“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.” Or so goes the Scandinavian adage repeated to me during my blustery Minnesota childhood. Under a fleece balaclava (at least a decade before Gucci sent them down the runway), a down puffer, coverall snow pants, and mittens, I resigned cold weather was a state of mind. Cut to adulthood in NYC, where the glorious days of half-way decent weather are outnumbered by freak rainstorms and bone-chilling AC.
I knew I was a real New Yorker by surveying my coats; a utilitarian-grade puffer, a raincoat, a spring jacket for the nebulous middle ground, umbrellas from bodegas all across the city, and snow boots with mountain climbing-style tracks. Dressing for the ruthlessness of weather had pushed my party dresses and sheer blouses to the side.
There’s no happy medium. If you dress for the office, you’ll overheat on the train. If you don’t pack a scarf, you’ll ditch dinner plans for the siren call of your warm bed. But living here for eight years has instilled some sartorial survival tips that would make my red-nosed, younger self proud. Perhaps in a world of in-betweens, the best we can do is dress accordingly?
Over or Under
To cite “layering” as an approach for dressing for changing temperatures is numbingly obvious. But my favorite layering hack can be distilled in the simple question: over or under? Let’s call in an example. Say you’re starting with a pleated, sleeveless twill dress. Nice choice. Looking at this piece, we can layer over (oversized sweater, contrasting blazer, structured jacket) or under (turtleneck bodysuit or wrinkled button-up). Layering over is always easier if you’re dressing for an occasion that might heat up, metaphorically or literally. But layering under is an often overlooked way of extending a piece’s wear into those gray areas between seasons.
Lean on Accessories
Once you’ve retired your winter gloves, aka shoved them into the back of the closet until it’s time to dig them out next year, accessories start to feel less like a need and more like a want. But in those in-between times where a jacket just isn’t warm enough, find joy in adding a blanket-style scarf or mittens. Tying a silk scarf tightly around one’s neck is an old Midwestern trick to keep hair from tangling and heat from escaping. When the weather’s iffy, keep things light on the body and heavy on the cold-weather accessories.
Embrace Utilitarian Dressing
Another altogether Midwestern approach to dressing for the time between seasons lies in an entire category of dress. That’s right, opt for utilitarian options. For those without workwear initiation, it can feel intimidating to don a fresh pair of cargo pants. Here’s what I love about workwear: It’s easy to wear, move in, get dressed in, and forget about. It’s also fun to play up the contrast and wear it with something a bit fashion forward. Since workwear’s meant for days of, well, work, it’s breathable and versatile; made for in-between weather.
Ask More of Your Pieces
Giving your clothing a second life is an easy trick for falling in love with what you already own. Practically, this can mean tying your favorite sweater around your neck as a scarf for cooler mornings. The look doesn’t have to be an '80s stay-at-home country club wife vibe, unless you want it to. Tie the knot off to the side or forgo knotting entirely. Tie the sweater around your waist. If all else fails, stuff it in the bottom of your tote—because dressing in layers is the best preparation for unforeseen temperatures.
While this idea applies to all shopping, especially vintage shopping, noting the material of a garment is a great way to dress for the day ahead. Freezing temps? Wool is your best friend. Cold, but not bone chilling? Enter cashmere. This also works as an effective strategy when it comes to investing in purchases with lasting power. Denim made of 100% cotton is going to become more comfortable with each wear. My personal favorite interpretation of this concept is adhering to a strict diet of tights made of at least a little cashmere, which offers comfort and coverage, plus extra warmth.