Ahhh, the allure of cute winter fashion. As temperatures drop, snow falls, and days get shorter, we create images in our minds of looking adorable and festive in our trendy outerwear. We imagine looking, well, like this model. All matchy-matchy, smiling, stylish, happy and not the least bit cold. Because, after all, she’s decked out in her Lands End or LL Bean gear. She’s warm and beautiful.
The problem, of course, is that is not reality. At least not here in New England. I suppose some of you in the ski resort towns of the northwest may look like this. You may have mittens and sweaters that match, pure white pants to go with your fluffy white earmuffs, fuzzy boots that never get wet, and the perfect accent-colored coat that can stand up to the rigors of creating the perfectly round snow ball which you are about to charmingly throw like a girl.
But in this part of the country, the only time we might look even close to this is if we have found the perfect sunny 35-degree day to meet our girlfriends for shopping and lunch. But the white pants still wouldn’t happen. No, here we look every day a bit more like this: Stuffed into any variety of winter gear until we look like we weigh 30 more pounds than we really do, causing us to walk like a penguin, and the only skin that is showing is red and chapped, and our eyes and nose are running. True Cover Girl material.
Style frequently gives way to warmth, no matter the cost to our vanity. Comfort is king, and layers are a requirement. Matching is optional, even rare. There was a great post on Facebook by the Bangor, Maine Police Department (If you aren’t following them, I highly recommend it) that went into some detail on the value and importance of flannel, and flannel ownership rules in the winter. Basically, if you find it, put it on. This time of year I have three drawers full of warm-yet-not-overly-attractive versions of sweatpants, fleece or flannel shirts, and fuzzy socks. Our coat closet is full of a variety of outer garments and our gloves/hats/scarves drawers are stuffed… if we are lucky, we can dig through and find a matching pair of gloves. But match them and the hat and scarf to each other and what we are wearing? Yeah……that’s not gonna happen.
Of course, this whole bundled ‘n bloated style turns to mayhem with the arrival of weird 48-hour stretches of thawing temperatures, fog and rain. Transitioning quickly from -16 and blizzardy to 50 degrees and wet is not an easy task. One does not want to be in layers of fleece and wool when it is balmy and pouring. Not to mention, for those of us already susceptible to rapid body temperature swings, the effort to remove thick layers of clothing in a hurry can appear not unlike a magician trying to escape from a straightjacket while hanging from his feet. Thus we must choose our winter wear carefully.
This morning I ventured out on a walk with my dog. It was a classically strange New England dawn, 34 degrees, foggy, drizzling, a combination of puddles and shmooshy snow on the ground. (Shmooshy is a technical meteorological term, of course). I paused before heading out, and thought of those lovely LL Bean tv spots that were on around the holidays, touting their great “Be an Outsider” campaign. I loved the message….what slayed me was the perky, happy, perfectly styled families squealing and scampering outside to play. It has been a really, really long time since I scampered out to play in the snow. Trudging out to shovel, sure. Bundling up to take the dog out, yes. But gleefully bounding in my stylish outerwear? Not so much. But here I was this morning, dutifully and pleasantly going for a walk to get some fairly mild fresh air. Did I look like that cute white & blue clad model? Not even in my wildest dreams. I will say that my feet were pretty darn cute. One of my BFFs a couple of years ago gave me a pair of brightly colored Wellies, and I love them. They are the one reason I look forward to going out to walk through puddles. However, from shins up, all style bets were off. I had an old pair of sweats crammed in to the boots. On top I had a flannel top, a quilted purple vest, and over it all, a bright yellow rain jacket which I have literally had for nearly twenty years and the style speaks to its generation. I gave myself extra points because my ratty old gloves were also yellow, and for wearing such bold colors on a grey foggy morning (Safety First!). But the piece de resistance was – wait for it – a pair of white and grey puffy earmuffs. Watch out, Lands End Model Woman – I’ll be taking over your photo shoot any day now.
Truth be told, I never look like a fashionista on my morning walks, even when the weather is mild. I am sometimes showered, but have not yet styled my hair or put on makeup. And the kicker is that on just about very third walk, someone I know drives by and toots and waves, or even more embarrassing, stops to chat.
But that’s the true beauty of it. I don’t really care that I don’t look like a Patagonia model. I’m happy to be able to be outside, be active, and breathe the fresh air, even if it is cold and the air sometimes hurts. I’m happy to wave to people I know, and watch my dog happily wade through mud or shove his face in the snow. And I suppose I’m happy to have mis-matched, well worn yet comfy and warm clothing on me. Do I sometimes feel a slight pang of jealousy when I look at an adorably-clad model in a catalog, in her super cute and trendy winter wear? Sure. But that’s ok too, because in about nine months when I’m facing the reality of the return of another New England winter, I’ll need to be duping myself into believing that she is me.
And I’m ready to scamper into my wonderland.