What to Pack: Cold Weather
Dearest Wise and Wonderful Amalah,
I am writing to you in desperation from the other side of the world – Sydney, Australia to be exact.
On January 1st 2008 (as in less than month away) I am traveling to Atlantic City, and will be there for about 6 weeks. My reason for writing to you is that I have no idea what to pack – apart from very warm jackets! I have not traveled to the US in winter before, and I have received a lot of conflicting advice friends who have. Do you or your readers have some advice you could impart to a poor little antipodean traveler on what the basics are that I will need?!
The main problem seems to be what to take for below the waist. Some friends say jeans, others have warned of the dire consequences of wearing said denim (having them get wet and freeze on to your legs thus scarring them forever??), other again say skirts and thermal tights are best of all. Then there is the issue of footwear – what do I need to take for getting around? I have been told everything from waterproof snow boots to hiking boots to sneakers to gumboots and beyond.
At the moment, I am sitting typing in a light cotton dress, with flip flops and I am still hot (typical Sydney Christmas weather), so trying to shift my mind into cooler climate packing is proving too much!! I also know that I will shop when I arrive, but I will need some things to get me through the first little while.
If you could help, I would be so very, very grateful!
Merry Christmas to you and all your readers,
Cold Climate Clueless
Okay, so. While Atlantic City is indeed much colder than what you’re used to, it is also not Siberia. You may, in fact, not see any snow at all. Or you might, and on those days? You stay inside, mostly. If it’s actual, squalling blizzard-type weather, stuff gets shut down or delayed until the sidewalks and streets are clear.
So basically, jeans. Everybody wears jeans everywhere. Skirts and tights are totally fine (although I haven’t owned a pair of thermal tights since I was seven years old, but they might not be a bad idea for the first days while your body adjusts to the colder temps). But the thing with skirts? In a place like Atlantic City? Where you are going to see a lot of bad, bad fashion and sequined velour tracksuits? Unless you have an actual reason to get dressed up (like for work or a nice dinner out) you’re better off in jeans or pants.
Your friends with the dire warnings of denim freezing to your legs? Seriously? Again, you’re going to Jersey, not scaling Mount Everest. Unless you are out making snow angels and wading through snow drifts for hours on end and then like, drying your pants off in front of the air conditioner while you’re still wearing them, that’s not going to happen. If your jeans are on the long side and it’s wet outside, cuff them or tuck them into your boots.
And yes. Boots. A very good idea, but I wouldn’t bother buying expensive waterproof snow boots unless you know for a fact that there’s a big snowstorm in the forecast and you will have to be out in it. A pair of rubber wellies will work just fine most of the time. (Added bonus: they are super cute these days.) You can tuck your pant hems into them in case of giant roving leg-eating puddles, and then toss your heels or whatever cute shoes you’d rather wear into your bag, along with an extra pair of socks in case of disaster. (Honestly, wet socks are much higher on the likelihood scale than frozen jeans.) (Yes, that warning is still bugging me. Seriously, so not going to happen this side of civilization. Your pants get that wet, you GO HOME AND CHANGE THEM.)
So we have jeans, wellies, plenty of socks (knee socks are a good way to sneak an extra layer of warmth under your pants)…what else? If you’re wearing skirts or a dress, knee-high leather dress boots are also an East coast staple. On regular non-rainy, non-snowy days (and I promise you we DO have them over here), you can wear whatever kind of shoe you feel like. Except, you know, flip-flops. But sneakers, pumps, loafers, cute little heeled ankle boots — whatever.
You’ll need a scarf. You wear a long skinny knitted one for casual wear; a pashmina or cashmere wrap-type one for dressing up. And here’s how to wear a pashmina. (Uh, the “noose wrap” part. Please don’t wear your pashmina around your hips. Ew.)
You’ll need gloves. Again, I wear funky colorful knitted ones when I’m going casual (I have this AWESOME pair of mittens that actually flip open to become fingerless and thumbless gloves, which are great for when you actually need to DO anything with your hands and don’t want to yank your gloves completely off), and then I wear leather ones (lined with Thinsulate or wool or something similar) when I’m dressed up. The whole casual/dressy thing? Totally just depends on your coat and whether you’re wearing a ski jacket/parka or a wool dress coat. Oh! And you can alway layer on a thin zip-up fleece under your coat. We are ALL about the layering over here, since otherwise you get inside where the central heat is blasting and you’re sweltering in your gigantic wool sweater.
Oh, and then there’s a hat. A hat I can’t really help you with because I only wear hats when I’m, like, skiing. (HA! I don’t ski.) I just don’t bother with them, no matter how cold it gets. If it IS super cold and I need to be out in it for longer than say, the time it takes to walk a few city blocks, I prefer earmuffs since they don’t ruin my hair.
And now I’ll turn this over to the peanut gallery. Readers? What other cold-weather essentials does she need? What are your winter fashion dos and don’ts?