wearing wide leg pants and in summer I prefer A-line skirts. I also need some tops: long sleeve for winter and short sleeve and more lightweight for summer. I can wear dresses in summer at home. Sometimes it could be colder than I like (the curse of central heating) and for this cases I need couple of really warm cardigans. My coloring dictates that of all shades of grey I should choose silver and charcoal, I should also avoid uneven grey which is very usual for jersey. If I don’t want to look (and feel!) frumpy I should add some waist definition, so my tops and dresses should be fitted in the waist.

I need to go shopping and run errands at least once a week. Requirements: urban casual and comfortable. I should cover temperatures as high as +40C (104F) and as low as -30C (-22F), but I don’t need to be outside for very long if it’s uncomfortable and maximum level of activity is walking + pushing a supermarket cart.

We have very heavy rains in summer sometimes, so I need jellies in addition to leather sandals. In highest summer temperatures I doesn’t feel comfortable in cotton, so it should be silk, but as simple cut as possible, matte and no embellishments. Skirts are more comfortable than pants for me (better ventilation, I guess, it’s almost like wearing nothing). I can wear any dark and cool/neutral or light and cool/neutral clear color I want, but my choice for summer basics is light grey and ivory (there are a lot of brights which look really good on me, but brights don’t make good basics, alas! darks are more flattering on me, but I don’t feel comfortable wearing them a lot in summer, alas (number two)!).

In colder months we often have dirty pavements and roads, cars also become dirty pretty quickly, so wide leg pants and long skirts are no good for such conditions. In winter it’s either around 0C (freezing point) often accompanied by slush or very cold and sometimes snow (which they usually try to tame with salt and some reagents creating unbelievably filthy dirt). For colder months I chose black, silver grey and dark purple. Plus dark blue jeans. I also have one navy jacket, but I wouldn’t buy it again. I also like white shirts, but they are the only item I like white.

I’m Vase (slim hourglass with longer waist) in Trinny and Susanna typology. My legs are slim enough, so I wear skinny jeans and leggings, but I feel more comfortable when I pair them with tunics which cover crotch,  but are not too loose to hide the fact that I have slim waist. Long cardigans with a belt are also a very good choice for me. So those are my basics for autumn and spring. It could be trench or lightweight parka, but I chose leather jacket for months when it’s cold, but not freezing (this is just a personal preference, I like leather). I could also wear skirt when I feel like it, A-line skirts are comfortable and when they kept simple they are casual enough, at least for Ukraine. I don’t like sneakers, they are too sporty for my taste, so I use black oxfords and riding boots as casual footwear. In winter it’s mostly midi skirts and sweaters, worn with something heavy duty (when it’s colder than -5C (23F) then it’s sheep skin coat). I could wear my leather leggings with a tunic, but only when it’s not polar fleece needed cold (polar fleece is a divine gift for a girl like me, seriously, I hate when my knees are freezing).

I go out something like twice a week, but nothing super fancy. So I need some more dressy stuff, but not over the top. This is the place when nude leather sandals with high heels (but not stilettos!) appear. So it’s not a lot of basics for summer, because summer is about dresses for me and basic dress? it’s so lame :-D. For colder months there is a place for jackets (they really flatter me), A-line and pencil skirts, which I wear with shirts and scoop neck sweaters and necklaces.

So my basics are:

  • silk light grey skirt or summer;
  • warm silver grey and black cardigans;
  • black jacket;
  • couple of jumpers;
  • dark blue skinny jeans;
  • black slim pants or leggings (now this position covered by leather leggings);
  • black A-line midi skirt (because it’s universal);
  • white shirt;
  • jellies;
  • nude flat leather sandals;
  • nude high-heel sandals;
  • black oxford shoes;
  • black riding boots (actually two pairs: winter edition and autumn/spring edition);
  • black leather jacket;
  • polar fleece leggings;
  • neutral color warm waterproof coat;
  • sheep skin coat.

I haven’t included home clothes in my list, because there are no true basics except of a silver grey cardigan there, it’s a whole wardrobe, just created from unified items. There are also no summer tops (I prefer to have fun with them, so no basics here).

As you can see it’s not a typical basic wardrobe list. These are my personal basics, items which worth my special attention and little investment.. I’m sure that if you do the same exercise you will come with your own personified basic wardrobe list different from mine. Sometimes it could be very useful to go into more details about positions of the list, to write down what is important for the item of clothes and why*, it helps not to get lost when you are buying stuff.

I think that personalized list is a good step toward the wardrobe with which you will never cry out “Oh, my god! My closet is full of clothes, but I have nothing to wear!”.

* E. g. my jellies should be suitable for driving and my sheep skin coat shouldn’t be too heavy, because it’s bad for my back, so it shouldn’t be long, that’s why I need warm leggings.