Winter Wardrobe Realities

Photo credit:

Photo credit:

Now that it’s been icy-cold for a month, I’ve put my cold weather wardrobe to the test. This is the fourth season in a row I’ve been intentional about evaluating my wardrobe, so by the end of March, I will have a whole year’s experience to go on! For a list of what I identified as cold weather essentials, check here. Keep in mind that by “cold,” I mean sub-zero!

I have discovered a trend. Either I am a slob, or winter is just hard on clothing. I am finding it really hard to keep up on cleaning everything when I have so few items. This month, the roads and my car are covered in salt. I can’t wash the car because it is too cold and the doors would freeze shut. Every day I have to scrape frost off the windows and lean over the car. Inevitably, my jacket and pants get yucky, dirty salt all over them. In just walking to and from my car, my boots get caked in slush and salt.

Last week when I was out and about, I noticed a fellow shopper and thought, “Ugh, her jacket is really grimy,” and then I realized mine wasn’t so hot, either!

The slob part is that I seem to get food stains on my thick sweaters so I have to wash them often. They need to be hand washed and dried flat and it takes forever! I even use a cloth napkin while eating and it doesn’t help! Maybe I need a personal assistant to feed me. This morning I am washing my jacket and sweaters, and cleaning my boots. Not exactly how I envisioned my morning off. I’m all in favour of taking care of things and making them last. But I need enough stuff to get me through a work week, so I can save the maintenance for weekends!

Lovely, expensive, Danish, natural, lined rubber boots

Lovely, expensive, Danish, natural, lined rubber boots

My hiking boots gave up the ghost and I now have to replace my 12-year-old warm-lined leather boots as well. (The lining has worn out so I can’t just replace the soles). I am really in a quandary because as a new vegetarian, I am not keen to buy new leather boots. (More info on why here) Plus, you need to maintain them with either spray chemicals or more animal products (dubbin, saddle soap, or – gulp – mink oil). I absolutely need boots that are warm, fully waterproof and completely washable/cleanable.  I don’t think any treated natural fabrics would stand up well to the weather conditions here. All the synthetic options, such as Gore-Tex and Thinsulate, are made from plastics which are not good for the environment.  I realize that used or recycled leather boots are not a bad option. But I am debating between buying synthetics and making them last a long time, or maybe buying lined natural rubber/recycled rubber boots? I’ve decided it doesn’t matter much if they are breathable because I don’t spend time outdoors in the winter “on purpose.”

In terms of value for money, I am going to give myself a 50% success rating on my “festive” wardrobe purchases for December. I was able to wear my sparkly black top a couple of times. Even though it is worn with an under-layer, the metallic threads are still scratchy! The red cardigan was a hit, but as the weeks go by, it is starting to look like a Christmas holdover. Maybe I can get a couple more wears out of it leading up to Valentines Day? The cool paisley stretch cord skinnies seemed like a good idea, but since I have been mostly hibernating in January, they were only worn once. However, I should have occasion to wear them in February and March.

I have realized that my light-weight pullover sweaters, shirts, and business-wear jackets are nowhere near warm enough for this time of year. I will need to invest in at least one heavier-weight, lined business jacket. I am getting good use out of my cardigans but I must admit they are mighty frumpy looking and not too professional, so they need an upgrade (except for the new, red one). Of course, being the end of January, it is getting quite late to find winter sale items in the stores!

Because my existing jeans are faded (or purposely distressed), I don’t wear them to work, even on casual days. So I am still in the market for a pair of dark-washed jeans. I tried on a pair from the Jeanne Beker Edit line when they were on sale and was very disappointed that they didn’t suit me. So far, I have not felt up for extensive jeans shopping! Does anyone actually like trying on jeans?

What all this means is that I have only been wearing a fraction of the capsule cold-weather wardrobe that I do have! Since extended periods of cold weather are a reality here, I need to invest more money to make my wardrobe work better at this time of year. I think I will psych myself up for a round of serious shopping to see what is left for the season, and then call it quits until next year’s pre-season sales.

Photo credit: Jeff Harper, Chronicle Herald

Soon I will have more data to support my wardrobe building. I am very excited that I’m booked for a fitting appointment with Me-Ality in March. Astonishingly, my city has the only one in Canada, and it’s in a private location, not in a busy mall! Would you submit to a full body scan to help you find clothes that really fit?


  1. Wow, sounds like tough winter weather where you are. Here we are switching between Spring like weather (high 60s today) or cold for here (high in low 40s). Makes a small wardrobe interesting to plan.

  2. Definitely check out your local Goodwill or thrift store. These days I ONLY shop at these types of stores and besides saving me a lot of money and giving me some really nice clothes, I don’t worry if I end up not liking something since it only costs a few dollars to start with it’s pretty easy to give the item away if I decide I don’t like it!

  3. Oh wow, I would NOT want to be you – all that cold slush ness makes me feel so sorry for you! Sparkly tops are a pain with itchiness – i have a tunic top, that would be ‘summery’ save for itchiness, so therefore it’s a winter top over a long sleeved shirt. But being in such temperate climates, I don’t have any idea re:true boots (ours are all fashion – and knee high are too hot for me) and a ‘real’ wool coat often is too hot. Amazing that we whinge so much and have it so good!

  4. 26 C is the sweet point imo! But I can understand when you’re so accustomed to one extreme it’s hard to accept the swing back with ease!

  5. I spent hours last weekend attempting to find footwear that is not disastrous for the environment (so nice to see another blog where somebody mentions “footwear + environment.”)

    Finally succeeded, but it’s only available in Australia and really only 3-season wear (we don’t have “real” winters!) I believe Puma are bringing out the first-ever “biodegradable” shoes in 2013 – with luck there might be something suitable at least for 3-season wear.

    • Thanks for taking the time to comment on this! It seems the easiest environment-friendly footwear to find is just fabric shoes. I haven’t been out shopping locally yet so I wonder how I will do.

  6. Our snow has gone now for the time being. I do like the snow but it is much harder to get about and I was worn out last week and managed to get my clothes and boots dirty like you after tramping through and then moving snow, ice and frost off the car each morning before going to work. The footwear problem is a problem – I personally hold environmental over being veggie that is I would always go for leather over non-biodegradable plastic/vinyll if I had to choose.

  7. I went for many years without replacing my last pair of jeans, just because it’s so extremely difficult to fin jeans that fit well and flatter. Then when I did find a pair that I liked, I bought them both in dark navy and black.

    You know, I think I would consider one of those fittings, if it meant that I could have an easier time of finding just the right style and fit to be flattering. Although the screening itself would be a bit hard on my ego, I think this would be made up for, when trying on only clothes that should be flattering. I’d be eliminating the whole slew of garments that looked hideous on me.

    Good luck with your selection process.

  8. Pingback: Loose Ends | An Exacting Life

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