Thursday, January 23, 2014

Primping for the Polar Vortex

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Yes, fashion fans, it's Jungle Reds own style blogger back with another peek at what you really want to wear. At the beginning of December, we looked at Winter 2013/2014 trends that could be worn by les femmes d'un certain age. Well, winter is here now with a vengeance, so today we're going to consider what to wear when your morning commute looks like this:  

  Some of the Jungle Reds (cough cough Rhys and Lucy cough) are spending the winter months lounging about in the sun, probably wearing flip flops and capris. For many of the rest of us, however, the temperatures outside require a bit more substance:

However, if there's one thing I've learned after twenty-something years in Maine, it's that -4 degrees with -15 windchill doesn't mean your look can't be hot, hot, hot. (You see what I did there.) I've put together four outfits that will let you laugh at the polar vortex without making you resemble the Michelin Man.

 I get to work from home, but I know lots of women aren't so lucky. Here's an outfit suitable for all but the most conservative offices: wool skirt over wool blend tights, cashmere turtleneck and insulated dress boots. Best of all, most of the pieces are on sale, which means you can afford the delightfully warm cashmere-silk Hermes shawl. (For some values of afford. Affordability not open to tuition-paying parents.)

Baby, It's Cold Outside: Office Wear




Haskell bracelet


Work in a more laissez faire environment? This all-natural fiber ensemble will get you to the publishing house or university free of frostbite. And you know if you work in a non-profit, they're not going to crank the heat up even if your window is frosting over.

Baby It's Cold Outside: Creative Workplace

As you can see, this outfit, suitable for a lunch date, Saturday errands, or drinks with the girls, also signals my increasing mastery of Polyvore, as I figure out how to stack clothing. Next thing you know, I'll be photoshopping pics of Lena Dunham. Notice the common theme in all of these outfits: layer, layer, layer. Get those LL Bean silk long johns of some Uniqlo Heattech pieces and wear them. Every day.

Baby, It's Cold Outside: Drinks with the Girls



Wool boots

I have to confess, I was looking for "long wool skirt" around which to start building a warm evening outfit, when I came across this vendor at Etsy. I stopped right there. Wool. Fur. Russian princess. I suppose I could come up with a more contemporary evening look, but I doubt it would be any more enjoyable than this.

Baby, It's Cold Outside: Evening Out

What do you think, dear readers? What are your tricks for looking good and staying warm? 


  1. “Wool. Fur. Russian princess” . . . this ensemble could almost make me love winter . . . . I love the long grey skirt, too.
    I’m a fan of long sweaters for cold winter days. Right now the thermometer says “3” and the wind chill is something in the neighborhood of -15 so I’ve got a long sweater and my long down coat, hoping to stay relatively warm . . . .

  2. I think I'm beyond hope, but I wear heavy woolen sweaters I've been collecting since I was 13. They're all traditional patterns from Norway, Sweden, Iceland, and Ireland. There's only one design I haven't been able to collect yet, because on my last trip to Iceland I couldn't find one. I'm not sure how traditional the pattern is, but the design features a running Icelandic pony. I may have to see if I can find it online. I think it would be the perfect sweater with jeans.

  3. Oh right—one from Scotland that I bought in Oxford.

  4. An uninformed reader searches for JRW (probably a man): "I must be on the wrong blog. I was looking for a bunch of lady authors talking about writing...oh, no, wait, this is right. I recognize those names. But why all the fashion? Is there a murder here somewhere? Oh, ya, sure ... that red and black scarf looks like a dead animal. I'm in the right spot."

  5. The most amazing takeaway from this post is that National Geographic sells clothes! I had no idea. My fashion statement yesterday was to wear my long black wool coat - nearly to the ground, thick wool, nicely styled, and usually reserved for a night out in Boston - over my yoga pants so I could make my five-minute walk downtown for an exercise class without turning into an icicle.

  6. Right, jack ha!

    Julia, you are brilliant with fashion. who knew?

    Winners for MURDER WITH GANACHE yesterday are Robyn and Stitchkat.

    Please email me raisleib at gmail dot com to claim your prize!

  7. Edith, I just bought a Christmas gift for my sin-in-law (not a typo; my daughter and he live together without benefit of marriage) from National Geo, and saw their gorgeous clothing collection. Who knew?

    My most amazing takeaway was the actual price of an Hermes scarf. Geez, Louise. I knew they were pricey, but had no idea they were at the stratosphere level. Makes me appreciate my Liberty scarf that cost 1/10 as much, straight from the London shop.

    Reine, I collect wool sweaters, too, but they're all so boring: turtlenecks, either merino wool or cashmere. They're warm, though, especially paired with a scarf from the collection I started in 1964.

    Julia, you have great taste. You can put together outfits for me any time.

  8. I have no idea... but right now, this very second, I am going shopping. You've inspired me!

    Really, Julia, I think you may have missed your calling...

  9. Forget about fashion; I just want to stay warm!

    Yesterday I wore warm winter slacks and a heavy sweater over Cuddleduds (where would I be without them??), TWO pairs of socks, warm boots, a fall/winter jacket UNDER my heavy parka, ear warmers, a woolen scarf pulled OVER my head, along with the hood from the parka. Today I am similarly attired, minus the upper set of Cuddleduds; instead, I'm wearing a turtleneck under a very heavy sweater. It is never warm enough in the office so I may pull on the fall/winter jacket, and may possibly throw my parka over my legs.

    How many days until spring???

  10. Last fall while on Vancouver Island I bought a wonderful roomy (men's L) warm hoodie (grey with a Native thunderbird design on the back) that I then tucked away for myself for Christmas. When I opened it Christmas morning, I found it was just perfect for the cold weather, and have been wearing it nearly every day since. Until I finally had to put it in the wash, and realised I needed a second one. So I went out and bought another thick warm hoodie (Men's L), red with patriotic patches and "Canada" emblazoned across the front.

    With these two sweaters, I'm going to be warm and toasty for the rest of the winter. (Well, the week in Cuba in February will help too.)

  11. I'm a guy, what do I know about fashion? And I live in Southern California where we are enjoying a much warmer than average "winter."

    I'll stop now before you accuse me of rubbing it in. :)

  12. Brilliant, Julia ! And the amazing thing is that I would happily wear all these outfits.
    If the writing doesn't work out, would you like a job as my fashion consultant?
    I especially loved the evening ensemble. If I ever find snow in central Arizona, I'll try it!
    Off to the pool....

  13. Oh, those are lovely, but SOOOO impractical. Where to begin:

    Dressy boots without treads on the bottom? What do you do when light snows (many of them) cover black ice, and you are a woman of a certain age with, perhaps, the beginnings of osteopoenia or -- heaven forbid-- osteoporosis? Take your vitamin D and wear boots that grip the sidewalk like a snow tire grips the road.

    A long skirt? In SNOW? Where's my footman to remove the caked snow from inside the hem? Or you can sit at your desk with your legs pressed against a wet skirt while puddles form around your feet. No thanks.

    I wear Cuddleduds camisoles under rib-knit (which can be narrow, but still warm) turtleneck sweaters, often with a vest over them (wearing a good silk scarf to work just means you're going to get ink or coffee on it and have to spend money at the cleaners). You don't want anything dangling if you are concentrating on something besides your dangling scarf or necklace.

    I'm big on black jeans (I have some from Lee that don't have back pockets and look dressy without being too thin, or disintegrating between the thighs if yours rub together). I like a blazer over the turtleneck sweater, but sometimes that's too constraining, in which case a cardigan or big v-neck pullover works as well (with the turtleneck underneath).

    If you work at home, Hanes makes nice sweat pants in darker but vibrant colors, with wide waistbands that actually look pretty good-- and can be thrown into the washer.

    Outerwear? I like leather jackets with zip-in linings. (I won't wear fur.) Or that synthetic suedy stuff that can be washed, and is absolutely totally warm. But car coat length is the maximum, because if one drives a small car as I do, you have to get it into the car-- and if you're on public transportation (which around here means the bus) you want to be able to climb up the steps or fit into the only vacant seat.

    In other words, the point is to look decent while minimizing the possibility of a fall, of a puddle around you (and a wet skirt all day), of a cleaning bill, and of distractions, while maximizing mobility, warmth, comfort, and, yes, some style. (But have you ever noticed that in sub-zero weather, your earrings freeze which means that your earlobes freeze as well? So I wear small earrings that can fit under my hat-- and yes, I always wear a hat and gloves in this weather.)

    Maybe I'm just old, but I think UGGS are as stylish as a "dress boot," and the more recent ones (as well as the imitation ones sold at Target and Kohl's) have soles with treads like a snow tire.

    And for heaven's sake, don't STRIDE this winter. Learn to walk like those of us from the frozen tundra-- plant your feet solidly. You can learn to walk the old way once the snow is gone.

  14. GREAT things! Living in an area that gets a lot of snow and cold temps (minus 2 this morning) I have a well-stocked winter wardrobe, but nothing like this gorgeous Russian red ensemble! Wow.

    And I'm wild about the Hermes scarf. But, wait. $1,000 +. For a scarf. Really?!

    This past weekend, in an attempt to "think Spring" I ordered some very frou-frou fluttery dresses from the Sundance Catalog Year-End sale.

  15. Wearing my Lands End nightgown and my LLBean flannel robe, socks and slippers, in my house.
    Love, love, love these clothes.

  16. Sometimes a girl needs to put her best foot forward, even if it's the temperatures are sub-zero. I love what you've put together, Julia, and would wear all of it.

    Not sitting at home at my desk, but I do emerge occasionally, even in the frigid cold.

  17. I am so inspired by these outfits!

    Writing at home all day I seldom go out except for errands and to walk the pups. One thing I've noticed--blue jeans are no good at all in very cold weather. And skinny jeans are the worst. Like wearing icicle chaps! Give me cozy leggings and a long wool sweater any time.

    I have a lunch date with my sweetie today. After seeing all these cute outfits, I think a skirt, leggings, boots, and a pretty scarf are totally in order. Thanks!

  18. I thought I was in the wrong place for a second too!

    I would love a big wonderful wool coat a la our Russian princess. I somehow make do with an old pea coat covered with dog hair. Yeah, I'm a fashionista all right! Hah!

    Online, I recently found fleecy tights. They are so warm -- they're my new favorite thing.

  19. Yes but:
    "Jungle Red Writers
    8 smart and sassy crime fiction writers dish on writing AND life. It's The View. With bodies." [caps mine] ;-)

  20. Julia, these outfits are amazing. I especially like the long gray skirt and the ensemble for meeting friends. Of course, the Russian princess is too gorgeous for actual wear, unless you are a Russian princess. Ha, ha. I can't believe that you listed the vendors for the outfits and linked them. That was beyond thoughtful, Julia.

    Reine, your woolen sweater collection sounds unique indeed. Wow! Edith, I wasn't aware that National Geographic sold clothes either. Denise, I plan on staying in my jammies today, too (in my reading chair with a little heater and blanket, dog on floor beside me, and Rhy's Hush Now, Don't You Cry in my hands). Oh, Rhys, thanks for the pool comment, as it is 7 degrees here. LOL! Mark, does it really never rain in California? (Actually, I hear it hasn't lately) Lucy, I'm really longing for Key West today. Jack, you speak my language, fluent sarcasm. You know, you guys could offer up what clothing you rely on for cold weather.

    If anyone saw me outside at 7:30 this morning taking the dog out, I was quite the sight to behold. Let's just say, that fashion was not on the menu, but bundling was.

  21. On this topic of keeping warm I have to send a “thank you” to Deb Crombie. Some weeks ago she mentioned ordering a down coat from Eddie Bauer. I went online and bingo, there was just what I had been looking for: light in weight, falls to the knees, tapered at the waist so as not to look like that tire guy, and available in RED. I took a chance on fit and ordered it -- perfect. For hours yesterday I was outside here in upstate NY where the high was probably 5 and I have never owned a coat that kept me so warm – it was terrific. There are so many advantages to reading the Jungle Reds!
    Oh, and under my slacks I wore some leggings my daughter gave me – from Whole Foods no less.

  22. Judy, you've made my day!! And yes, I LOVE my Eddie Bauer coat. I've never had a coat that warm, that comfortable, and I've never seen a down coat that flattering. and the fit was perfect for me, too. YAY, Eddie Bauer!

    And I'm going to need it if I stick my nose out the door today. I know you guys up north are laughing at me, as it's just 30 F here in North Texas, but the wind chill is about 0 and the temps will be down in the low teens by tonight, with arctic winds. So my attire for the day: cami, long-sleeved tee, Land's End heavy sweatshirt, ditto sweat pants, wool socks. Writing with two space heaters going and down blankie on lap. May have to get out the dreaded silk long underwear...

    I am nowhere near as fashionable as Julia, who is our Fashionista Queen!!!

    What I really want to do is curl up under the arctic weight down comforter, with heating pad, and read some more of Lucy's Murder with Ganache and pretend I'm in Key West...

  23. Hah, Reine -- right on! You are right. Life too. And life right now is a lot about the Polar Vortex.

    I forgot to mention that winter means scarves. I love scarves. I love learning cool ways to know them. I consider them winter necklaces. :-)

  24. This is for Reine, who wants the pony design sweater. Is this what you mean, Reine?
    Gail in Seguin

  25. Hank--running in after a long and crazy day at work--on a stakeout! BRRR!

    For which I was attired in layers, of course. Black Karan leggings, a Gap tank top, a Bloomingdates thin black cashmere turtleneck sweater over that, a big black Eileen Fisher cashmere tutleneck sweater over THAT, a red cabled wool infinity scarf (that could go over my ears but not be a dumb-looking hat in the interview), cashmere-lined black leather gloves with knit techno gloves over them so I coujld text to the photographer when to come out, a black full length double faced cashmere coat and Arctic rated Pajjar storm boots.

    It worked. We got him.

    I SHOULD have worn that fur trimmed skirt. Absolutely.

    ANd Julia--if this writer thing doesn't work out, you are a NATURAL for fashion! LOVE this!

  26. Our front just blew in; a possibility of sleet and ice in the morning. We'll see. I just got rid of a boat load of sweaters, collected from years up living up north. But I kept some favorites like one I bought at the Blarney Woolen Mills in Ireland. And I acquired a man's cashmere sweater in Scotland in September. A nice light weight for layering with my nice insulated vest I also got in Scotland.

  27. Hank, I'm quite sure you are the most chic of all stakeout queens!

  28. Lisa, tell me about the fleecy tights! Are they--puffy??