It’s Mid-March and Manila is beginning to feel the sweltering heat. Sunglasses and sunblock have become the order of the day. Beach trips and poolside escapades are on our minds.
Yet on the other side of the world, the severe winter has yet to retreat. On Instagram, I continue to see photos of snowy streets and windowsills, with captions such as “This is not what spring break looks like!” or “The worst winter in years.”
On a recent trip, I experienced this painfully cold winter. A temperature of -3ºC was all too much for a tropical girl like me. When faced with unimaginable cold, braving the outdoors became a real ordeal. Function naturally took over form in my dressing choices. Heading out bundled in a chunky fleece duvet seemed ultra-tempting for me.
Winter wear taught me the real meaning of dressing to protect yourself against the elements. I learned the power of layering. I had to dress up in up to six layers of clothing to stay warm. Winter fashion pieces that I once longed to wear because they made dressing up fun were given a whole new sense of appreciation. Beyond their aesthetic value, I discovered how essential they were to my survival.
Here are some tips and fashion essentials for when the temperature drops.
Thermals. Start your daily dressing with a layer (or two) of thermal innerwear and tights or leggings. It was suicide to step outside without them. I love trusty old Mark’s & Spencer’s thermals, which kept me warm and snug. A more current innovation is Uniqlo’s Heattech range—heat-inducing lightweight fabrics that don’t add much bulk.
Ear muffs. I never considered earmuffs my style. I found them too young and cute. Yet I discovered their power in my desperate attempt to keep warm. I bought a fluffy black one from a street vendor and it made a world of difference!
Headgear. Keeping your head bundled up does wonders to lock in the heat. Find one that suits your personality and face shape. There is a range of hat, cap and headband styles in faux fur, wool, felt and knit to choose from.
A proper coat. I’ve always loved the look of a long sophisticated coat. They make one look so polished. However, make sure you choose one that will actually do its job. The fabric must be thick enough—in wool, shearling, or lined with fleece or fur. I once excitedly bought a trench coat with Holly Golightly images in my mind, only to find it useless because of its thin cotton fabrication.
Shawls and snoods. Wrapping one around my neck at all times was crucial. It was also a lifesaver to have a spare shawl in my bag at all times. Choose pashmina, wool or knitted. For a more updated style, try a thick cuddly snood. It is a tubular neck scarf that may also be worn as a hood.
Knee-high leather boots. Not only do they look sexy, they also keep legs warm and comfy. And for all that walking, opt for a pair of good-quality flat boots. The pair should be well-lined with good soles to keep you from frostbite and from slipping.
Gloves. Try to get a pair that’s fleece-lined or made of real leather; that should make a difference in keeping your fingers warm. Another innovation I discovered is a pair of touch-screen-friendly gloves that enabled me to use my gadgets even with my gloves on.
Fur. Their ability to keep one warm, cozy and oh-so-cuddly makes me love this material even more! (Even the faux variety works.) A coat, vest, hat or even a collar also gives a touch of glamour.
The right accessories. When you’re all bundled up, choosing your jewelry and accessories becomes tricky. A pair of killer sunglasses will do the trick and can also keep your face protected from the cold. Try a layer of delicate necklaces, a statement collar, or a leather cuff for instant style. Stay away from heavy metal accessories that touch your skin, as they turn ice-cold outdoors.
Maxi dresses and skirts. These floor-grazing pieces keep you protected, but with a luxe ’70s feel. Make sure to wear them with a layer of thermals beneath and top with a heavy-duty coat.
Keep a balanced silhouette by layering strategically. You don’t want to look like a giant teddy bear. For example, if you have a fur coat on, keep your bottom sleek and tight, and vice versa.
When you have to wear as much as six layers of clothing, carefully choosing your layers is vital. When wearing an inner shirt, sweater, cropped jacket, coat and snood all at once, coordinate the colors in a monochromatic scheme, or add a jolt of bold color with some. This will make your look unified and well put together.
Dressing up with these new fashion ingredients was challenging and fun for a winter-wear newbie such as myself. I learned that there are so many options you can play around with. And with a bit of creativity, one does not have to sacrifice style for comfort.