Past installments of “Fat, Frugal, and Stylish” can be found here.
It’s cold, y’all. It is so cold that I am too cold to make hyperbolic jokes about how cold it is as an easy way to open a column. It is, certainly, too cold for fashion. There is no way to look sexy in this kind of weather. Ideally we would just all be walking around wrapped in every blanket we own, with maybe like a bow on top so that everyone can see aproximately where our heads are and direct their comments or questions accordingly. In real life, unfortunately, we have things like “jobs” and “dress codes” and “not wanting to drag our grandmother’s homemade quilt through three feet of muddy slush,” so we’re stuck with clothes until science gets around to inventing something better.
And since clothes are mandatory, we might as well find some cute ones. You know how for the last three winters you’ve just been wearing three oversized sweatshirts and two pairs of gloves all the time, plus leggings under your jeans because it doesn’t seem worth the expenditure to buy long underwear? Please tell me that isn’t just me. Anyway, we all need to stop doing that and get real coats for grown-ups and wear them and keep a decent pair of gloves in the pockets in case we forget to bring gloves when we leave the house on a cold day.
If you’re living on a shoestring budget like most of us, a winter coat makes a significant dent in your budget and might require some advance planning and saving, but it’s worth the scrimping to be able to stand outside for the five minutes it takes to scrape the snow off your car without getting frostbite everywhere, including your nipples. Console yourself for the weeks of macaroni-and-peanut-butter dinners in your future by getting a coat in a fun, bright color! (This genuinely works on me. I see yellow or fuchsia or anything sparkly and all my problems are temporarily forgotten. I understand that adult humans may require more advanced coping mechanisms.) Anyway, this is the coat I bought, in purple (sorry, “blackberry,” heaven forfend we should call colors by their actual names), but all of the other colors are great too, plus it’s on sale now so you can get it for less than I spent and feel smug about it.
If you want a more neutral color in your outerwear, this pea coat comes in black, gray, navy, and “camel,” which I would call “tan” because I am appalling. Or go retro and foxy in a trench coat (although, to be honest, if I were going to purchase a trench coat it would be this one). On the other hand, if your preferred mode of transportation in the cold would be “rolling down the street in a giant marshmallow, picking up pedestrians and small animals Katamari-style,” there’s always the old reliable puffer coat, like this one, which is available in several real colors and also several vegetables, such as “fig” and “eggplant.” Finally, if you’re really attached to your all-sweatshirt all-winter plan, at least grab a down vest (on clearance!) to keep you cozy under your light “Cold? What cold?” outer layer.
Surviving the winter months is at least as much about the accessories as the coat. You need scarves, gloves, and hats to protect your delicate extremities from the wind chill and add a little extra color and texture to your ensemble. The important thing to remember is that these items do not ever need to be expensive. Sure, you could blow $300 on literally just a piece of fabric to go around your neck, and if you are in a position to do so I would never judge you; I’m sure it’s very soft. But this one and this one are both approximately one-zillionth the price, come in several bright and cheerful colors, and will keep your collarbone every bit as warm. Grab some gloves on clearance (or just ask for a new pair every Christmas, like I do) and a soft hat (everyone’s hair is going to get fucked up in this weather; don’t worry about it too much) and you’ll be ready to cheerfully scuttle the twenty feet from your doo to the car, cursing blasphemously under your breath the whole time!
Your other option, of course, is to befriend a knitter; these strange creatures spend the winter months curled up on the couch producing scarves and hats at a rate faster than the human eye can follow, and they will be happy to give you a few just to make more room in their craft basket. If you really want them to love you, find some yarn that you like (go to a craft store if you want to save on something decent, a yarn store if you want to splurge on something fancy) and present them with a couple of skeins and a request to make you whatever sounds like fun to them. Thank them profusely when presented with the finished project. Unused to appreciation of their talents from civilized society, they will clasp you to their bosom and cherish you forever, and you will never run out of potholders for the rest of your life.
So now that you have your outer layers taken care of, what should you wear underneath? “Nothing” is a fine answer if you’re planning a Valentine’s Day surprise, but otherwise people will be expecting you to have a whole functioning outfit on even when you take off your coat. Tweed skirts are one of my favorite winter clothing items – everyone looks awesome and professional in tweed, plus it’s warm and cozy and great. I scored a couple of tweed skirts at a thrift store a few weeks ago, and I’m totally in love with them and I want to spread the joy. If you strike out at the thrift store, this skirt is super cute, and it’s on sale. Wear it with a comfy sweater or dress it up a little (I am not over peplums; I will never be over peplums). If you can pull off sort of a witchy thing, with some pointy black boots, this longer one is also on sale and would look so phenomenal on you with a soft, sexy sweater and some kind of big crazy funky necklace.
If you’re not about the skirt life (or not in January anyway), a tweed blazer is also a good way to look put-together but still capture the feeling of curling up under a comforter with a book and a hot cup of tea. This one appeals to my inner magpie while still looking sophisticated, as does this awesome turquoise jacket which I covet, though even on clearance it would still be about four months’ worth of clothing budget for me. There aren’t a lot of great tweed jacket options for women in plus sizes, unfortunately, but if you rock menswear the world is your warm, tweedy oyster. And of course, even if tweed is not your jams, a plain blazer still looks great for work or a casual evening out while still allowing you to basically wear a coat inside.
Extra layers are what this time of year is all about. Long sweaters that you wear over cute pants are an extra layer of warmth for your butt. Skinny jeans (that come in short sizes, thank the fat baby Jesus) tucked into knee-high wide-calf boots are like permanent leg warmers. And no matter what you’re wearing, it can always be improved by adding a V-neck sweater. (Horizontal stripes look good on EVERYONE and I will proclaim it with my dying breath.)
If all else fails? Make yourself a hot toddy (or any variation on hot beverage plus liquor) and pull that blanket back up over your head. Then, click your heels together and say “There’s no place like Hawaii.” Repeat until someone invents teleportation, or until April, whichever gets here first.
Illustrations by Jen Fowler.