Down on The West Coast
We don't get snow.
No, really. I think the only time I saw snow was the one time we went up to Mount Charleston when I was under the age of 10. And the one time it snowed in 2008. I know that sounds crazy to some of you. It also sounds crazy to me, considering that I've survived a couple blizzards and two polar vortexes now. It's hard to remember a time where snow wasn't a part of my life every year.
My first "snow" was Halloween my first year in Boston (nicknamed: Snowtober.) I remember running out in my Hello Kitty pajama pants and my Uggs. There wasn't even an inch of snow but I was SO excited. Little did I know I'd have to go up against multiple winter storms. Snow isn't so fun or pretty when it's grey, piled high and gets in the way of you crossing the street.
Since I've moved to the Northeast, I've had two of my friends move out here as well. One recently and one a couple years ago. I think the one thing we're all least prepared for is the winter. I overheard someone in Maison Kayser the other day telling his friends "This is the only coat I own and it's two sizes too big! We don't get this weather on the West Coast!"
I wouldn't call this blog post a "guide" because I'm not weather expert but I wanted to share what I thought were my "essentials" for things from boots to coats to even socks (yes, socks. Your low, cotton sneaker socks are not going to cut it when it's below 32 degrees out) for those of you who might be moving from a warm part of the country out to the Northeast.
Depending on where you move to the East Coast, the temperatures vary. And with the current state of climate change, you get some winter days that hit the 60's (which is NOT normal!) but here are some of the things I think you should have in ready in their winter arsenal.
A WARM JACKET
I try not to immediately suggest down because 1) I know many people are opposed to the idea of a down jacket and 2) if you're like my fiancé, you've gone 8 winters without a down jacket.
If you don't want a down jacket and you're willing to splurge, Burberry makes beautiful wool jackets for men and women. But if you're like me, you can't afford to drop almost that much money on a jacket. Luckily, I have some tips for you!
- When buying coats, always look at the tag to see what the fabrication of the coat is. You want real wool and cashmere. That polyester is just NOT going to keep you warm when it drops below freezing. Try to find a fabric that's water resistant, if possible. The last thing you want is a sopping wet jacket in the winter.
- If you're open to the idea of a down jacket, retailers usually have a year end sale on coats. Take advantage of the sale prices! You might end up with a jacket that isn't a typical color, but I don't think you can go wrong!
- Jackets with detachable hoods get an A++ in my book! Sometimes, an umbrella just won't cut it – the rain goes sideways and the wind will flip your umbrella inside out. Although a hood won't keep you 100% dry in the absence of an umbrella, you'll probably prefer a hood to carrying around an umbrella, depending on the severity of the storm (whether it's rain, snow or sleet.)
I've picked some of my favorite women's jackets in different price ranges below:
I'm not going to sell you dreams that you're going to find boots that you won't slip and fall in – because you're going to fall. It's just a way of life. It happens so often, people don't really laugh anymore. Once you've gotten over your initial embarrassment of your first ever slippage, it won't be a big deal anymore.
Some of my tips for finding the right winter boots are:
- Find waterproof shoes. There's so many fabrics now that brands have been able to make waterproof that you really don't need to sacrifice the warmth of your toes for style.
- I hate to break it to you, but your Uggs will not survive the winter. It's not so much the snow and liquid; it's the salt they spread on the ground to help lower the freezing point of water, which helps prevent the slippage mentioned above. BUT the salt destroys the suede. If you're in the Northeast long enough, you'll notice many girls have this white stain on their Uggs that almost looks like a water stain. So try to only wear your Uggs on those days it's cold AND dry. Ugg does make real winter boots that are waterproof, though!
- Shoes with rubber soles will be your best bet. You'll need rain boots for the spring and fall but they won't be warm enough for the winter. (There IS a trick to that I'll mention in the next section!) The rubber soles will also help prevent you slipping. I'm sure you've noticed a trend here.
Here are some of my favorite and some of the most common snow boots below. In finding the products to list for this post, I sadly found out that my tried-and-tested Burberry Ski Boots (that were affordable!) are no longer available :(
This is something I know I never thought of before my first winter. Whether you're wearing winter boots or just regular shoes, you have to keep your little toes warm! Some of my favorite picks are below and I'll explain why:
- SmartWool makes my favorite winter socks. They make performance socks, hiking socks, and casual socks, just to name a few. They provide the warmth that wool would without the bulk or the itchiness. And your feet won't die of heat exhaustion in these – what I'm trying to say is, they won't sweat like crazy.
- Fleece lined tights are the things you never thought you needed but once you have them for the first time, you'll want in your life forever. I love these because I don't have to sacrifice wearing a cute dress for a holiday party just because it drops below freezing. Or if you work in an office where everyone wears skirts or dresses, these can be a lifesaver.
- Lastly, in the sock realm, I mentioned above that if you have a pair of rainboots, there's way to convert them to "winter boots." Hunter makes fleece boot socks. They're made to fit Hunter rain boots specifically but I've found that they fit most rain boots. These boots socks are super warm and they make for a good alternative to actual winter boots if you're in a pinch or on a budget.
As far as winter accessories go, you can assume the basics: scarves, gloves, beanies, and hats. There are definitely things I splurge on for the winter, such as the socks or a coat, but I don't really spend too much on winter accessories themselves.
Some challenges that I've run into and some advice...
- I tend to lose my gloves very often so I wouldn't go out of my way to find a pair of designer gloves. I also have a very difficult time finding gloves since I have such small hands and short fingers. Club Monaco makes the best gloves for petite women that are a reasonable price. My leather gloves are wool/cashmere lining and were under $100.
- As for scarves, I have the same advice as the coats: look at the fabrication here too. Polyester won't keep you warm when the Polar Vortex rolls around. You'll want something wool, cashmere or a combination of both. These tend to get a little pricey but when the year-end sales roll around, grab yourself one. It'll last you longer and keep you warmer.
- Winter tends to make people a little sad – winter blues are a very real thing!– and this reflects in people's clothing choices. I even notice, I tend to wear much more black and darker colors in the colder months. I think besides the fashion aspect of "wearing darker colors for the fall/winter," there's also just the thought of wearing nice clothes, possibly sweating in them because of the temp change between outside and inside, or the "I'm putting a down jacket on anyways" that prevent people from wanting to try. I've mentioned it before but it's still true for me: I love accessorizing on the outside. A fun statement beanie, sunglasses, or a pair of patterned jeans can really change your look from seeming like you're literally wearing the same jacket and boots the entire winter.
Well, that was certainly longer than I expected it to be. I have some more tips but I might save those for next time. :)
I hope my tips are going to help you prepare for your first winter if you're planning on moving out here. Or if you're already trying to survive your first winter here, I hope I helped you figure out something you're missing (or maybe helped you figure out why you're so cold even though you have 10 layers on.)
I'd love to hear from you! Are you a West-coaster that moved to the Northeast? Did I miss something, in that case? Or are you moving out here soon and have questions?
PS: Forecast says that there might be snow this weekend so, you may see some more Elsa-esque pictures from me again!