No Pants Dance, or How to Stay Warm During a Chicago Winter

December 29, 2010 at 7:27 am (Uncategorized)

I hate wearing pants.  Sorry if that sounds crass or unladylike, but it’s the truth.  Because of my aversion to pants, it means that I don skirts and dresses on the regular.  In a more temperate climate this might be sensible, but I live in Chicago, where it’s not even January and we’ve already had multiple snowstorms and bouts of single digit temperatures.  Well shit.  So as a woman who hates wearing pants, how do I deal with this?

I present my guide to dressing for a Chicago winter (without actually sucking it up and wearing pants).

  1. Lay a good foundation.  I swear by Cuddl Duds.  They make a very affordable Warm Essentials line that is sold at Target.  On the bottom I start with a pair of their long underwear pants in black.  They are close-fitting and silky so they don’t add too much bulk.  On top I’ll usually opt for a camisole or tank top in either nude, or a color that corresponds with my outfit.
  2. When you layer your clothing you trap air between the layers, which in turn helps retain heat.  Over the camisole or tank top, I’ll layer a cotton shirt, either short-sleeved or long.*  Then I top that off with either a cardigan or sweater, which I could then opt to take off if it gets too warm once I’m at my indoor destination.
  3. Over my long underwear bottoms, I pull on a pair of tights.  This may seem weird, but if you do this right it won’t be obvious that you’ve got long underwear on underneath.  Since the long underwear is shiny, you either have to work with this, or work hard to combat it.  If you’re working with it, pick a pair of dark tights that aren’t sheer or shiny, since you’ll already have the silky long underwear on underneath.  Black tights are ideal, although darker colors such as burgundy or navy have worked for me too- basically something that doesn’t make it obvious that you’re wearing black underneath them.  If you want to counteract the shine, then go for a pair of thick sweater tights in a dark color.  This also boosts the warmth factor of your ensemble.
  4. Put on the skirt you want to wear.  I would opt for something heavy like wool or courdoroy to maximize my toastiness.  If you’re wearing a longer skirt you could go as far as wearing a pair of short bicycle shorts underneath to further insulate your toucas, but that’s not how I roll. 
  5. Pull on a pair of warm knee socks.  (If you’re not wearing boots then they don’t have to be knee socks, but I really hope you’re wearing boots since  it’s winter and you need proper footwear!)  I heartily endorse SmartWool knee socks, even though they are pricey. (I got some as a gift, and I’m smitten with them.) Then put on your boots…or not, if you want to catch pneumonia.
  6. Wear a warm jacket!  I swear by my Thinsulate lined coat, which is the warmest winter coat I’ve ever owned.  A hat and gloves/mittens are a must, as well as a scarf.  You essentially want every inch of you covered so that no errant cold air can sneak in anywhere.

*If you want to go with a dress instead of a skirt/top combination, layer a camisole under whatever dress you choose.  I’d advise you to pick a sweater dress, since it’ll be both warm and trendy, but if you want to go with a different style of dress I’d still recommend wearing a cardigan on top.

So that’s it!  As someone who doesn’t have a car in the city and spends copious amounts of time waiting outside for trains and buses, I will preach the gospel of this ensemble to anyone who will listen.  It may sound like overkill, but anytime I try to take shortcuts or avoid all of the additional winter-wear I end up freezing!


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