Avoid the Frump in SubZero Weather

by jennine on January 8, 2009

Layering is essential, but it can lead to frumpiness, fast. It is possible to bundle without the frump, but it takes planning and quality fabrics.

The recent cold snap here in Europe has everyone shivering as tempatures plunge to record lows. Dressing warm in subzero weather (in C, we’re not as bad ass as those of you in subzero F) is a bit of a challenge. Over the weekend I thought I was dressed warm enough because I wore tights and socks in my boots… we had to leave the flea market early because I kept complaining that I was getting frostbite in my feet.

Learning to dress warm is something that I’m only learning to do as I grew up in mild climates, San Diego, anyone? Layering is essential, but it can lead to frumpiness, fast. It is possible to bundle without the frump, but it takes planning and quality fabrics. I wore this outfit this morning in -6°C with walking and waiting out doors, I thought it wouldn’t be enough, but I was quite toasty warm.

The Layers

Pure wool as opposed to blends and synthetics really make a difference battling the cold… as is wearing more thin layers to help the insulation.

1960′s Vintage wool coat from Violetteville
Vintage fur hat from the fleamarket
Two pairs of gloves (H&M)
Vintage boots from the fleamarket
Pashmina Scarf

Outfit Layer
Vivienne Westwood tie front wool jumper
Paul Smith heavy wool skirt (with cotton lining)
Ruffly silk chiffon blouse from fleamarket
Rocky’s wool ski socks

Under Layer

American Apparel turtleneck dress
We love colors opaque tights
Urban Outfitters lace tights

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thealchemsit January 8, 2009 at 11:17 am

1st: you are frickin adorable. love the outfit and all the details. those boots make my heart pitter-patter.
2nd: yes, when you live somewhere with 4 seasons and it’s biting cold outside in jan/feb, you learn very quickly how to layer without looking like the michelin man. streamline and stylish is how i like to roll

alixrose January 8, 2009 at 11:32 am

I love it. I have been freezing my little arse off.. ok big arse.. whatever..
It takes me forever to get ready because I am trying to avoid the marshmallow effect.
I can’t believe you are wearing all of that and look super chic as well.
I applaud you. You give me a little hope.

Alicia/InstantVintage January 8, 2009 at 11:36 am

I find this whole concept to be amazing.

Sorry. So Cal has me spoiled beyond belief - I wouldn’t even know how to properly layer and look this good.

apricot tea. January 8, 2009 at 11:41 am

You look amazing. You layer in such a way where it doesn’t even look like you’re layering. It’s an art-form!

Unfortunately for us (or, you might say “fortunately”) we are having 70 degree weather here (Fahrenheit) so layering it just out of the question. But I do wish we had some snow or something!

meligrosa January 8, 2009 at 12:19 pm

love this!!! layer masterette
Im really liking your dark tones with the violet and that teal infusion. Cute tights♥
Its not even that cold here in SF &it really gets to me when friends dont wanna do stuff because its ‘chilly’. Hello!! Im also a native californian and def. dont consider 38° to be outrageous, cant really complain. I think is a combo between all the coffee I consume and riding my bike… ha!

Sal January 8, 2009 at 12:19 pm

Layered tights work wonders, don’t they?

Miss Glitzy January 8, 2009 at 12:46 pm

Layers, it’s all about it and I’m impressed by the way you remained stylish!

niki January 8, 2009 at 1:26 pm

i love that layering tights not only looks amazing, its extra warm! probably warmer than a pair of jeans too!

SwanDiamondRose January 8, 2009 at 1:30 pm

omgoshness! i have a lot to say about this. i grew up in the freezing canadian prairies. but have now lost my ability to cope with cold. i do love the cute ways people deal with their wardrobes though. this year i CANNOT find boots. there was a HUGE snowstorm in Vancouver?! and boots are sold out plus they need to be a rain/snow boot. i am sick of my sorel style boots! but seriously what kind of fashiony boot covers all this. canadian winters are insane. i just bought a pair of wedge heel white[!] rainboots. and i go back and forth between a kneehigh pair of 80s equestrian boots [paired with thigh-high black legwarmers] and my low motorcycle boots for the snow days. sometimes winters come together for me, sometimes they don’t. this was a no go! but i’m still trying.

and happy new year! :) you look cute!

jennine January 8, 2009 at 2:27 pm

❤alchemist… omg i feel for you NY’ers i always thought that people didn’t smile so much because thier faces were frozen…at least that’s what happened to me whenever i visited!
❤alixrose..hehe marshmallow effect, i hear yah! i actually don’t have that many clothes to battle the cold, so it may be that i wear the same thing a lot.
❤alicia.. growing up i thought layering was wering my winter denim jacket :-)
❤apricot…don’t make me homesick!
❤meli… haha i know! well it’s not so much the cold, as it’s the surprise cold, and the fog… bah!
❤sal…layered tights save lives
❤miss glitzy… thank you love!
❤SWANNNN! so nice to hear from you! oh man, i woudn’t know how to live in canada… it sounds so severe… but i hear you on snow boots… i knind of want a pair too.. is that wrong?

Ginger January 8, 2009 at 3:39 pm

That’s a WHOLE LOTTA layers for one girl-but I must say, you wear it all well. And not even a hint of misplaced or mis-shapen bulk, might I add.

Eyeliah January 8, 2009 at 4:07 pm

Its all about a stylish hat and coat, if you have that your set. If the coat has a belted waist, even better for definition. BTW, love your look here with he pink and purples.

WendyB January 8, 2009 at 4:15 pm

My way of dealing with the cold is to avoid the outdoors as much as possible.

winnie January 8, 2009 at 4:35 pm

Wow, you really did layer up! Two pairs of gloves and three pairs of socks/tights. Amazing, you must have been quite toasty!

Lenya Jones January 8, 2009 at 5:11 pm

My goodness. You look great but how long did it take you to get dressed and then to undress??

Tara January 8, 2009 at 5:49 pm

You are insanely clever layerer (say that three times fast!). Lovely ideas here!

Kathy Friend January 8, 2009 at 6:20 pm

I just returned from Siberia - as in Russia - as in the coldest place on the planet! Depending on where you are in the world, you have to be careful b/c you might not feel as cold as it really is outside.

If you really want to dress for cold weather, look to the Russians. They’ve been doing it since the beginning of time. One thing about Russian women, they will always dress to the 9′s! Might not be our idea of the 9′s - but they are DRESSED.

The temps were very cold - -15F (-26C) daytime temps. Double layer gloves (first layer a lined (sherpa) glove, the outer a mitten), Scarf a MUST, fully lined boots (I wore waterptoof leather Uggs - the cute riding boot looking ones), cami / tissue tee / turtleneck / sweater (layering is REALLY important), knee length fur coat, tights, ski leggings, ski dress, socks, hat. I was actually sweating like a pig!

Katharine January 9, 2009 at 1:55 pm

I absolutely love your blog. I’m a new reader (just discovered you before the new year) and now consult your blog for ideas weekly. I just moved from Southern CA to New York City, and the layering thing is all new to me. You are just too cute and creative, I can’t stand it!
Thanks for your fashion inspiration, you’re amazing. Oh and I’m totally jealous that you live in Germany…one of my nations of origin!

sarah January 9, 2009 at 2:20 pm

wow these photos are great! i love all of the clothes! the lipstick compliments everything too. I love that coat the most.


Frankie - Swell Vintage January 9, 2009 at 3:51 pm

Great layering, lovely! Also yeah - what’s with this weather at the mo?! x

Rhiannon January 9, 2009 at 9:30 pm


I was going through old movie star photos on Flickr today and I saw this one:


I always thought you reminded me of some silent film actress but I never could figure out who it was . . . it’s Norma Talmadge!

danz January 9, 2009 at 9:56 pm

Great outfits. I especially love the last one with those beautiful purples.

szaza January 10, 2009 at 12:01 am

Wow! You are amazing. I’ve been struggling with the transition of climate from SF to Istanbul- I’m colder here than I have been in ages. Each time I go out I feel like the Micheline man with all my layers! Thanks :)

jennine January 10, 2009 at 4:32 am

❤wendy… I’ve been doing that too.
❤leyna…oh man, not that long, i’ve taken longer in the summer…with less layers.
❤tara…haha, i love sayig things 3x fast!
❤kathy…omg that’s incredible, i’ve always wanted to go to russia, but was afraid of the cold…
❤katharine…ah thanks so much love! i moved to the east coast once, it’s a different world!
❤Rhiannon…oh wow, she’s gorgeous, thanks, but i think she’s way prettier thanme. Silent film… amazing.
❤szaza…oh wow! i’m so glad you made it ok… sorry to hear about the cold, who knew turkey was colder than california… wow.

pretty face January 10, 2009 at 12:09 pm

Oh Jennine, you probably won’t read this now because I’m quite late to comment, but it’s funny to read this post because I JUST wrote a post moaning about winter weather.


So yeah, a helpful and timely post! x

MizzJ January 10, 2009 at 5:39 pm

Haha I feel your pain, I’m not used to the cold weather we’ve been having in Vancouver either! What is up with Mother Nature?! You look very inspiring with your great use of layering :)

ambika January 10, 2009 at 6:05 pm

Oh, I learned my lesson when I went sockless in 8 degrees Celsius temperatures in Prague. But I don’t think I ever managed to look as stylish as this.

Justina January 10, 2009 at 10:31 pm

Love the H&M driving gloves; have been looking for a pair like them since I didn’t buy them years ago. Are they recent?

Christina January 10, 2009 at 10:40 pm

Hi from Chicago, the land of biting cold wind that never stops and snow measuring in feet.

I’ve resorted to wearing a pair of tights and layering two pairs of leggings over that.

I’m allergic to wool, so wearing two pairs of leggings really lets me wear my mom’s vintage heavy wool skirts, which keep me super warm.

And invest in cashmere! The warmest most comfortable ones you can buy, because they are such a great investment!

Ashley K January 10, 2009 at 10:45 pm

Ooo I’m loving those pink laced tights, even if they were just an under-layer! And those brown leather gloves are gorgeous!


KC January 10, 2009 at 11:42 pm

I grew up in San Diego too! I’m now in Boston and have been here for a few years and my first winter here was rough-I was not used to the cold at all. I’m proud to say I’m now used to the cold weather (and know how to dress appropriately). That’s smart to layer two sets of gloves-I’ll try that in the future.

bryna January 11, 2009 at 2:06 am

i love your little capelet in the first picture!

MissK January 11, 2009 at 4:25 am

Jennine, I grew up in Phoenix but I live in London. I’m totally feeling your post- I had to learn the hard way, too! I’ve nearly frozen myself in the name of fashion! Thanks for this handy little visual reminder.

jennine January 11, 2009 at 5:10 am

❤pretty face, these northern winters are brutal! and we’re not even that far north!
❤mizzj, thanks love!
❤justina…noo…these gloves are at least two years old, so they were probably the same lot you are thinking of!
❤christina…i love cashmere! we all need more cashe
❤kc…heh, that’s awesome, i love hearing stories from ex-socals making it out… so many stay..
❤missk…omg you couldn’t get more different from phoenix to london, i’ve almost died in phoneix from the heat!

Prêt-à-Porter P January 11, 2009 at 10:23 am

3 layers of socks/tights!! i cant even imagine.

you look great though, definitely no signs of frumpiness. those boots are pretty cool too

Ashe Mischief January 16, 2009 at 6:54 am

I’ve been thinking about this post for the past two days! It’s been in the negatives when I leave in the morning (-9F today!), and it is SO challenging to find a way to be somewhat fashionable while being warm (even if it’s just a jog from my house to my car and from the car to work)!

Leggings have been a great friend underneath my pants, and when it’s this nippy, I am glad I bought my Uggs!

qooza January 19, 2009 at 10:37 am

Wow. As an Australian struggling to stay warm and stylish in Berlin, you are INSPIRING.

lisa January 19, 2009 at 2:40 pm

You look fantastic! I love how you layered one pair of gloves inside another-stylish and windproof, nicely done.

monalisa December 13, 2010 at 10:56 am

thanks for the tips. really cool ideas, especially with respect to the gloves. I could never imagine layering gloves. But I will try it out this time round. I was wondering if I need to buy wool tights or can I possibly layer them up. Thanks for clarifying that layering works wonders. I just came across a pair of awesome looking ribbed Bamboo Rayon tights. Bamboo fabric is supposed to have a lot good features such as wicking and temperature regulation. They felt warmer in 0 degree Ccelcius without layering compared to my regular tights. I am yet to try them out in colder temperatures. Hoping it would work as expected. Happy Holidays!!

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