Previously, we discussed what to wear on our feet when it’s winter or when you travel to somewhere cold. It was really insightful even for me! I’m now itching to get a pair of Timberland boots because they keep out the wet better. But then, Irene asked again, what I’d wear clothes-wise when I travel somewhere cold or somewhere in winter.
Basically, Irene wanted to know how I’d dress in winter without looking like a dumpling haha! Well I’m afraid I can’t help you there, Irene. Winter is all about keeping warm and the best way to stay warm is to wrap up!
Here are some suggestions on what I’d wear when I travel to somewhere cold. The last time I went anywhere in actual winter was about 3 years ago and it was absolutely freezing! At the time I wore a woollen coat but I’ve since acquired something even better which is a down-filled jacket that is absolutely lovely! It even looks a little like the one I’ve shown you in the collage above, but it only cost me US$50 (RM150 or so) at a winter wear sale in Korea :D Score! I figured if it was suitable for the Koreans in their bitterly cold winters, it’ll serve me well.
The problem as you might expect, for many of you reading this, is that many of us travel to cold countries from a warm country and if you’re on holiday, you want to know if you need to go out and buy something specifically just for your trip. Well, the answer will be yes and no.
These days, we are quite lucky to have access to fashionable winter wear even though we live in the tropics. It’s crazy most times at the end of the year when you see the store windows filled with mannequins in coats and boots and puffy jackets… even as you sweat in the hot sun as you hurry by. Crazy! Yet, it is these stores that make winter wear accessible ;) So here are some suggestions I have, and please do share your suggestions too! :D
Get a good warm woollen sweater
I swear by natural wool and shun acrylic. I picked this up while living overseas as a student and I’d always look for the Woolmark symbol and the make before buying. A thin woollen sweater can keep you warmer than a thick acrylic jumper and that makes all the difference when you pack. Thick does not always mean better.
These days, you can actually find affordable cashmere blend or woollen sweaters in Uniqlo. Wait for the Fall/Winter stock to come in and watch out for the sales. I sometimes check the sale bins or wait for the promotions and pick up one or two. They come in very handy and you can even wear them here in Malaysia if you work in a Tundra-like environment :P
A good scarf and gloves will keep you warm
I also make sure to have a nice large or long woollen scarf and gloves. After some experimentation, I prefer wearing woollen gloves to leather. The latter looks better but unless it is well made, and properly lined, may not be as warm for me. Also, I have short fingers and find too much excess material gathers at the tips. Woollen gloves fit my fingers better and keep them warm, but if it is wet, then it may get wet more quickly. As a tourist, it doesn’t matter much to me so long as I have some warmth.
As for scarves, I have a couple of woollen pashmina type scarves which double up as a wrap on the plane and when folded over, as a scarf I can bundle around my neck. I prefer the wider scarves/shawls over a traditional narrow scarf after a few trials because I can use a shawl back here in Malaysia, but I’d look a right git wearing the traditional skinny woollen scarves here. To test the length, I fold it to a narrow strip then loop it twice around my neck, then tuck the ends in. This way, most of my neck is covered and you’d be surprised at how much warmer you’d feel
Uniqlo HeatTech tops work very well
HeatTech is one of the best creations ever. Available from Uniqlo, they are impossibly thin, light and very comfortable T-shirts that you wear next to your skin and it actually keeps me very warm. You have to wear it right next to your skin for it to work though. It traps the heat and keeps you comfortable and the material is so soft and lovely. With a HeatTech tee as a base, I can get away with just a thin woollen sweater and a coat outdoors, and just a thin sweater or cardigan indoors (if the heating is not on too high). If you’re lucky and find a pair of HeatTech jeans, get it! I have 2 pairs I bought from Japan when I visited because they were on sale and they were skinny jeans and I’d never worn skinny jeans before :P
They are not only impossibly comfortable, they keep my legs so comfortable! It is far better than any of my regular jeans because it isn’t too thick, it doesn’t get all stiff and tight from the cold and it is lovely. So, look out for those. I have a couple of HeatTech t-shirts in varying sleeve lengths (because I buy them on sale and live with what I can get LOL!) and they have served me well.
Wear a woollen hat to keep your head and you warm
Not only is wearing a hat fashionable, it keeps your head warm. Scientifically, we lose most of our body heat through our head so wearing a hat keeps it in. I am reminded of a joke from Sienfeld (holler if you remember!) “Since 75% of the body heat is lost through the head, apparently you can ski naked as long as you wear a hat. So I’d consider wearing a hat.”
Don’t take that as gospel :P But it’s true that wearing a hat keeps you warmer and you look really cute in photos too! ;) A lovely friend made me one and I have another floppy hat that was a cheap souvenir from Venice from student days and still going strong!
Layer, Layer, Layer
Contrary to popular belief, the best way to stay warm is not to pull on a thick sweater and coat and think they’ll keep you warm. The best way is to layer.
Layering creates layers of air that actually keeps you warmer than if you just wear one thick jumper. So, if it’s in the dead of winter, I wear a thin long-sleeved or short-sleeved T-shirt top, followed by a thin lambswool or cashmere mix sweater or cardigan, and then top it up with a warm coat, scarf and gloves. I find that it is most important to keep your chest area warm. So, I usually wear a sweater or a cardigan that is buttoned up to the neck to protect my chest, then wrap part of my scarf down to my chest area and zip up my coat. Very warm and toasty! If I feel warm, I loosen my scarf or lower the zip on my coat. It is important to get it right before you step out the door. Once you are chilled, it is harder to warm up.
I usually also wear jeans without tights and on days when I feel a little more daring, I wear a thick short skirt with tights of 80-100 denier. You can get these tights from Marks & Spenser’s and they aren’t that expensive but they are good stuff.
Dress for where you will be visiting
So far, my winter exploits have been limited to visiting cities with the coldest being Edinburgh where it wasn’t so much cold as it was wet and windy. I don’t think my dressing will survive a colder place like Canada, Sapporo or Harbin or the steppes of Mongolia. Cities aren’t as cold as the country and you do have a lot of places to duck into if it does get too cold. The problem really, is not with the cold, but the wind so if you are visiting places outside the city then you may consider getting a windbreaker coat which cuts out part of the wind chill and also affords protection against rain. I actually owned a wax coat once like those you see hunters wear as they climb the hill slopes, dog at their feet, rifle in their hand :D It was awesome. Kept the cold out, kept the wet out, kept me warm. But when I got home, it started to smell and got all sticky so I had to toss it out after a while. Not practical for just occasional use but worth considering if you plan to live somewhere cold for the long term.
Ski suppliers make good winter coats and wind breakers or wind cheaters and some aren’t even very bulky at all. They aren’t very fashionable either unless you’re on a ski slope, but if you are freezing, sometimes functionality comes before form :) So know where it is you’ll be visiting and plan your wardrobe accordingly.
Do you have more winter wear tips to share? It’ll be helpful if you live somewhere cold too!
For myself, I dress pretty much as you see in the 2 collages above. The T-shirt and sweater combo is a staple, topped up with a coat, scarf, gloves and boots when I’m headed out. The bottom half is usually either jeans or a short skirt. Sometimes, I wear tights and thick pants for something a little dressier. But for the most part, I look the same in all photographs LOL! :D