Trekking across campus to class during the winter months is a task not at all conducive to sartorial concerns, especially in the purple bubble, where function is a necessity and style a mere afterthought. During the snowy season, being warm and comfortable takes high priority over aesthetics, often at the expense of the latter. Yet this “Sartorial Observer” finds that with a few minor changes, function and style can coexist in any winter wardrobe.
As media addict Kanye West once stated via Twitter (after declaring that his new tie was “the coolest tie of all tiiiiiiiime!!!!” and giving it a “Kool Aid smile!!!”), “It’s the small things that mean so much.” Overlooking West’s social ineptitude, apply his statement to your wardrobe by utilizing smaller articles of winter clothing such as gloves, scarves, and hats. Slim-fit leather or suede gloves, thick-knit eternity scarves, fur stoles and muffs, the quintessential knit wool hat, and oversize beanies can all provide toasty alternatives to outdated and overplayed items such as the fur-lined trapper hat.
Other small updates to winter outfits include a greater use of layering and a wider mix of textures. Light items such as cotton or silk tops and (long-sleeved) dresses can be made weather-appropriate if paired with heavier-knit sweaters, flannel shirts or tights, and they can also provide a layer of dimension to the simplest outfit. Tuck shirts into pants and use accessories, such as a slim leather belt or scarf, to stay polished; as popularized by FashionToast blogger Rumi Neely, a half-tucked, mid-length loose top or sweater can be an interesting way to update your outfits and keep from looking sloppy. Make sure your basics, the true backbone of your wardrobe, are well-cut – James Perse, Helmut Lang, and T by Alexander Wang all provide basic t-shirts and tank tops in flattering cuts that will keep even your lounge days stylish. Urban Outfitters and Alternative Apparel (not the same brand as American Apparel!) also provide more affordable basics with similar cuts. To break away from the routine sweatpants-and-jeans combination, experiment with textures such as cable-knit wool, leather (found across runways in jackets, pants, and shirts these past few seasons), velvet, and corduroy.
Winter coats can also be a stylistic challenge. Keep the Michelin Tire Man from invading your closet by leaving the goose down North Face puffer jackets for ski trips and turning to heavier coats that will, at the very least, complement your outfits. Rather than resort to the tragically colored selection of jackets available at your local camping store, stay warm with the versatile double-breasted peacoat. This classic piece works well for both genders in keeping outfits looking sharper and more sophisticated, as does a trench coat in wool or a similarly heavy fabric. For an edgier feel, look to the more youthful cut of a hooded, fleece-lined, zip-up leather jacket (such as the budget-friendly, streetwear brand Obey Propaganda’s Jealous Lovers bomber), or the latest big trend in outerwear: fur coats in natural colors and leopard or animal prints. When selecting coats, however, stick to subtle shades and pay attention to the fit and cut of the coat, which should both balance and enhance the silhouette created by your outfit. For the men, broader lines and less detailing can keep the coats looking simple and masculine, while stylistic twists such as darting and flared cuts can help give winter coats a more feminine look.
To make getting dressed an easier process in the mornings, stick to simple shades: Eternally and universally complementary hues such as charcoal gray, khaki and black (and also on occasion off-white or even red) free your outfits from color-coordination concerns. Leave Limited Too colors and patterns in your childhood where they belong, and refrain from picking juvenile hues like hot pink and bright green, which are jarring to the eye and can completely negate any sophistication your outfit may have had. For the more style-conscious, try that well-received return from the 80s: the camel coat. With its rich, creamy tan shade, which is at once wonderfully neutral and striking, the refined camel coat hit fall runways in 2010 and continues on as a staple through this winter season (turning up in the winter collections of Max Mara, Alexander Wang and Calvin Klein, to name a few).
When considering the fact that icy sidewalks leave no room for compromise on warmth and traction in footwear, Williams has done reasonably well for itself in the shoe department, almost successfully sidestepping that rubber monstrosity of winter months – the snow boot. As evidenced by the ever-popular Bean boot and the masses of girls confronting rainy days in the classic Hunter rain boot, immortalized by Kate Moss’s appearance at the 2005 Glastonbury music festival in gray knee-high Hunter wellies, it is not difficult to find moderately stylish winter boots. Yet on this campus, Bean boots and Hunter rain boots are as ubiquitous as Macbooks, Patagonia sweaters and flat-ironed hair on weekend nights.
To break out of this oppressive wardrobe loop, this writer recommends fresher wardrobe staples such as the oxford shoe, combat boot, or over-the-knee boot. Add a bit of edge with the classic 1460 eight or fourteen-eye unisex Doc Marten boot, which offers stability and comfort alongside its reputation as a countercultural hallmark. Long the preferred footwear for angst-filled teens with stringy hair and second-hand electric guitars, Doc Martens have since crept into the fashion world, recently winning two awards at New York’s 2010 Fashion Week. For a feminine update on the classic Doc, try the high-heeled Darcie, which features a slimmer profile and a slightly raised heel. Those who prefer more Americana styles can look to safe, classic calf-grazing leather boots like the Frye Harness 12R. Cowboy boots are also a safe choice. For a twist on this western style, take a cue from brands like Alexander Wang (my favorite designer, in case you hadn’t noticed) and Acne, which have recently introduced low-top, ankle-revealing cowboy shoe boots; budget-friendly versions are available from Steve Madden and western boot brands such as Lucchese.
Despite the bitter cold and raging snowstorms outside, keeping warm and expressing individual style can be done simultaneously and quite easily if only we arm our wardrobes properly against the nylon and polyester onslaught that winter seasons usually bring.