Winter Layering and Style Guide

Xiao Dai/New University

By Natasha Aftandilians

Winter can be an unfortunate time in Southern California.  It’s not because of the changes in the weather or the impending holiday season, but because of what this temperature drop does to the fashion sense of most SoCal natives.

Most Californians with even a hint of dress sense seem to flourish in the spring and summer, when the weather calls for a minimal amount of fabric.

The second the days start to get shorter and nights get colder, we either stick to our guns and continue rocking the denim cutoffs into late January, or we freak out and head to Sport Chalet for some Mount Everest-climbing appropriate parkas.

Why can’t we warm-weather women (and men) seem to find a balance?  Californians seem to love the extremes of dressing — a fur coat or a bikini, nothing in between.

And still we can’t help but bitch and moan in the cold.  Instead of following our basic instincts and covering our bodies to stay warm, we insist on letting it all hang out and suffering while waiting for the late-night shuttle pick-up.

I personally don’t suffer from this problem. I’m not a huge fan of shorts (unless worn over tights, in which case I am all-in) and I don’t naturally like to show a lot of skin.  That’s why when I see girls in flip flops, hoodies and shorts, standing with their arms wrapped around their bodies for dear life, I can’t help but laugh.

What we Californians lack in winter fashion sense, we make up for in confidence and bravado, though.  We may not be appreciated for our style the way New Yorkers are, but when we get a hold of a trend, we will wear the hell out of it, regardless of individual shape and size.

I say we take a hint from out cosmopolitan brothers and sisters back East and learn the art of layering.

It’s a deceivingly simple fashion concept that works best in the winter months.  The obvious benefits are that the extra layers trap warmth and keep you toasty, while leaving you the possibility of taking off layers when the climate changes; and, it gives you a chance to really experiment with your style and breathe new life into garments you might have thought were only summer appropriate.

A basic layered outfit can consist of a plain T-shirt topped with a button-down shirt worn under a cardigan, and if necessary, topped with a peacoat or any other warm jacket.  It’s simple, really.  And it leaves a lot of room for fun winter accessories (I personally love a pair of elbow-length leather gloves but you might want to save that for more fancy affairs, as they can make you look a bit like a  dominatrix if not worn properly.)

For those of us who are desperately clinging to tank tops and shorts even when the rainy season starts, fret not.  Like I said, wearing tights under shorts is always a viable and stylish option, especially with patterned or colored tights.  Wear with boots and you’ll be able to keep warm and get a few more months of wear out of your shorts.  And, tank tops and other basic tees are essential to layering; wear 2 different colored tank tops together and go from there. Think of it as a fashion puzzle, and you’re just putting together the pieces.

Now if you’re anything like me, and you follow trends somewhat obsessively, you want to stay warm while staying stylish. Luckily, there are plenty of trends for the fall/winter 2011 season that you can work with.

As always, coats are a given for the season.  Richly textured and sumptuously flowing overcoats were seen on the runway at Rodarte, Alexander McQueen and Michael Kors, while sharply tailored coats and menswear-inspired blazers and tuxedo jackets were to be admired at Celine and Yves Saint Lauren.  The more sporty bunch can enjoy the practical parkas at Alexander Wang and MaxMara.  Jewel tones and ’70s flair were also huge, as seen in the pussy-bow blouses, plunging necklines, wide-brimmed fedoras and equally wide-legged trousers at Gucci.

And fur, as controversial as it continues to be, was as popular in the catwalk as it has been since the beginning of time:  Short, chubby chinchilla coats in dreamy pastels at The Row and Missoni; emerald greens at Marni and Diane von Furstenberg; rich fur accents like boleros at Miu Miu, and stoles at Prada.

The ’70s aren’t the only decade that designers seem to be plundering for inspiration; ’60s Mod and ’40s set the tone at Burberry and Miu Miu, respectively.  Swinging shift dresses with knee-high boots, ladylike pumps, bouffant hairdos, minimalist shapes and cocoon coats were all the rage.  Look to Twiggy, Penelope Tree and Jean Shrimpton for inspiration this season.

Unfortunately, most of us can’t afford to drop thousands of dollars on a new designer wardrobe for the winter.  Fortunately, there are plenty of great stores we normal people can find refuge in; for great ponchos, layerable basics and deliciously colored scarves and beanies, head over to Madewell.  If you want a richly colored coat to add a pop of brightness to your otherwise drab day, go to J. Crew for their reasonably priced wool coats.  And for holiday-ready party dresses and lavishly decorated coats, Anthropologie is your best bet.

It’s not cheap to dress well in the winter. But remember, a nice coat and a good pair of leather boots are a serious investment worth making.  Besides, wearing Ugg boots with shorts in December is a sin far worse than spending money …