Well, now that our freakishly cold Midwestern winter has started to spread across nearly the entire country, I wanted to share a few tips and tricks I’ve picked up since my first “winter gear” post earlier this season. What I know now that I didn’t know then is that surviving a Midwestern winter isn’t about fortitude or enthusiasm, it’s about having proper winter gear. Google and fashion magazines aren’t really as helpful as you might think — I learned the most from your comments, asking my coworkers what kind of gear they use, checking out the people on the bus to see what name brands and styles look the most comfortable and commute-friendly, experimenting with a few different things, and finding what works for me. For those of you who have been sending tips and tricks along the way, thank you.
1. Layers. Everyone talks about layering, but before this year I always considered a cute tank with a v-neck sweater to be layering. I’d never engaged in layering for warmth. Now, I wear warm-layer leggings, wool socks, and a tank underneath my regular outfit every single day. I love the fleece-lined leggings recommended by my friend Kristen, I like the texture and feel of regular ole’ thermal underwear, but most often I’m rocking the Cuddl’ Duds I included in the photo below. I also layer on a fleece or moderately thick sweater that I can wear in the office if necessary without looking like a college kid in an 8:00 class.
2. Outerwear. I purchased a coat which is great for moderately cold days (where the low is like 10* to 20*F) where I’ll be active or getting in-and-out of a heated car frequently. But that isn’t really my normal day. Because I walk to the bus stop and then stand still for two to twelve minutes each morning and evening, I needed something for my commute that was seriously warm. Everyone seems to wear North Face coats here, but the cost was very high and a few people I work with recommended the Lands’ End Squall coat series. I did my research, including an online shout out to several of you guys on Facebook, and decided that the Lands’ End Long Commuter Down would be the best fit for me.
3. Sizing. I’m typically quite hot-natured, and have always gotten overheated easily on the bus/train. Thus, during my commute to work in DC I never tried to wear warm clothes underneath my winter coats. I learned pretty quickly that my size Small coats couldn’t really handle the kind of layering I needed to make my commutes passable. So, I ordered a Medium in my new coat. It was huge. It is so large that I almost returned it for a smaller size because I felt silly wearing such a large coat inside my warm apartment. Now that I’ve been actually wearing it, though, that extra space in the arms and shoulders is the best thing ever. I can fit a very thick sweater or a fleece zip-up under my coat and there is still plenty of room for moving around. Also, extra big is extra warm.
4. Footwear. I thought that my rotation of knee-high leather boots would be perfect all winter, but post-snow sidewalks are treacherous and disgusting, so I’ve been avoiding them on my commute and just carrying them to work in my canvas tote. I picked up this pair of fleece-lined snow boots because they were cute, but I’ve been hearing great things about Sorel and Merrell boots and may snag a new pair for next season on clearance if I find something that looks good.
5. Socks. I try to wear warm wool socks every day, and if they are the thin ones I’ll just wear them all day, changing into work-appropriate shoes during the workday. I also keep a pair of knee-high pantyhose in my bag and can switch into hose and heels at a moment’s notice if I have a big meeting. Seriously, though, regular cotton socks just won’t do when you are out in the weather — wool socks (preferably the ones that go all the way to your knee) are required.
So far, my new large coat, snow boots, and effective layering have been keeping me incredibly warm. Each day I make it to work without crying or giving up, I feel a little more like a winter-weather superhero.
Am I missing anything? Any other tips you’d like to share for those of us surviving our coldest winters ever?