Winter all-stars and four practical ensembles

“Look good, feel good,” a friend’s husband often says. While I wouldn’t argue with the sentiment, looking like anything other than a walking pile of blankets is a challenge at this time of year. It’s taken me 4 decades of Oregon winters to finally hone in on practical, beautiful clothes that can carry me through the long, dark days.

Can’t I just let the barn look beautiful and go back to bed?

Today I have a list of winter all-star pieces for you, and four practical outfits to take your from work to play.

Winter All-Stars

Snow boots

Waterproof, cozy, stylish, these boots are good for any cold /wet day. Mine feel like my feet are wearing two warm hugs all day long. Wear them with jeans, leggings, or any casual pant. Add a sweater and puffer jacket and you are good to go.

My snow boots, taking a well-deserved break.

Silk long underwear

Every cold day, I wear a black or pink long sleeve silk top under my ensemble. Good silk long underwear is a grownup investment. Once you have decided that you don’t have to be cold, and are willing to spend money on something absolutely no one will ever see to keep yourself warm, you are an adult. I’m pretty sure car rental companies require a parent’s signature up until you can prove you own silk long underwear.

Mine is from Lands End, but it’s definitely not monogrammed.

Cute beanie

It keeps your head dry, your ears warm and looks adorable. The only problem with beanies is that you look silly if you keep wearing it all summer long.

This hat is made out of llama wool or some such.

Good slippers

My parents gave me these Ugg slippers last year, and I think I’ve worn them every day since. They get a mention as winter all-stars because as we sludge our way in and out of the house with muddy boots, these friends are waiting for me at the back door. We are not a no-shoe house, but having this comfy option at the back door makes it easy to peel off my boots and keep the mud in the mudroom.

Ahhhh….

A puffer vest

I’ve written about the style advantages of puffer vests in the past, but in addition to looking good they are probably the most practical layering piece you own. They keep your core warm while leaving your arms free for work, and are easy to layer over or under any number of things. I wear a cozy Patagonia down vest around the house all winter long

I love you, puffer vest.

Wool

Wool is warm, breathable, wicks away moisture, is a natural fiber, and can be found in nearly any thickness to suit your climate. Sadly, it’s also delicious, according to the moths who live around here.* Wool looks sharp and sophisticated, and it layers well. Just make sure it doesn’t pill, and that you are able to hide any moth holes with strategic scarf or puffer vest placement.

Please don’t get eaten!

Practical Ensembles

I put together the following four ensembles with the hope that you have most of this in your closet already. Your mission, should you chose to accept it, it to try to pull something similar together out of your closet, take a picture and send it to me.

Note: Please assume every ensemble has a silk base layer underneath. We’re all adults here.

Errands

Basic black will look elegant, even when the day is anything but. As you run all over town, picking up and dropping off children, groceries and tax information, you will look pulled together and weather-practical. And you can always shed that parka if you happen to squeeze in time for lunch with a girlfriend.

The reason you want to wear black all winter long is because it looks good.

Chores

Chore days around here tend to be inside/outside affairs. I am constantly running down to the barn, out to the woodpile, or upstairs to clean something. Jeans and a plaid flannel are my wintertime, at-home uniform. The beanie and puffer vest make the ensemble outside ready, while allowing me the freedom of movement to get a lot of work done.

No sense in not looking cute when you feed the chickens.

Work

Collared shirt/wool sweater/Frye boots will keep you warm and weather proof. Add a skirt or a pair of cords and you are set. This uniform can take you happily into March. Tights to wear with the skirts might be a nice cable knit, brown or grey will look good. Obviously, I work in a casual field. This wouldn’t fly in the corporate world. Of course, if you were smart enough to land yourself a job that requires a suit, I’m assuming you’re smart enough not to come to this particular blog for work style advice.

What more could you possibly need?

Snow day

Our town shuts down when it snows. We are currently in the middle of one of the worst storms in years and I just can’t stop staring at the snow. Waterproof pants, that wool sweater, a puffer jacket, good boots and a beanie are all you need, whether you are out sledding or are at home with no power trying to figure out how to save everything in the fridge.

Snow!!!!

Winter in Oregon can leave a lot of people feeling down. Starting the day looking good and ready for any foul weather that comes your way changes your approach to the challenge that is winter. Practical, beautiful winter clothes can get you up out of bed and outside to take on the world. They also look good with a cup of cocoa and a good book.

 

* Mothballs smell so bad they make my teeth hurt, and I don’t think there are enough cedar chips in the world to fend off the moths that live in the Oregon countryside. Any suggestions readers have for moth battling will be warmly received.

 

Comfort and Joy: Your style guide for the holiday season

We have a really mellow holiday season planned. We’re just going to host Thanksgiving… and Christmas Eve…  Oh, and a birthday party and the staff party, then my sister’s coming up from California with her family, and my brother just called from Japan to confirm that we can host a dance party on New Year’s Eve.

No problem.

Our plans for visiting are just about as laid back as our home life. Fortunately, most of our events, like yours, are relatively casual. That said, I want to give a nod to the holiday season and dress up festively, if not elfishly.

Here’s my holiday wardrobe:*

Guest

This is my favorite dress. With a sparkly necklace it becomes fancy. Add simple accessories and it’s casual. There is no wintertime party to which I can’t wear this dress. Plus it’s soft and stretchy, so I can eat all the cheese and Carrs water crackers I want and not feel uncomfortable.

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Tip: Don’t wear boots if you’re going to a confirmed no-shoe household.

This top is just plain fun. I can pair it with black leggings for a grown-up, dress-up occasion, and jeans for everything else.

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This top could probably show up to the party without me and have a great time all on its own. Unfortunately, it can’t drive.

Hostess

I love these fluid joggers for hosting events in my home. This olive, silk top is open at the neck, balancing the weight of the pants, while still keeping up with the casual/elegant vibe. Plus the whole ensemble goes with my best apron.

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Flats? Check. Ponytail? Check. Drink?** Check. Let the guests arrive!

I like this for hostess as well. You can layer it over a little black dress, or leggings and a tank.

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What do we want to call this? Shawl? Kimono? All-purpose fringed party garment?

The non-ironic holiday sweater

If you want to go full-on reindeer, don’t let me stop you. I prefer something that gives a nod to the season without any flashing lights. These sweaters have a winter motif, but are in unexpected holiday colors.

Do you remember this Gap holiday sweater from the mid-1990s? I found it 2nd hand fifteen years ago and I’m still wearing it.

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It’s such a happy sweater. You can tell because it’s waving at you.
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I really stretch the season on this one. You can totally wear stars through February, right?

Off duty

Most of my holiday season will be spent with family and close friends. I love a cozy plaid shirt for hanging out and doing nothing, or doing everything, as is often the case at this time of year.

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Just one more cup of coffee before we head back out…

A little sparkle picks my mood up. I wear this t-shirt under a simple gray cardigan for a look that says, “Yes, I understand there are rules, and I totally plan on following them… for now.”

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Can you see the sparkles?
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Here’s an up-close of its sparkly loveliness.

Secret Weapon – The Holiday Coat

There is no better way to stay warm, cozy and appropriately festive than the holiday coat. You can wear absolutely anything under the coat and no one will ever know.

Headed out to a tree-lighting ceremony? Grab the coat. Volunteering to run your kids around as they gather cans for the school food drive? Put yer coat on. Running between three different Thanksgivings? Coat time!

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The September through November coat…

I have faced more holiday seasons without appropriate clothes than I care to remember. But now that I have the coat, no worries. I could wear my pajamas under it if I were so inclined.

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…and the November through February coat.

Jewelry

All over the world, there are celebrations of light at the darkest time of year. While I prefer very simple jewelry for everyday, this is the time to sparkle. Pull out your auntie’s broaches, your big pendant necklaces and that one piece of real jewelry you never wear because it’s not a special enough occasion. You, your friends, and your family? I can’t think of a better reason to break out the tiara.

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If there is ever a time to wear the cipher of Peter the Great, it’s at a dinner party.

Ultimately, this season is about coming together in love and friendship. You shouldn’t be worrying about a pilling sweater or a skirt that really doesn’t go with your top. Pick a few go-to hostess and party looks, and wear them every for every occasion from November through the middle of January. Then set yourself free to focus on peace of earth, and goodwill towards everybody.

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Pippin, ready to greet the guests in his winter coat.

*This post covers casual to moderately dressy events. For more formal events, see the next post, 38 Minute Fancy.

**The drink I’m holding is called The Slow Burn. I made it up. It’s a habanero / lime cocktail. Message me if you want the recipe.

**Drinking alcohol is for people of age, whose frontal lobes are fully formed and are not driving and/or are avoiding alcohol for any one of a number of good reasons. For you folks I have a sparkly version of the same beverage. It burns just a little bit hotter.