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Layering Up, Looking Presentable
AKA What I wore in Paris last week and some other musings in staying warm without a puffer coat in sight.
If you, like me, are blissed out by the promise of spring at the moment, let me start by apologizing for this week’s letter which will not scratch that itch. But a friendly reminder that a week ago we were (I was) freezing and probably will be again before spring is totally sprung. Mentally, I’m spring cleaning but unfortunately still needing to hold in warmth. So with that, I bring you last week’s very cold business trip.
Before boarding for Paris multiple friends texted me to warn: Bring layers! You need a hat! So cold! Socks!
Trying NOT to overpack for a four day trip, these were NOT delightful messages to receive. Coat as outfit means packing in a carry on is basically impossible. But it does make outfit planning easier in some ways. It allowed me to rely on the coat as the full idea, and almost exclusively pack body hugging basics for underneath.
The best way to stay warm, I’ve found, is not to reach for your coziest knits, but to actually layer thinner knits closer to your body. It’s more comfortable under a coat and looks neater when you take off said coat to sit for lunch. So for this trip, I stuck to my tried and true merino base layers and a few thin, fitted sweaters for on top. This is not revolutionary, I know. But sometimes I think it helps to hear you don’t need to wear your most special pieces to get the best outfit. And as I hope you all know by now, its all in the details! Below: what I wore, why, and suggestions to build your own stylish personal heat bubble.
Merino Base Layers
This glorified undershirt is an absolute must if you live in a place that gets even remotely chilly. In the winter, I rarely go without some version of this layer under everything. And for Feb-March work travel they’re the best because the natural fiber doesn’t absorb body smells, at least as much as synthetics or cotton (aka it stays fresh) and keeps you so warm without needing to don a puffer.
The trick when shopping for an everyday (NON SPORTY!) merino base layer is to make sure it has finishings that don’t read “long underwear.” That means no thumb slits and no sporty insignia placed anywhere you might see it peeking through. AND, nothing that gives off a hint of techy shine in harsh lighting.
Another thing to note, mens versions are predominantly better. Its so annoying. But on women’s styles, the necklines don’t usually read as true crews and the sides are not long and straight enough for my taste, with a few exceptions of course. And don’t get me started on the sad shades of fuchsia and plum. Just give us grey, navy and the perfect reds and greens you give the guys please! Luckily it’s an easy item to buy in the men’s dept.
Thin wool sweaters. Your best friends in winter and “it’s almost spring”
I have said this many times, and will probably say it again many times, but winter is really about slim knits in natural fibers. Big, cozy, chunky knits are great for WFH and crisp fall days when you don’t need a coat. But to stay truly warm, what you need is a great layered approach. I rely so heavily on a tiny rotation of knits in the winter. Two Everlane crewnecks. This ivory Jil Sander was just added to the mix and a few more fun varieties…a GiGi (not Hadid!) knit from Yoox. A Khaite striped knit from her first season, etc. But they all fit on one shelf. Tidy. And most of them were not big ticket items. In the winter, my budget is really is reserved for boots and coats. Below, the two I took with me on this trip.
I don’t usually love vests, but I think I figured out how to not feel like a sausage in casing on this trip. This is an Orvis men’s wool vest in a size medium (are we sensing a pattern!?) with an old Max&Co ribbed knit turtleneck. Some alternates in the caption below.
I wore these two layers tucked into my slim boyfriend-ish jeans and added a belt so it looked oversized and blousy but still wasn’t too much fabric for underneath my coat.
Similar to the merino base layer we discussed first, but the thin turtleneck adds an element of formality in my opinion. It frames your face (and overrides the need for a scarf - excellent if you are schlepping around all day for business meetings) and the paperiness of it looks *expensive*. When picking your turtle, nice fabric is key, because it sits so close to your face and really noticed. It’s why I like this ivory one from Refine. The weight and color are lovely. Its tight to the neck but not so tight I feel claustrophobic. I ended up relying on her multiple times on this trip. If you truly can’t commit to merino and need the softness of cotton, this one is pima and the price is right.
Everything Everywhere All At Once
So a couple sub categories here: 1. This lace top. Below that. 2. Just wearing it all.
This lace layer obviously isn’t warm. But it does add an element of coverage during a time when you might not want to feel so bare. I am also wearing a black knit tank under the lace, but the lace adds a fun winter styling element.
Below, what I wore for a day that I didn’t actually have any fashion shows to attend but lots of little showroom appointments, meetings and my day for observation on the streets. Had to check out what all the cool kids are wearing across the pond and what they’re filling their stores with! It’s basically the exact outfit I wore on the plane, just adding a collared shirt. But I’m also wearing a tank under all this! I can’t bear a crisp button down on the skin when it’s cold. And the sneaker could easily be swapped out for a loafer or a boot (which are in my tote bag there) for meetings.
There you have it. A semi-chaotic but highly functional four day trip filled with many different dress codes. Now patiently awaiting spring like the rest of you. It’s almost here! Until then, stay warm in style.
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