Layering, for necessity not for chic

Dime-a-dozen stores selling only the latest and greatest in fashion essentials (insert sarcasm here) like American Eagle and Abercrombie (I assume; I haven’t actually set foot in one of those in a decade or more.) will tell you that layers are cool. “Buy our fancy ribbed tank, over which you should wear our nifty falling-apart-it’s-so-thin T-shirt, over top of which you should wear our really super cool long-sleeved henley that will make you popular with all your friends.” Top it all off with some scarves a-la Aerosmith front man Steven Tyler and you’re good to go.

Well boys and girls, I’m here to tell you: folks in the north layer out of need not out of style. That’s definitely not to say that real-deal layering can’t be stylish, but it is a whole hell of a lot bulkier than the thin, rinky dink useless layers on the mannequins and in the catalogs of those trendy stores.

I’ve come to realize that in Wisconsin, attire is a matter of functionality. Coats are made with down lining and are longer to keep more of you warm. Boots are tall, thick-soled weapons with which to kill whatever snow or ice may lie in your path. Gloves are really something people wear on a regular basis, not just something you get in your Christmas stocking only to lose and never find again. Hats aren’t a last spiffy accessory to complete your ensemble; they keep that biting wind off your head and face.

This may seem like first grade math (that is to say, super obvious, to all my math-haters out there), but for a girl who grew up in East Tennessee and the Carolinas, it was more like calculus. It took me a little longer to break it down and fully comprehend.

Heck, I’m used to winter days where temperatures are blissfully sunny and 60. I have a coat that I never wear. My sandals are my most favorite thing in the whole wide world, and in college — a time when we’re all young and stupid — I may have worn them year-round (with the exception of December and January one year when there actually was a bit of snow on the ground.) I never knew scarves were functional; I always though they were a fun, colorful accessory to spice up an outfit.

But hey, I’m learning. And ever since our arrival in Milwaukee this week, I’m learning fast. I don’t want to die of hypothermia; there’s too much fun and exciting stuff to do here. So bundle up I will. Like a pro. (Although at this point, let’s be honest, I’m still quite amateur.)

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One response to “Layering, for necessity not for chic

  1. O Mary, I’m loving your blog. This post reminds me of all those FREEZING (to me) cold mornings on the way to our ethics class. Sneakers and lined coat for me. Rainbows and a long-sleeve T-shirt for you. You can bet I’ll wait until it thaws up there to visit, because if Mary declares it cold, it is COLD. Miss you, love you, stay warm!

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