Is anyone really ready for winter? Well, if you’re a Connecticut resident, you’re probably more than used to braving the occasional blizzard—which can be followed with the rare 60-degree day that’s more reminiscent of October than February.
So, your mind may have adjusted to the changing of the seasons, but what about your wardrobe?
Indeed, now that you may be venturing outside more than you did last year—or even heading back to your workplace—you likely also realize that, in addition to the now-constant variation in outdoor temperatures, you must also be prepared for overheated cars, underheated public transportation, and offices where temperatures can be unpredictable, not to mention aggressive air circulation. It’s enough to make you want to stay snuggled in bed all day in your flannel pajamas while sipping hot chocolate and binging on Netflix. (But we’ve all had enough of that, haven’t we?)
Fear not, the key to being—and staying—consistently comfortable over the next few months can be summed up in one simple word: layering. And no, we’re not taking about cake! All this means is wearing a number of carefully chosen items which can easily be taken off or put back on depending on the temperature and the situation. It’s a lot easier than it sounds.
“A layered wardrobe simply means having the right group of core pieces that work just as well for long days, where the temperature might heat up, as they do for easy nights when the temperature drops,” agrees Emmie Howard, CEO of Onward Reserve. “We all multi-task so much these days and your clothes should too!”
C’mon, what’s wrong with just wearing that great overcoat or parka and leaving it at that. Really, everything!
“I think layering is really a more comfortable way of dressing,” says Dan Farrington, GMM, Men’s for the Mitchell’s Family of Stores. “No one coat is going to be right all the time, especially if you are moving from outside to inside and back all day. When you layer by using a knit, a vest and a jacket, you can be comfortable in all settings simply by adjusting your layers. And let’s face it, men are really trying to figure out how to dress casually yet stylishly in new settings where they may have to be dressed up more than they were before, and layering is the answer.”
“We believe that layering delivers valuable comfort in concert with a fashionable mode of self-expression involving a variable presentation of apparel silhouettes, textures and patterns that are ideal for Connecticut’s crisp weather,” adds Louis Joseph, founder of Alps & Meters. “And one great thing about high-end layering pieces is that they are useful year-round and can easily transition back and forth from recreational to casual or even polished evening settings.”
“I gave a lot of thought to my ideals as a designer for my new White Mountaineering collection for UNIQLO, which I know will be worn by all sorts of people,” says designer Yosuke Aizawa. “Designing clothing around the premise that ‘people move ‘ has always been one of my principles, so I carefully considered using patterns and designs that wouldn’t add stress when worn.
PIECE BY PIECE
So, what wardrobe pieces should you be in your closet this winter? Depending on your space and budget, the list can be very long. Parkas, puffers, topcoats, quilted jackets and vests, lightweight wool suits, cashmere sweaters and hoodies, and cushy overshirts are just some of the suggestions of our fashion experts.
“Great layering is all about owning three key elements: your base, an insulative mid-layer and an outer protective shell, which come together to create a functional system,” says Robin Yates, president of Canadian-based outerwear company Nobis. “That way you don’t overheat, but you also have protective pieces that allow you to face any weather element, including wind, water, snow.”
Of course, most of us spend time each day in a variety of places, both indoors and outdoors, calling for even more creative solutions. “The trick to pulling off the perfect winter layering wardrobe, especially for women, is creating an unexpected mix of pieces,” says Kate Bellman. Managing Fashion Editor for Nordstrom. “Not only is your quilted puffer vest great for a weekend hike, but you can layer it over a checked blazer for the return to work for a chic juxtaposition. Likewise, layering contrasting materials, such as a heavy cable knit cardigan over a silk blouse or a workwear canvas jacket over a soft cashmere sweater, provides your wardrobe with a cool mix and dimension.”
Tailored clothing maker and retailer Indochino has given the layering question a lot of thought, including recently launching the Monza range, a selection of high-end 100 percent lightweight wool fabrics from the Guabello mill in northern Italy. “By having different weights of fall men’s clothing in your closet, you can go through the season easily with style and comfort,” says Dean Handspiker, vice president of retail for Indochino. “A lightweight wool three-piece suit is a great item to own since you can just wear just the vest if you want or put a simple shirt underneath a warm suit jacket. We’re especially big on mixing knitwear with more traditional suiting for those who have to go to the office in colder climates.
“And we really love our new velvet tuxedos and jackets for our more adventurous customers,” adds Handspiker. “They’re perfect for holiday parties or winter weddings, but just wearing the jacket with a pair of jeans can be a great statement and add some needed boldness to your wardrobe!”
SPEND CASH ON CASHMERE
Still, if there’s one thing almost every fashion expert agrees on, it’s that your winter wardrobe must include one or more pieces of cashmere!
“I tell everyone to invest in cashmere everything, from sweaters to beanies to socks, because cashmere keeps you warm, not hot, and it lets your body breathe.” notes Angela Pierietti, the women’s buyer at Mitchell’s. “You will change your layering pieces all the time, but when you find your favorite cashmere coat. it will be with you forever.”
Adds Leah Ranaudo, Senior Merchandising Director at high-end clothier Paul Stuart: “Cashmere’s best qualities are comfort, warmth, and timelessness. Furthermore, the better the quality, the less pilling you will have, and the sweater will keep its shape over time. And here’s a fun fact for fans of cashmere, the lighter the color, the softer the hand.”
“What we love most about providing cashmere for men and women is that it provides such a luxurious sense of comfort and warmth,” says a spokesperson for online retailer Gobi Cashmere. “And it’s so practical because you can conveniently just put our sweaters over a shirt or top without them being cumbersome and then take them off as you please.”
“The bottom line is when it comes to pieces you know you’ll have forever, it’s worth the investment in quality fabrics like cashmere,” adds Bellman. “We believe it’s so important to every consumer that you own something that you can trust will stand the test of time!”
Perhaps the best part of a layering strategy is that you can start simply and build up as your needs—and budget—allow. Start with a great puffer/warm vest and a sweater that can go with many different looks. From there, let your personal style (and temperature) be your guide, and you’ll own the season in style!